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3.3.1 Dative and PP alternations

The termDative is employed here to refer to the Noun Phrase governed by a ditransitive verb which has the role of RECEIVER, BENEFICIARY or SOURCE rather than THEME, overlapping to a large extent with what is known as the Indirect Object. The Dative may alternate with a Prepositional Phrase or PP, which is usually related semantically to a verb through a particular preposition, expressing movement in a certain direction. In (1a), Petra is no more than the RECEIVER of an act of 'sending', and the action and goal are mediated in (1b) by the preposition aanto or virfor.

Example 1

a. Piet stuur Petra 'n e-pos.
Piet send Petra an email
Piet sends Petra an email.
b. Piet stuur 'n e-pos aan/vir Petra.
Piet send an email to/for Petra
Piet sends Petra an email.

The proposition in (2), which is more figurative or abstract than the previous one, expresses a BENEFACTIVE role rather than mere directionality.

Example 2

Gee (aan/vir) hulle wat hulle toekom.
give to/for them what them be.due
Give them what is due to them.

Though RECEIVER-directed propositions need not be BENEFACTIVE, and vice-versa, instances are often found where both of these roles are combined, cf. (3):

Example 3

Ons sal ons steun toesê aan 'n universiteit wat relevant is.
we will our support promise to a university that relevant be.COP.PRS
We will commit our support to a university that is relevant.

A small set of words have seemingly conflicting distinctions in their semantic make-up, for instance leen, which may mean 'lend to' (a RECEIVER) as well as 'borrow from' (a SOURCE). In all cases the "lend to" - but not the "borrow from" - type represents a Dative and PP alternation:

Example 4

a. Ek leen (vir) jou hierdie keer R100.
I lend for you this time R100.
I'll lend you R100 this time.
b. Kan ek R100 *(van/by) jou leen?
may I R100 from / at you borrow
May I borrow R100 from you?

In the expression om iemand 'n poets te bakCOMP someone a trick to playto play a trick on someone, iemand can only be Dative, while in om 'n koek vir iemand te bakCOMP a cake for someone to baketo bake a cake for someone, iemand can only form part of a PP. It therefore seems possible that the selection of arguments may be partly determined by idiomaticity.

Possession is commonly expressed in Afrikaans by a particle se's, as in (5b) and to a lesser extent by a vanof PP, as in (5c), and is therefore not truly Dative based. A Dative possessor, as in (5a), is only employed to express inalienable possession. The usage of the se particle is described by Kirsten (2019: 106).

Example 5

a. Petra stop Piet 'n boek in die hand.
Petra thrust Piet a book in the hand.
Petra thrusts a book into Piet's hand.
b. Petra stop 'n boek in Piet se hand.
Petra thrust a book into Piet 's hand
Petra thrusts a book into Piet's hand.
c. ?Petra stop 'n boek in die hand van Piet.
Petra thrust a book in the hand of Piet
Petra thrusts a book into Piet's hand

The following will be discussed more extensively in the next section:

  • (a) Dative PP alternation with RECEIVER-oriented or BENEFACTIVE roles
  • (b) Bi-directional verb pairs
  • (c) Dative alternation and idiomaticity
  • (d) Formal aspects

[+] (a) Dative and PP alternation with RECEIVER oriented or BENEFACTIVE roles

Alternations are found between clauses containing a Dative (or Indirect Object), on the one hand, and Prepositional Phrases (PPs) headed by na ... toe, aan and vir, on the other hand. The semantic role involved is generally that of RECEIVER, being the entity at which the action is directed. In many cases, in particular in more figurative usage, the action is also BENEFACTIVE, to the extent that 'movement towards' merges gradually with 'being beneficial to' someone. In the case of na ... toe movement towards the receiver is often physical, as in (6a), and not necessarily BENEFACTIVE. Though (6a) and (6b) may be synonymous, (6b) - and not (6a) - implies that the receiver is also a BENEFICIARY.

Example 6

a. Piet stuur 'n nuwe pen na haar toe.
Piet send a new pen to her PTCL
Piet sends a new pen to her.
b. Piet stuur haar 'n nuwe pen.
Piet send her a new pen
Piet sends her a new pen.

Example (7) indicates that whether the RECEIVER actually benefits depends on the pragmatics of the situation.

Example 7

Die minister het die boere droogtehulp beloof.
the minister have.AUX the farmers drought-help promise.PST.PTCP
The minister promised the farmers drought aid.

The prepositions aanto and virfor differ in that vir is less formal or more colloquial than aan, as the following comparison would indicate:

Example 8

a. Gee dit dadelik vir/?aan my!
give it immediately for/to me
Give it to me immediately!
b. Die bestuur het 'n oorkonde aan/?vir die presteerder oorhandig.
the management have.AUX an address to/for the achiever over-hand.PST.PTCP
Management presented the achiever with an address.

With verbs such as toesêto promise and toestaanto allow, grant, aan is likely to be preferred to vir, as in (9).

Example 9

a. Ons sal ons steun toesê aan 'n universiteit wat relevant is.
we will out support promise to a university that relevant be.COP.PRS
We will commit our support to a university that is relevant.
b. Hy het die universiteit sy hele erfporsie toegesê.
he have.AUX the university his whole inheritance promise.PST.PTCP
He promised the university his whole inheritance.
c. maar dit moet jy Arnold toestaan
but this must you Arnold allow
but this you must grant Arnold
d. besluit of hy menseregte aan jou gaan toestaan of nie
decide whether he human-rights to you will grant or NEG
decide whether he will grant you human rights or not

Alternation of BENEFACTIVE Dative and an aan or vir PP also characterises the verbs geeto give, skenkto give, donate, betaalto pay and meedeelto inform.

While the above examples are BENEFACTIVE, the Dative alternation is also employed in a non-benefactive fashion, as in (10). Further research would have to determine which role is predominant.

Example 10

a. Hulle het ons iets leliks toegesnou.
they have.AUX us something ugly-GEN snarl.PST.PTCP
They snarled something ugly at us.
b. Die landdros het die misdadiger 'n swaar straf toegedien.
the magistrate have.AUX the criminal a heavy punishment mete.out.PST.PTCP
The magistrate meted out a harsh punishment to the criminal.
c. Die dobbelaar het haar baie ellende besorg.
the gambler have.AUX her much grief cause.PST.PTCP
The gambler caused her a lot of grief.

The verbs leento lend to; to borrow from and leerto teach; to learn and the pair verhuurto rent out and huurto rent from have related but complementary meanings. Leen to lend to, in (11a), and leerto teach, in (12a), partake in Dative/ PP alternations while huurto rent from and its derived formverhuurto rent to in (13) display the same semantic bi-directionality but without having a Dative alternant. (12b) and (13b), where the subject functions as RECEIVER and the PP as SOURCE, do not have Dative alternants either.

Example 11

a. Ansie leen (vir) André haar fiets.
[Also benefactive]
Ansie lend to André her bicycle
Ansie lends André her bicycle.
b. André leen 'n fiets van /by Ansie.
André borrow a bicycle from / at Ansie
André borrows a bicycle from André.
Example 12

a. Ansie leer (vir) André Latyn.
[Also benefactive]
Ansie teach for André Latin
Ansie teaches André Latin.
b. André leer Latyn by Ansie.
André learn Latin at Ansie
André learns Latin from Ansie.
Example 13

a. Ansie verhuur 'n woonstel aan André.
Ansie rent.out a flat to André
Ansie rents out a flat to André.
b. André huur 'n woonstel van/by Ansie.
André rent a flat from/at Ansie.
André rents a flat from Ansie.

In the case of a few verbs, such as besorgto deliver, cause to have and bak to bake, the selection of arguments (the Dative, in the present case) or PP complements differs according to their literal or figurative status. In the case of both (14b) and (15b), the Dative alternant is associated with the figurative sense only.

Example 14

a. Sonja besorg die koek aan Hanno.
Sonja deliver the cake to Hanno
Sonja delivers the cake to Hanno.
b. Sonja besorg Hanno baie hoofbrekens .
Sonja cause Hanno many headaches
Sonja causes Hanno many headaches.
Example 15

a. Sonja bak vir Hanno 'n koek.
Sonja bake for Hanno a cake
Sonja bakes a cake for Hanno.
b. Sonja bak Hanno 'n poets.
Sonja bake Hanno a trick
Sonja plays a trick on Hanno.

Syntactically, the Dative precedes the Accusative or Direct Object, as in (16a), while the placement of the corresponding PP is freer, as in (16b).

Example 16

a. Ek sien dat sy <hom> werk <*hom> gegee het <*hom>.
I see that she him work him PST.PTCP-give have.AUX him
I see that she has given him work.
b. Ek sien dat sy <vir hom> werk <vir hom> gegee het <vir hom>.
I see that she for him work for him PST.PTCP-give have.AUX for him
I see that she has given him work

Note that vir also alternates with a phonologically fuller - and older - form voor. Vir is stranded as voor when following the NP it heads, e.g.

Example 17

a. Sonja het die koek vir Hanno gegee.
Sonja have.AUX the cake for Hanno PST.PTCP-give
Sonja gave the cake to Hanno.
b. Hanno is die een wat die koek voor gegee is.
Hanno be.COP.PRS the one that the cake for PST.PTCP-give be.AUX.PASS.PST
Hanno is the one to whom the cake was given.
  • Kirsten, Johanita2019Written Afrikaans since StandardizationLexington Books
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