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Relative pronouns

Relative pronouns are those pronouns that introduce a relative clause. In Afrikaans the relative pronoun wat that/what is used for general reference (1a), and wie who is used to refer to people in certain constructions (1b). There are also adverbial relative clauses – waar where is used for place (1c) and wanneer when is used for time (1d). Relative waar where is further used in compounds with prepositions (1e-f).

Example 1

a. Ek wil weet wat daar aangaan.
I want.to.AUX.MOD know that.REL there on.go
I want to know what is going on there.
b. Dit is wie ek is.
it be.PRS who.REL I be.PRS
It is who I am.
c. Gee 'n telefoonnommer waar jy bereik kan word, as jy een het.
give a telephone.number where.REL you.SG reach.PASS can become.AUX.PASS.PRS if you.SG one have
Provide a telephone number where you can be reached, if you have one.
d. Skakel ligte af wanneer jy 'n kamer verlaat.
switch lights off when.REL you.SG a room leave
Switch off lights when you leave a room.
e. 'n Keur van rame is beskikbaar waaruit lede kan kies.
a selection of frames be.PRS available REL.out members can.AUX.MOD choose
A selection of frames is available, that members can choose from.
f. Daar is baie waaroor ons kan feesvier.
there be.PRS much REL.over we can.AUX.MOD celebrate
There is a lot that we can celebrate about.
[+]Relative pronouns

Relative pronouns are used to introduce relative clauses in a sentence. When a relative construction is used referentially, the antecedent and the relative pronoun form an anaphoric chain, where the relative pronoun links the relative clause with the antecedent (Ponelis 1979:463). This use is illustrated in (2a-b). The relative pronoun wie who, used with reference to people, can also form part of a prepositional complement (2c). While this use is not always accepted, relative wie is sometimes used without being part of a genitive construction (2b) or PP (2c-d), in a construction similar to those with wat, only referring specifically to people (2e).

Example 2

a. Dit is 'n bedryf wat 90% uitvoergerig is.
it be.PRS a industry that.REL 90% export.aimed be.PRS
It is an industry that is aimed 90% at exportation.
b. Liam Neeson is 'n koel ou ballie wie se vuiste as smoelneukers gebruik word.
Liam Neeson be.PRS a cool old guy who.REL PTCL.GEN fists as face.hitters use.PASS become.AUX.PASS.PRS
Liam Neeson is a cool guy whose fists are used as face punchers.
c. Lesers, onder wie predikante, het skerp hierop gereageer.
readers under who.REL ministers have.AUX sharp PN.on react.PST
Readers, among which ministers, reacted sharply to this.
d. Die meeste mense sal weet van wie ons praat.
the most people will.AUX.MOD know of who.REL we speak
Most people will know who we are talking about.
VivA-KPO, adapted
e. Enige verbruiker wie eie reg gebruik om meters wat toegemaak is self oop te maak...
any consumer who.REL own right use for.COMP meters that.REL close.make.PASS be.AUX.PASS.PST self open PTCL.INF make.INF
Any consumer who uses own right to open meters that are closed...

There are also free relative constructions, without explicit antecedents, although it is implied. The relative wie in this case means more or less "everyone / someone who" (3a-b) and wat means more or less "that which" or "what" (3c-d) (Ponelis 1979:463).

Example 3

a. Wie nie waag nie, sal nie wen nie.
who.REL not dare PTCL.NEG will.AUX.MOD not win PTCL.NEG
Those who do not dare, will not win.
b. Maar wie volhard tot die einde toe, sal gered word.
but who.REL persist until the end to will save.PASS become.AUX.PASS.PRS
But those who persist until the end, will be saved.
VivA-KPO, adapted
c. Wat ons nodig het is 'n morele herlewing waartoe elke individu homself verbind.
what.REL we need have.PRS be.PRS a moral revival REL.to each individual himself commit
What we need is a moral revival to which every individual commit themselves.
d. Wat vervoer betref, sal ons ons padnetwerk in stand hou en uitbrei.
what.REL transportation regard will.AUX.MOD we our road.network in maintain keep and expand
Regarding transportation, we will maintain and expand our road network.
[+]Relative pronouns of time and place

The relative waar where is used to introduce an adverbial relative clause indicating place. The place it specifies can be concrete (as in 1c) or it can be fairly abstract or conceptual (4a). It is also sometimes used in phrases that are not relative clauses, but short adverbial phrases without a verb (although it is implied), such as (4b-c). In (4b) the phrase implies "where it is necessary", and in (4c) it implies "where it is appliccable". Relative wanneer when is used similarly to introduce adverbial relative clauses of time (4d), as well as adverbial phrases without a verb (4e-f). The relative clause in (4d) is an example of the full clause implied in (4e), and the implied clause in (4f) is "when it is appropriate".

Example 4

a. Krediet verwys na 'n reëling waar jy iets koop en daarvoor betaal nadat jy dit in ontvangs geneem het.
credit refer to a arrangement where.REL you.SG something buy and therefore pay after you.SG it in receive take.PST have.AUX
Credit refers to an arrangement where you buy something and pay for it after receiving it.
b. Waar nodig sal hulle verder verwys word.
where.REL necessary will.AUX.MOD they further refer.PASS become.AUX.PASS.PRS
Where necessary they will be referred further.
c. Projekte moet waar van toepassing voldoen aan wetgewing.
projects must.AUX.MOD where.REL of applicable comply with legislation
Projects should comply with legislation where necessary.
d. Hulle vergader wanneer dit ook al nodig is.
they meet when.REL it also all necessary be.PRS
They meet whenever it is necessary.
VivA-KPO, adapted
e. Maak jou geweer skoon wanneer nodig, maar moet dit nie oordoen nie.
make your.SG rifle clean when.REL necessary but must.AUX.MOD it not overdo PTCL.NEG
Clean your rifle when necessary, but do not overdo it.
f. Wanneer toepaslik sal videomateriaal gewys word.
when.REL appropriate will.AUX.MOD video.material show.PASS become.AUX.PASS.PRS
When appropriate, video material will be shown.
[+]Relative pronouns and prepositions

When combined with prepositions, relative wat that typically changes to waar- in compounds (5a-c). However, this does not always happen, and speakers sometimes use wat and prepositions without combining it into a compound, as in (5d-f). An older variant, used only rarely today (Kirsten 2016:222), is with waar and a preposition, without combining it into a compound (5g-i).

Example 5

a. Dit is 'n fees waarmee die Wes-Kaap vreeslik graag spog.
it be.PRS a festival REL.with the Western Cape very gladly brag
It is a festival that the Western Cape eagerly brags with.
b. Slaan die woord waarna jy op soek is in die A-tot-Z-woordeboek na.
look the word REL.after you.SG on search be.PRS in the A-to-Z-dictionary PREP.PTCL
Look up the word you are looking for in the A to Z dictionary.
c. Kies produkte waarvan die inhoud reeds herwin is.
choose products REL.of the content already recycle.PASS be.AUX.PASS.PST
Choose products of which the content is already recycled.
VivA-KPO, adapted
d. Maar wat ek van hou, is jou manier om dit oor te dra.
but that.REL I of like be.PRS your.SG way for.COMP it over PTCL.INF carry.INF
But what I like is your way of conveying it.
e. Al wat ek aan kan dink is dat die twee grootmanne besig is om siele te deel.
all that.REL I about can think be.PRS that.COMP the two great.men busy be.PRS for.COMP souls PTCL.INF share.INF
All I can think about is that the two great men are busy sharing souls.
f. Maar die "wysheid" wat jy van praat is verduister deur die sondeval.
but the wisdom that.REL you.SG of talk be.AUX.PASS.PST darken.PASS by the sin.fall
But the "wisdom" you refer to is darkened by the fall into sin.
g. En onthou, die belangrikste ding is die familie waar jy in is.
and remember the important.most thing be.PRS the family where.REL you.SG in be.PRS
And remember, the most important thing is the family you are in.
h. Ek het my band met God en dit is waar dit oor gaan.
I have my bond with God and it be.PRS where.REL it over go
I have my bond with God and that is what it is about.
i. Daar het nie sulke dinge gebeur as dié waar jy van spreek nie, maar jy het dit self versin.
there have.AUX not such things happen as those where.REL you.SG of speak PTCL.NEG but you.SG have.AUX it self invent
There did not happen such things as you speak of, but you invented it yourself.
  • Kirsten, J2016Grammatikale verandering in Afrikaans van 1911-2010.Thesis
  • Ponelis, Frits A1979Afrikaanse sintaksisPretoriaJ.L. van Schaik
  • Ponelis, Frits A1979Afrikaanse sintaksisPretoriaJ.L. van Schaik
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