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Intransitive and pseudo-passives

The regular passive is available to transitive verbs, of which the active object – blomme flowers, as in (1a) – is promoted to the subject of the passive, while the subject of the active is optionally rendered as a prepositional adjunct with deur by as preposition, as in (1b).

Example 1

a. Die vriende bring blomme.
the friends bring.PRS flowers
The friends are bringing flowers.
b. Blomme word (deur die vriende) gebring.
flowers be.AUX.PASS.PRS by the friends bring.PST.PTCP
Flowers are being brought by the friends.

Passives can also be selected with intransitive verbs, but then they require either the fronting of some other element, typically an adverbial, or else the dummy adverb daar there. Intransitive constructions are identified as passives through verbal clusters consisting of a past participle and a passive auxiliary such as word in (1b) and (2). The adverb daar may be appended to introduce new information or fill a syntactic gap, as in (2b).

Example 2

a. Op die strand word baie gesels.
on the beach be.AUX.PASS.PRS a.lot talk.PST.PTCP
On the beach, a lot of talking takes place.
b. Daar word baie gesels op die strand.
there be.AUX.PASS.PRS a.lot talk.PST.PTCP on the beach
There is a lot of talking on the beach.

Intransitive passives require both human agency and intentional or voluntary action to be acceptable, as can be seen by comparing (3a) to (3b).

Example 3

a. Daar word heeldag gesing in die tuin.
there be.AUX.PASS.PRS all.day sing.PST.PTCP in the garden
Singing is taking place in the garden all day long.
b. *Daar word heeldag getjirp in die tuin.
there be.AUX.PASS.PRS all.day chirp.PST.PTCP in the garden
To mean: Chirping is taking place in the garden all day long.

If grammatical and semantic relations between the main verb and sentential subjects or objects are employed as criteria, it is possible to determine whether a given construction is similar in function to a regular passive, or should be categorised as a pseudo-passive or not a passive at all. On this basis (4) is very similar to a passive, (5) may be described as a pseudo-passive and (6), in spite of its past participle, is no passive at all.

Example 4

Die werk moet nou gedoen kom.
the job must.AUX.MOD now do.PST.PTCP come.INF
The job must get done now.
Example 5

Die polisie wil vandag die probleem opgelos hê.
the police want.to.AUX.MOD today the problem solved.PST.PTCP have.INF
The police want to have the problem solved today.
Example 6

Die stakers kom aangehardloop.
the strikers come.PRS on.run.PST.PTCP
The strikers come running.
[+]Intransitive passives

The regular passive may be viewed as a configuration of grammatical characteristics, such as having a non-agentive subject which corresponds to the object of an active construction, having a verbal cluster consisting of the past participle of a transitive main verb and a passive auxiliary and – optionally – expressing agentivity through an adjunct introduced by the preposition deur by. In this section an array of constructions are discussed which differ from the regular passive in one or more respects.

While the regular passive is available to transitive verbs, constructions consisting of past participles of intransitive main verbs and passive auxiliaries such as word be.AUX.PASS.PRS or is be.PST as auxiliary, as in (7), may also be regarded as fully-fledged passives. This also applies to constructions with prepositional object verbs, as in (8). The adverbial particle daar there is employed to introduce new information or simply as a syntactic "filler", as in (9). Intransitive passive constructions introduced by daar are also known as impersonal constructions, cf. Ponelis (1979:408).

Example 7

Buite word hard geskree.
outside be.AUX.PASS.PRS loud.ADV shout.PST.PTCP
There is loud shouting outside.
Example 8

Aan die deur word hard geklop.
on the door be.AUX.PASS.PRS loud.ADV knock.PST.PTCP
There is loud knocking on the door.

Although "minimal" passives such as (7) and (8) are fully acceptable, they are more frequently complemented by daar, as in (9).

Example 9

Daar word hard aan die deur geklop.
there be.AUX.PASS.PRS loud.ADV on the door knock.PST.PTCP
There is loud knocking on the door.

The daar may retain its introductory function in spite of being replaced by another constituent through topicalisation, as in (10), (11) and (12). (Cf. Ponelis (1979:408).

Example 10

Uit die bloute word daar op hulle geskiet.
from the blue be.AUX.PASS.PRS there on them shoot.PST.PTCP
They are being shot at unexpectedly.
Example 11

Vandag word daar oor die lewe getob.
today be.AUX.PASS.PRS there about the life brood.PST.PTCP
Today they are brooding about life.

In certain complex sentences with subjective or objective complements, such as the infinitival clauses in (12), sentence anaphoric dit it seems to be a competitor of introductory daar there. This is attributed byPonelis (1979:453) to English influence. However, the semantic convergence of (12a) and (12b) may simply be the result of passivisation. In (12b) the infinitival subordinate clause om Robert uit te jaag is in an objective or patient relationship with the matrix verb verwag expect. But although anaphoric dit in (12a) has become the sentential subject through passivisation, it – and the infinitival clause it refers to – remains in a patient relationship with the matrix verb.

Example 12

a. Dit word van haar verwag om Robert uit te jaag.
it be.AUX.PASS.PRS of her expect.PST.PTCP for.COMP Robert out PTCL.INF chase.INF
It is expected of her to send Robert packing.
b. Daar word van haar verwag om Robert uit te jaag.
there be.AUX.PASS.PRS of her expect.PST.PTCP for.COMP Robert out PTCL.INF chase.INF
It is expected of her to send Robert packing.

The extraction of a noun phrase, such as my motor my car from a prepositional object, as in (13), or die rivier the river from a prepositional adjunct, as in (14), is also quite common in Afrikaans.

Example 13

My motor is vandag aan gewerk.
my car be.AUX.PASS.PST today on work.PST.PTCP
My car was worked on today.
Example 14

Die rivier word dikwels in geswem.
the river be.AUX.PASS.PRS often in swim.PST.PTCP
People often swim in the river.

Intransitive passives differ from transitive passives in that their acceptability diminishes when, as in (15), human agency or, as in (16), intentional or voluntary action, is not expressed or implied. According to Ponelis (1979:408-409) impersonal constructions are restricted to intransitive verbs which are able to take personal subjects and express an action, activity or deed.

Example 15

? Buite word daar hard geblaf.
outside be.AUX.PASS.PRS there loud.ADV bark.PST.PTCP
There is loud barking outside.
Example 16

? In die huis langsaan word daar hard gesnork.
in the house next.door be.AUX.PASS.PRS there loud.ADV snore.PST.PTCP
There is loud snoring in the house next door.

As pointed out earlier, the regular passive has a number of typical characteristics. One criterion is employed here to distinguish between passives, pseudo-passives and non-passives, namely whether the sentential subject assumes the role of patient in relation to the main verb (which is typically but not necessarily a past participle) (Type 1). If the patient in relation to the main verb coincides with the object rather than the subject of the sentence, the construction will be considered a pseudo-passive (Type 2), and if the agent in relation to the main verb coincides with the grammatical subject of the sentence (as in active sentences), the construction will not be considered a passive at all (Type 3). See Table 1.

Table 1: Table 1
Type Example
Type 1 Passive Subject is patient of main verb
Type 2 Pseudo-passive Object is patient of main verb
Type 3 No passive Subject is agent of main verb

In (17) the sentential subject (die probleem the problem) has a patient role in relation to the main verb oplos solve, as would be the case in the regular passive. The construction with kom come rather than the passive auxiliary word become, expresses terminative rather than inchoative or durative aspect In such cases the past participle closely approaches adjectival status and may in fact be replaced by an adjective.

Example 17

Terminative passive – type 1
Die probleem moet dadelik opgelos kom.
the problem must.AUX.MOD immediately solve.PST.PTCP come.INF
The problem must get solved immediately.

This construction is exemplified by the following:

Example 18

haar stem skor van wat nie gesê kom nie
her voice hoarse from what.REL not say.PST.PTCP come.PRS PTCL.NEG
her voice hoarse from what cannot get said
C. Maas: Koljander, 2013, 18

In example (19) the past participle geskryf written is readily replaceable by an adjective such as klaar finished.

Example 19

die nuwe boek wat geskryf moet kom
the new book that.REL write.PST.PTCP must.AUX.MOD come.INF
the new book that must get written
A. Botes: Swart op wit, 2013, 9

In (20) die probleem, which is now the object of the sentence, has a patient role in relation to the main verb oplos. With the infinitive , as in (21) to (23), agentivity is partly ascribed to the sentential subject, as in active constructions, although external agentivity cannot be excluded. Past participles combining with to have are usually terminative and replaceable by an adjective.

Example 20

Pseudo-passive (with past participle) – type 2
Ons sal die probleem binnekort opgelos hê.
we will.AUX.MOD the problem soon solve.PST.PTCP have.INF
We will have the problem solved soon.
Example 21

Jy wil jou brood aan albei kante gebotter hê.
you.2SG want.AUX.MOD your bread on both sides butter.PST.PTCP have.INF
You want your bread buttered on both sides.
Example 22

die moontlike vrae ... wat Joubert beantwoord wil
the possible questions which.REL Joubert answer.PST.PTCP want.to.AUX.MOD have.INF
the questions Joubert might want to have answered

With hou keep in (23) agentivity is restricted to die olifante the elephants, which is not the object of the main verb, while with kry get in (24) agentivity is expressed by a deur adjunct, as in passives. (Kry constructions are described extensively by Molnárfi (1995) and (1997).

Example 23

En die olifante wat hom soms ure in 'n boom opgejaag hou
and the elephants which.REL him sometimes hours in a tree up.chase.PST.PTCP keep.PRS
and the elephants chasing him which sometimes confine him to a tree for hours
D. Matthee: Toorbos, 2003, 34
Example 24

die soort voorwaarde wat ons relatief maklik deur 'n hof opsy geskuif kan kry
the kind.of condition which.REL we relative.ADV easily by a court aside move.PST.PTCP can.AUX.MOD get.INF
the kind of condition which we can have a court set aside relatively easily

In (25), the implied agent of the main verb adverteer advertise is non-identical with the sentential subject hy he.

Example 25

en hy wil dit net nie geadverteer sien nie
and he want.to.AUX.MOD it only not advertise.PST.PTCP.ADJ see.INF PTCL.NEG
and he only doesn't want to see it advertised
C. Paul-Hughes: Leila, 2005, 25

In the examples with kry get, kom come, lie and staan stand from (26) to (31), the sentential subject always has an agentive role in relation to the main verb. Since this a typical characteristic of active constructions, these examples cannot be considered to be passives. Apart from kom, which expresses movement, past participles combining with verbs such as kry, and staan are often terminative.

Example 26

Type 3: no passive
Ons sal die probleem binnekort opgelos kry.
we will.AUX.MOD the problem soon solve.PST.PTCP get.INF
We will get the problem solved soon.
Example 27

soos hy probeer het om gesluk te kry
as he try.PST.PTCP have.AUX for.COMP swallow.PST.PTCP PTCL.INF get.INF
as he tried to succeed in swallowing
M. van Niekerk & A. van Zyl: Memorandum, 2006, 71
Example 28

mistige weer ... wat van die see af aangesif kom
foggy weather that.REL from the sea off on.sift.PST.PTCP come.PRS
foggy weather that comes sifting from the sea
Example 29

En Kupido ... kom by die skerm uitgebuk
And.CNJ Kupido come.PRS at the shelter out.stoop.PST.PTCP
And Kupido came stooping out of the shelter
A.P. Brink: Bidsprinkaan, 2005, 67
Example 30

twee litte van 'n vinger lê aangerol teen die witgeverfde vloerlys.
two joints of a finger lie.PRS on.roll.PST.PTCP against the white.paint.PST.PTCP.ATTR skirting
two finger joints had rolled against the white-washed skirting
D. Meyer: Kobra, 2013, 7
Example 31

In sy slaaphut staan Baas met sy kop teen sy klererak geleun
in his sleep.hut stand.PRS Baas with his head against his clothes.rack lean.PST.PTCP
Baas stood in his sleeping hut with his head leaned against his clothes rack.
P. Pieterse: Manaka, 2005, 128

In constructions with causativelaat let, as in (32) and (33), the object (or an implied object) of the sentence may also have a patient role in relation to the main verb, just as in the case of (17) above. Although the main verb is not a past participle, agentivity may be expressed by a deur adjunct, as in (32). In (33) the existence of an entity with a patient role is implied by the locative hier here.

Example 32

Pseudo-passive (without past participle) – type 2
Ons sal die probleem deur haar laat oplos.
we will.AUX.MOD the problem by her let.LINK solve.INF
We will let the problem be solved by her.
Example 33

Mattie gaan hier moet laat stofsuig.
Mattie go.AUX.MOD here must.AUX.MOD let.LINK vacuum.INF
Mattie is going to have to let (someone) vacuum here.
E.Venter: Wolf, wolf, 2013, 37

In (34a), the sentential subject, geen vervoer no transport, has a patient role in relation to an infinitival complement, here headed by the verb vind find, and according to the criterion adopted before, this construction should also be classified as a passive. In comparison to a regular passive, such as (34b), it is, however, a semantically and syntactically specialised construction, which includes the modal sense of 'capability'. The same parallel with 'capability' passives can be seen in (35) and (36).

Example 34

Te passive – type 1
a. Geen vervoer was daar te vinde nie.
no transport was there PTCL.INF find.INF PTCL.NEG
No transport was to be found there.
b. Geen vervoer kon daar gevind word nie.
no transport can.AUX.MOD.PRT there find.PST.PTCP be.AUX.PASS PTCL.NEG
No transport could be found there.
Example 35

a. geniet wat daar te geniete is
enjoy.IMP that.REL there PTCL.INF enjoy.INF is
enjoy what there is to enjoy
J. le Roux: Wolfskof, 2004, 84
b. geniet wat daar geniet kan word
enjoy.IMP what.REL there enjoy.PST.PTCP can.AUX.MOD be.AUX.PASS.INF
enjoy whatever can be enjoyed
Example 36

a. aangesien dit kunsvorme is wat op hul eie te beoefen is
because.CNJ it art.forms be.PRS that.REL on their own PTCL.INF practise.INF be.PRS
because these are art forms that can be practised on their own
b. aangesien dit kunsvorme is wat op hul eie beoefen kan word
because.CNJ this art.forms be.PRS that.REL on their own practise.PST.PTCP can.AUX.MOD be.AUX.PASS.INF
because these are art forms that can be practised on their own
  • Molnárfi, L1995Wie kry wat in 'iets gedoen kry'?: oor die resultatiewe kry+Part II-konstruksies in die huidige Afrikaans.Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe35109-127,
  • Molnárfi, L1997'He gets the problem solved': oor die funksionele grammatikalisasie van 'get' en 'kry' in Engels en Afrikaans.South African Journal of Linguistics = Suid-Afrikaanse Tydskrif vir Taalkunde1518-26,
  • Ponelis, F.A1979Afrikaanse sintaksis.Van Schaik
  • Ponelis, F.A1979Afrikaanse sintaksis.Van Schaik
  • Ponelis, F.A1979Afrikaanse sintaksis.Van Schaik
  • Ponelis, F.A1979Afrikaanse sintaksis.Van Schaik
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