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Dative and PP alternations

The term dative 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 aan to or vir for.

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

Gee (aan/vir) hulle wat hulle toekom.
give.IMP to/for them that.REL them be.due.PRS
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):

Ons sal ons steun toesê aan 'n universiteit wat relevant is.
we will.AUX.MOD our support promise.INF to a university that.REL relevant is
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:

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

In the expression om iemand 'n poets te bak COMP someone a trick to play to play a trick on someone, iemand can only be Dative, while in om 'n koek vir iemand te bak COMP a cake for someone to bake to 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 van ofPP, 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).

a. Petra stop Piet 'n boek in die hand.
Petra thrust.PRS 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.PRS a book into Piet POSS hand
Petra thrusts a book into Piet's hand.
c. ?Petra stop 'n boek in die hand van Piet.
Petra thrust.PRS 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.

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

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 aan to and vir for differ in that vir is less formal or more colloquial than aan, as the following comparison would indicate:

a. Gee dit dadelik vir/?aan my!
give.IMP 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 toesê to promise and toestaan to allow, grant, aan is likely to be preferred to vir, as in (9).

a. Ons sal ons steun toesê aan 'n universiteit wat relevant is.
we will.AUX.MOD our support promise.INF to a university that.REL relevant is
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.CNJ this must.AUX.MOD you.2SG Arnold allow.INF
but this you must grant Arnold
d. besluit of hy menseregte aan jou gaan toestaan of nie
decide.PRS whether.COMP he human.rights to you will.AUX.MOD grant.INF or not
decide whether he will grant you human rights or not

Alternation of BENEFACTIVE Dative and an aan or virPP also characterises the verbs gee to give, skenk to give, donate, betaal to pay and meedeel to 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.

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 out.mete.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.
[+](b) Bi-directional verb pairs

The verbs leen to lend to; to borrow from and leer to teach; to learn and the pair verhuur to rent out and huur to rent from have related but complementary meanings. Leen to lend to, in (11a), and leer to teach, in (12a) – both of them benefactive – partake in Dative/PP alternations while huur to rent from and its derived formverhuur to 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.

a. Ansie leen (vir) André haar fiets.
Ansie lend.PRS to André her bicycle
Ansie lends André her bicycle.
b. André leen 'n fiets van /by Ansie.
André borrow.PRS a bicycle from / at Ansie
André borrows a bicycle from André.
a. Ansie leer (vir) André Latyn.
Ansie teach.PRS for André Latin
Ansie teaches André Latin.
b. André leer Latyn by Ansie.
André learn.PRS Latin at Ansie
André learns Latin from Ansie.
a. Ansie verhuur 'n woonstel aan André.
Ansie rent.out.PRS a flat to André
Ansie rents out a flat to André.
b. André huur 'n woonstel van/by Ansie.
André rent.PRS a flat from/at Ansie.
André rents a flat from Ansie.
[+](c) Dative alternation and idiomaticity

In the case of a few verbs, such as besorg to deliver, cause to have and bak to bake, the selection of arguments (the Dative, in the present case) or PPcomplements 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.

a. Sonja besorg die koek aan Hanno.
Sonja deliver.PRS the cake to Hanno
Sonja delivers the cake to Hanno.
b. Sonja besorg Hanno baie hoofbrekens.
Sonja cause.PRS Hanno many headaches
Sonja causes Hanno many headaches.
a. Sonja bak vir Hanno 'n koek.
Sonja bake.PRS for Hanno a cake
Sonja bakes a cake for Hanno.
b. Sonja bak Hanno 'n poets.
Sonja bake.PRS Hanno a trick
Sonja plays a trick on Hanno.
[+](d) Formal aspects

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

a. Ek sien dat sy <hom> werk <*hom> gegee het <*hom>.
I see.PRS that.COMP she <him> work <him> give.PST.PTCP 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.PRS that.COMP she <for him> work <for him> give.PST.PTCP 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.

a. Sonja het die koek vir Hanno gegee.
Sonja have.AUX the cake for Hanno give.PST.PTCP
Sonja gave the cake to Hanno.
b. Hanno is die een wat die koek voor gegee is.
Hanno is the one that.REL the cake for give.PST.PTCP be.AUX.PASS.PST
Hanno is the one to whom the cake was given.
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