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Infinitive complement clauses: construction forms

The infinitive complement clause in Afrikaans has three basic forms. The most widely used form is the full infinitive with complementiser omfor/in order (to), infinitive particle teto and the verb in the infinitive form, as illustrated in example (1) and (2).

Example 1

Die hoofredaksie het besluit om so 'n fonds van stapel te stuur.
the chief-editorial.committee have.PRS decided COMP such a fund from stack to send
The chief editorial committee decided to launch such a fund.
Example 2

Ons moet probeer om regverdig te wees.
we must try COMP fair to be
We must try to be fair.
PCSA, adjusted

The bare infinitive is the second variant, and has only a verb in the infinitive form, with no complementiser or infinitive particle. It is mainly used in a specific subset of constructions, where it serves as the complement clause of another verb that is intermediate between a main verb and an auxiliary verb, such as the combination with linking verbs (in the Afrikaans literature direkte and indirekte skakelwerkwoorde ‘direct and indirect linking verbs’), as illustrated by example (3), or causative and aspectual verbs, as illustrated by example (4) and (5).

Example 3

Ons kan maar daar sit en gesels.
we can but there sit and talk
We can perhaps sit and talk there.
Example 4

Hy het my laat belowe ek sal weer terugkom.
he have.PRS me let promise I will again back-come
He let me promose that I will come back again.
Example 5

Wanneer sal jy weer kan begin werk?
when will you again can begin work
When will you be able to begin working again?

The third variant, which combines the infinitive particle teto (labelled te-infinitive) and the main verb in infinitive form without the complementiser om, is mainly a remnant of Dutch constructions. It is used to form predicate clauses, as illustrated by example (6), or in a small number of fixed combinations, as illustrated in example (7).

Example 6

Kaartjies is te koop by die boekwinkel.
Tickets be.PRS to buy at the bookstore
Tickets are for sale at the bookstore.
Example 7

Die wyn begin te praat.
the wine begin to talk
The wine begins to talk.

The default option for an infinitive complement clause is to be used with no overt subject, which raises the question of how the implied subject is interpreted. Similar to other Germanic languages, the implied subject is usually recoverable from the subject of the main clause, as exemplified in (8), although it is also possible that the object of the main clause is the implicit subject of the infinitive clause, as exemplified in (9).

Example 8

Hy het glo gevra om vroeg te loop.
He have.PRS apparently asked COMP early to walk
He has apparently asked to leave early.
Example 9

Die kassier vra hom om agterop te teken.
the cashier ask him COMP behind-on to sign
The cashier asks him to sign on the back.

The infinitive complement clause in Afrikaans usually takes the same word order as other dependent clauses, with the verb in final position, immediately preceded by the particle teto, when present, while the complementiser omfor occurs in the initial position of the clause, with complements of the infinitive verb and phrasal adverbials between the complementiser and the particle teto, as illustrated by example (10).

Example 10

Die departement kan voortgaan om die spuitnaaldmetode te gebruik.
the department can continue COMP the injection-needle-method to use
The department can continue to use the injection needle method.

When there are modal verbs, they are positioned between the particle teto and the infinitive, as illustrated by example (11).

Example 11

Ek het my hele lewe gehunker om dit weer te kan skilder.
I have.PRS my whole life aspired COMP it again to can paint
I have aspired my whole life to be able to paint it again.
PCSA, adjusted

Below, more detail is presented about the basic infinitive construction forms, word order variation with multiple verbs, the word order options for verb complements and adverbials, and the accusative and infinitive construction. Further reading on the form of the infinitive complement clause include Ponelis (1979), Ponelis (1993) and Robbers (1997).

[+]Basic infinitive clause construction

All three infinitive constructions end with a main verb in the infinitive form. While Afrikaans generally does not inflect the verb form for the infinitive, there are two exceptions to this, the verbs weesbe and have, which do have a separate infinitive form that differs from the finite present tense form, as illustrated by example (12) and (13). This is irrespective of which infinitive construction is used.

Example 12

a. Die projekbestuurder het skole gemaan om nie skaam te wees nie.
the project-manager have.PRS schools urged COMP NEG ashamed to be NOT
The project manager urged schools not to be ashamed.
TK, adjusted
b. Dit blyk baie belangrik te wees na aftrede.
it appear.PRS very important to be after retirement
It appears to be very important after retirement.
TK, adjusted
c. Wanneer gaan jy terug wees?
when go.PRS you.SG back be
When are you going to be back?
TK, adjusted
Example 13

a. Dis moeilik om nie met haar simpatie te hê nie.
it.is difficult COMP NEG with her sympathy to have NEG
It's difficult not to have sympathy with her.
b. Wanneer gaan julle die nuwe onderdele hê?
when go you.PL the new parts have
When will you have the new parts?

The infinitive particle teto and the complementiser omfor derive historically from prepositions with a purpose meaning (Ponelis 1993: 291). Ponelis regards the te as a modal particle on distributional grounds, but it will be treated simply as a sui generis infinitive particle here. Modal verbs can follow the infinitive particle, like in Dutch, but unlike English, as shown by example (14).

Example 14

a. …om te kan loop…
COMP to can walk
b. …(om) te kunnen lopen…
COMP to can walk
c. *...to can walk...

Where the omfor complementiser is optional in many contexts in Dutch, it is obligatory in Afrikaans full infinitive clauses. Thus, contemporary Dutch allows variation between (15a) and (15b), but in Afrikaans, only the full infinitive form is allowed in (16a), while (16b) is ungrammatical.

Example 15

a. Jan heeft beloofd om het boek naar Els te sturen.
Jan have promised COMP the book to Els to send
Jan promised to send the book to Els.
b. Jan heeft beloofd het boek naar Els te sturen.
Jan have promised the book to Els to send.
Jan promised to send the book to Els.
Example 16

a. Jan het belowe om die boek vir Elsie te stuur.
Jan have promised COMP the book to Elsie to send
Jan promised to send the book to Elsie.
b. *Jan het belowe die boek vir Elsie te stuur.
Jan have promised the book to Elsie to send
Jan promised to send the book to Elsie.

The data from the Kaapse Taalargief reveal that the use of obligatory om was already widespread in Eighteenth Century Cape Dutch, as shown in (17).

Example 17

dese dint om UE bekend te maken als dat …
this serves COMP your excellency known to make as that…
This serves to make known to Your Excellency that…
Kaapse Taalargief, 26 November 1716
[+]Word order of complex verb clusters in full infinitive clauses

The basic pattern of combinations within the final verb cluster of infinitive complement clauses is [te + MODAL(s) + OTHER VERBS + INFINITIVE MAIN VERB + het]. When a modal is part of the infinitive verb cluster, it follows immediately after the particle te, as illustrated by (18).

Example 18

…om dit te kan finansier.
COMP it to can finance
...to be able to finance it.

When other verbs – linking verbs, causative verbs, or aspectual verbs – combine with the main verb, these also precede the main verb, as shown in (19), but when there is a modal present as well, the other verbs follow the modal, as shown in (20).

Example 19

…om buitekant te gaan werk.
COMP outside to go work
...to go and work outside.
Example 20

…om vir Randall Wicomb as gaskunstenaar te kan laat optree.
COMP for Randall Wicomb as guest-artist to can let perform
...to be able to let Randall Wicomb perform as guest artist.

Afrikaans allows the past tense construction [ge-V + het; PAST PARTICIPLE + ‘have’] to occur in place of the infinitive verb, in which case the past participle follows te with the auxiliary hethave at the end, as in other (finite) dependent clauses. This is shown in (21) and (22), and occurs quite widely and without restriction in Afrikaans.

Example 21

Ek is darem bly om hulle te gesien het.
I am nevertheless happy COMP them to PST.PTCP-see have
I am nevertheless happy to have seen them.
Example 22

Om só op ons baadjie te gekry het, was ongelooflik teleurstellend.
COMP so on our jacket to PST.PTCP-get have be.PST incredibly disappointing
To have got such a hiding was incredibly disappointing.
[+]Word order of complex verb clusters in bare infinitive clauses

Typically, the initial verb in Afrikaans and the continental West Germanic languages is simplex, containing a single main verb, or any auxiliary, while other verbs, if present, move to the final verb cluster. This is shown by (23) for an auxiliary plus other verbs, and by (24) for a linking verb plus other verbs.

Example 23

Almal sal hom seker onthou.
everybody will him surely remember
Everybody will surely remember him.
Example 24

Hy laat hom toe staan.
he let him then stand
He then lets him stand.

The linking verbs, both direct and indirect, as well as the subsets encoding aspectual and causative meanings, have the option in Afrikaans to form complex initial verb clusters, where the linking verb and the infinitive complement occur in the first position to form a cluster, rather than the infinitive verb moving to the final cluster. This is exemplified by (25) to (27), where the (a) example is the attested one, and the alternative formulation in the (b) example is an equally grammatical variant in Afrikaans.

Example 25

a. Ek loop en dans hierso.
I walk and dance here
I go dancing here.
b. Ek loop hierso en dans.
I walk here and dance
I go dancing here.
Example 26

a. Hulle kom haal my altyd hierso.
they come fetch me always here
They always come and fetch me here.
b. Hulle kom my altyd hierso haal.
they come me always here fetch
They always come and fetch me here.
Example 27

a. Hy laat staan jou been mos só.
he let stand your leg indeed so
He just leaves your leg like this.
b. Hy laat mos jou been só staan.
he let indeed your leg so stand
He just leaves your leg like this.

Ponelis (1993: 325-329) notes that this property is unique to Afrikaans among its closest sister languages. It mainly occurs where the construction only contains two verbs, and not when more than two verbs are combined. He adds that this phenomenon is to a degree idiomatic, in that certain combinations are particularly prone to form complex initials, where the split verb alternative is quite rare, for instance gaan haalgo fetchfetch, laat blyklet appearindicate, laat geldlet countexercise (authority), laat komlet comesummon, laat spandeerlet runget going, and laat staanlet standleave. Furthermore, komcome and gaango, the two basic direct linking verbs, that also occur with higher frequency than the others, are more prone to form complex initials, whereas other verbs from the aspectual and causative classes are less so.

[+]Word order of complements and adverbials in infinitive clauses

Complements, such as direct objects, or adverbials that are used in the infinitive clause construction, are usually positioned between the complementiser om and the infinitive particle te, as illustrated in (28) and (29). These options are similar to the word order options in finite dependent clauses.

Example 28

Hy het nou egter besluit om sy pleit te verander.
he have now however decided COMP his plea to change
He has now decided, however, to change his plea.
Example 29

My lyf weier vanaand om na my kop te luister.
my body refuse tonight COMP to my head to listen
Tonight my body refuses to listen to my head.
[+]Accusative and infinitive construction

Like Dutch, Afrikaans also has an accusative and infinitive construction, where the main clause verb has a direct object (in accusative case, visible in the case of singular pronouns in Afrikaans), which simultaneously functions as the notional subject of the bare infinitive clause. There are two classes of verbs that often take this construction, a subset of perception verbs, as illustrated by (30), and causative verbs, as illustrated by (31).

Example 30

Ek sien haar swyend gaan op steile pad.
I see her mutely go on steep path
I see her go quietly on her steep path.
Jan F.E. Celliers
Example 31

Hy laat hom deur die land loop.
he let him through the land walk
He lets him walk through the land.

The perceptual verbs taking this construction are limited to those that belong to the class of direct involuntary perception, a constraint that also applies to Dutch. This class consists mainly of siensee, hoorhear, voelfeel, and infrequently ruiksmell. Thus, while example (30) is acceptable, other perceptual verbs like kykwatch, or luisterlisten – where the perception is directed rather than involuntary, cannot take this construction, exemplified by the unacceptability of (32b).

Example 32

a. Ek sien haar wen.
I see her win
I see her conquer.
Jan F.E. Celliers
b. *Ek kyk haar wen.
I watch her win
I watch her conquer.
  • Ponelis, F1993The development of Afrikaans.ReeksP. Lang
  • Ponelis, F1993The development of Afrikaans.ReeksP. Lang
  • Ponelis, F1993The development of Afrikaans.ReeksP. Lang
  • Ponelis, F.A1979Afrikaanse sintaksis.Van Schaik
  • Robbers, K.B.M1997Non-finite verbal complements in Afrikaans: a comparative approach.Holland Academic Graphics. Universiteit van Amsterdam.Thesis
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