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Postural constructions

Four verbs, sitsit, staanstand, lie and loopwalk, which express bodily posture or movement in their literal sense, are also employed to express durative (or progressive) aspect, sometimes without the literal sense being activated. In the following examples the use of the postural verbs aids the expression of durative aspect.

Example 1

a. Sy sit en speel op haar nuwe klavier.
she sit and play on her new piano
She sits playing on her new piano.
b. Hy staan die blomme en natgooi.
he stand the flowers and water
He stands watering the flowers.
c. Hulle lê en gesels onder die bome.
they lie and talk under the trees
They are conversing while lying down under the trees.
d. Loop en dink jy aan die goeie ou dae?
walk and think you.SG on the good old days
Are you thinking about the good old days while taking a walk?

A restricted set of verbs expressing basic bodily postures and movement, namely sitsit, staanstand, lie and loopwalk, may be conjoined by enand to a main verb. While this construction of postural verb + en + main verb mainly depicts the bodily attitude or movement assumed while the main action takes place, it is also employed to emphasise the durative (or progressive) nature of the action (e.g (2a), (2b) and (2c)). In (2c) the continuity inherent in the sit construction is further emphasised by the addition of the verb blyremain, stay, keep on - itself a durative verb.

Example 2

a. Met sy oë styf toegeknyp lê en luister hy na die wind.
with his eyes tightly closed-PST.PTCP-pinch lie and listen he to the wind
With his eyes tightly closed he lies listening to the wind.
L.Krüger, Wederkoms, 2009:44
b. Die kolonel staan langs die projektor sy onderlip en byt
the colonel stand next-to the projector his lower-lip and bite
The colonel stands next to the projector, biting his lower lip.
H.Kalmer, Vlieger, 2012:61
c. Nadat sy Hanna 'n ruk lank woordeloos bly sit en dophou het ....
after she Hanna a while long without-words keep-on sit and watch have.AUX.PERF
After she had been sitting watching Hanna for a while without speaking ...
A.P.Brink 2002:62

Van Schoor (1983:173) points out that staanstand may even be employed when a different posture would have been called for, as in (3a). Example (3b) also testifies to this fact, while the addition ofophoustop underlines the durative nature of thestaan construction. Examples (3a) and (3b) suggest that thestaan construction has pejorative overtones. Both the durative aspect and pejorative nature of the staan construction is illustrated graphically by the repetition of staan in (3c).

Example 3

a. Moenie 'n mens staan en wakker snork nie.
must-NEG a person stand and awake snore NEG
Don't wake a person up by snoring.
b. "Jy moet ophou staan en skinder!"
you must stop stand and gossip
"You must stop gossiping!"
P. Stamatélos, Portier, 2009:110
c. Ek staan al die hele oggend hierso staan en vrekbrand in die son.
I stand already the whole morning here stand and dead-burn in the sun
I have been standing here all morning burning to death in the sun.
A. Small, Kanna, 1965:42

Thoughenand and the postural and main verb conjoined to it often form an uninterrupted string, intrusions are possible both before and afteren. The placement of material afteren is restricted to adverbials and objects unmarked for definiteness; unmarked objects as well as those marked for definiteness, may occur beforeen.

Example 4

a. Sy gaan die gaste staan <*binne> en <binne> laat.
she go the guests stand <in> and <in> let
She is going to admit the guests while standing.
b. Hulle staan <stories> en <stories> vertel.
they stand <stories> and <stories> tell
They are busy telling stories.
c. Hy staan <die storie> en <*die storie> vertel.
he stand <the story> and <the story> tell
He is busy telling a story.

In the perfect tense, the verb +en + verb construction may be regarded as a phrasal past participle (cf. Inflection), with optionalge- prefix and noge- before the main verb:

Example 5

Ons het die aartappels (ge-) staan en skil.
we have.AUX.PERF the potatoes PST.PTCP-stand and peel
We stood peeling the potatoes.

Breed & Brisard (2015:7-9) distinguish three phases in the semantic development of the Afrikaans postural verbs sit, staan and to the stage where durative aspect is expressed. In present-day Afrikaans (and Dutch) the postural construction in most cases still expresses actions undertaken in a body posture which would be appropriate in view of the original postural meaning, e.g.

Example 6

Wim het die hele lesing deur sit en slaap.
Wim have.AUX.PERF the whole lecture through sit and sleep
Wim sat sleeping right through the lecture.
Breed & Brisard 2015:9

In example (7) the process of waiting, rather than a 'standing posture', is emphasised:

Example 7

Die gras is droog en die son brand neer en die beeste staan en wag.
the grass be.COP.PRS dry and the sun burn down and the cattle stand and wait
The grass is dry and the sun is scorching and the cattle stand waiting.
Breed & Brisard 2015:8

In a second phase of development situations are expressed which do not require a specific posture, e.g.

Example 8

Kan so 'n vlam vir weke daar in die veld staan en brand?
can such a flame for weeks there in the veld stand and burn
Can such a flame keep burning in the veld for weeks?
Breed & Brisard 2015:8

In the last phase the posture expressed bystaan has become completely irrelevant and the utterance has assumed an emotive overtone of dissatisfaction. The subjective use of the postural verbs is analysed in two articles by Breed (2017a) and Breed (2017b).

Example 9

Wil jy nou jou bed op 'n ander plek staan en koop?
want-to you.SG now your bed on an other place stand and buy
Why would you want to buy your bed elsewhere?
Advertisement, RSG

Afrikaans differs from Dutch in allowing passivisation (Breed & Brisard 2015:21), e.g.

Example 10

Hier word gesit en stry oor 'n ossewa.
here become.AUX.PASS.PRS sit and argue over an ox-wagon
People are argueing here about an ox wagon.

The frequency of aspectual usage of the postural verbssit, staan and declines in the ordersit > staan > lê, with sit having a significantly higher frequency in durative constructions than the other two verbs. Afrikaans sit is also used more frequently than Dutchzitten (Breed & Brisard 2015:15-16) in aspectual function.

  • Breed, A & F Brisard2015Postulêre werkwoorde as progressiewe merkers in Afrikaans en NederlandsInternationale Neerlandistiek533-28
  • Breed, A & F Brisard2015Postulêre werkwoorde as progressiewe merkers in Afrikaans en NederlandsInternationale Neerlandistiek533-28
  • Breed, A & F Brisard2015Postulêre werkwoorde as progressiewe merkers in Afrikaans en NederlandsInternationale Neerlandistiek533-28
  • Breed, Adri2017The subjective use of postural verbs in Afrikaans(I): Evolution from progressive to modalSPIL PLUS521-21
  • Breed, Adri2017The subjective use of postural verbs in Afrikaans (II): A corpus analysis of CPV en in ZefrikaansSPIL PLUS5223-43
  • Van Schoor, J.L1983Die grammatika van standaard-Afrikaans.Lex Patria
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