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Adjectives and adjective phrases

The adjective phrase (AP) is a structure built around an adjective. Most adjectives are words denoting properties: the adjective koud cold denotes the property of being cold.

Ponelis (1979:276-277) distinguishes between four types of Afrikaans adjectives, namely i) independent adjectives (as klein small in the first sentence example below), ii) transitive adjectives (as in the second example below), iii) prepositional adjectives (as in the third example below) and iv) adjectives with infinitival sentences (as in the last example below).

Example 1

'n Terrarium is 'n klein 'wêreld-in-'n-bottel'.
a terrarium be.PRS a small 'world-in-a-bottle'
A Terrarium is a small world in a bottle.
Example 2

Ek dink hy is lankal sy varkies kwyt, die liegbek en bedrieër.
I think he be.PRS long.all his pigs lost the lie.mouth and deceiver
I think he has gone nuts a long time ago, the liar and the deceiver.
Example 3

Weet jy, ek is lief vir jou.
know you I be.PRS love for you
You know what, I love you.
Example 4

Ons is veronderstel om volle samewerking te gee.
we be.PRS suppose for.COM full cooperation PTCL.INF give.INF
We are supposed to cooperate fully.
Ponelis, (Ponelis 1979:277)

Adjectives can fulfil a variety of syntactic roles, such as determining a noun in the attributive position (compare the first example), as an essential part of the predicate (as in the second example), as a nonessential part of the predicate (as in the third example), complementing a preceding indefinite pronoun, where the suffix -s is added to the adjective (as in the fourth example below), or acting as an adverb (as in the last example below):

Example 5

die lang gedig
the long poem
Example 6

Die gedig is lank.
the poem be.PRS long
The poem is long.
Example 7

Hy gaan uitgeput sit.
he go out.put sit
He sat down exhausted.
Example 8

iets lekkers
something tasty
Example 9

Sy hardloop vinnig.
She runs fast.

Adjectives can further be identified on the basis of affixes (hence morphologically) to express comparative or superlative forms, as in vinniger faster and vinnigste fastest, and on the basis of modification by means of an adverbial phrase of degree (hence syntactically), as in uiters gewild extremely popular.

Adjectives as heads combine with various types of complements, such as prepositional phrases, (e.g. tevrede met satisfied with, gewoond aan accustomed to, onbewus van unaware of), and noun phrases (e.g. dalk sy pos kwyt wees maybe his position minus be.INF possibly be without his post or iemand 'n antwoord skuldig wees someone an answer in debted be.INF owe someone an answer).

Adjectives can be modified by adverbial elements which have a quantificational effect on the degree of the adjective (compare the first example below). Adjectives can also be modified by functional elements, such as the functional word so sowhich specifies the nature of the high degree (compare the second example below).

Example 10

'n Projek soos Nuwe Stemme is baie belangrik.
a project like New Voices be.PRS very important
A project such as Nuwe Stemme is very important.
Example 11

So erg dat net 'n groter pyn haar uit kon lei.
so bad that.COMP only a greater pain her out can.AUX.MOD.PRT guide
so bad that only greater pain could lead her out

Adjective phrases are characteristically used for comparison. Three types of comparison can be distinguished, namely comparative, superlative and equative. Examples of each are given below.

Example 12

'n Petrolenjin versnel vinniger as 'n dieselenjin en loop teen hoër omwentelinge.
a petrol.engine up.speed faster PTCL.SIMT a diesel.engine and walk against hight revolutions.
A petrol engine speeds up faster than a diesel engine and runs at higher speeds.
Example 13

Ons het vergelyk watter een die vinnigste in water oplos.
we have.AUX compare which one the fastest in water dissolve
We compared which one dissolves the fastest in water.
Example 14

Daar is ook min mense so eerlik soos hy in rugby.
there be.PRS also few people as honest as him in rugby
There are also few people as honest as him in rugby.
The verbal paradigm has three forms which may be used in positions in which adjectives appear, namely past participles (such as geteken signed in getekende vorm signed form), present participles (such as gietend pouring in gietende reën pouring rain) and infinitives preceeded by te PTCL.INF to or om te for.COMP PTCL.INF to in die te stigte organisasie the organisation to be formed).
  • Ponelis, F.A1979Afrikaanse sintaksis.Van Schaik
  • Ponelis, F.A1979Afrikaanse sintaksis.Van Schaik
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