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Emphatic inflection and semantic distinction

Emphatic inflection of adjectives which by default are not inflected takes the form of the suffix –e. Examples for the adjectives lui lazy, and lank long are given below:

Example 1

'n lui kind
a lazy child
Example 2

'n lang afstand
a long distance

BUT, to add emphasis:

Example 3

Julle luie lummels!
you lazy·ATTR oafs
You lazy oafs!
Example 4

'n lange relaas
a long·ATTR narrative
a very long narrative

Note that lang, as an exception, phonologically, is in fact the attributive form of lank long, but receives the additional emphatic suffix in the example above.

Some adjectives which do not inflect by default, are distinguished semantically by means of the suffix -e in fixed expressions in which they represent a different (but mostly related) denotation. The differences are evident from the example of a well-known idiom below:

Example 5

Stille waters, diepe grond – onder draai die duiwel rond. (<stil·e)
still·ATTR waters, deep·ATTR soil – below turns the devil around
Still waters run deep.

The uninflected counterparts of the two adjectives above are to be interpreted quite literally, as below:

Example 6

'n stil area
a quiet area
Example 7

swem na die diep kant
swim to the deep end

Attributive inflection of adjectives occurs by default in the environments as indicated previously in Attribution. However, in cases where (a) special emphasis is expressed, or (b) differentiation of meaning is intended, for instance figurative as against literal meaning, attributive adjectives may by marked by the schwa suffix. Emphatic inflection in Afrikaans is mostly limited to adjectives which are not normally inflected.

Emphatic inflection

In the case of evaluative adjectives, emphasis is subjectively added, as in these examples of the adjectives lomp clumsy, groot large and stout naughty, where the unmarked form is contrasted with the emphasised form:

Example 8

die lomp klein seekoeitjies
the clumsy little hippopotamus·DIM.PL
the clumsy little hippopotamuses
but for emphasis
Example 9

lompe hantering van betogings
clumsy·ATTR handling of demonstrations
clumsy handling of demonstrations
Example 10

die groot rooi appel in my hand
the large red apple in my hand
but for emphasis
Example 11

'n massiewe grote boks (<massief·e)
a massive·ATTR large·ATTR box
a massively large box
Example 12

hy is 'n stout kind
he be.PRS a naughty child
He is a naughty child.
but for emphasis
Example 13

Jou stoute kind!
you naughty·ATTR child
You naughty child!

It is noteworthy that evaluative descriptions marked by inflection often form part of a distinctive appellation, such as die grote God the great God, in die grote New York in the gigantic New York.

Semantic distinction

Differentiation of meaning often correlates with the presence or absence of the inflecting suffix added to a normally non-inflecting adjective stem, as is evident from examples above. In many cases, the inflected pendant forms part of a fixed expression, and often expresses a figurative denotation, in contrast to the literal denotation expressed by the uninflected counterpart. Some examples of this contrast follow below (Ponelis 1979:143):

Example 14

Hy het 'n bont katoenhemp aan.
he has a multicoloured cotton.shirt on
He is wearing a colourful cotton shirt.
Example 15

die bonte verskeidenheid karakters
the motley·ATTR variety characters
the motley variety of characters
Example 16

die byt van 'n dol dier
the bite of a rabid animal
Example 17

'n dolle gejaag na wind (<dol·e)
a crazy·ATTR chase after wind
a rat race in pursuit of nothing
Example 18

'n vry en regverdige verkiesing
a free and fair·ATTR election
free and fair elections
Example 19

Gee jou verbeelding vrye teuels.
give your imagination free·ATTR reins
Give free play to your imagination.

In certain cases, the difference in meaning may be quite substantial, and not merely a contrast between literal and figurative denotations, as in this example:

Example 20

'n teer sakie
a tender matter·DIM
a delicate matter
Example 21

tere liefde (<teer·e)
tender·ATTR love
tender love
  • Ponelis, F.A1979Afrikaanse sintaksis.Van Schaik
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