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Morphological characterisation

In many languages different verb forms are used to express person and number agreement with the subject of the sentence, e.g. neem, neemt and nemento take in Dutch, and a special infinitive form is employed, such as nemen in Dutch. In functions such as these, the Afrikaans verb has virtually been reduced to a single form, neem, which will be referred to here as the base form of the verb.

The base form is also used to express acommand, e.g. Neem dit!Take it! or to nominalise a verb phrase, as in die neem van 'n badtaking a bath. A small number of verbs have variant forms, for example skryf / skryweto write and ja / jaagto chase. Both forms are used in most functions, e.g. as base forms, bare infinitives and imperatives, and in past participles (geskryf / geskrywe, geja / gejaag), though one form is preferred in attributive usage (geskryfde, gejaagde) and as present participle (skrywende, jaende). The verbs hetto have and isto be have their own infinitive forms, namely as infinitive of the main verb, e.g. om geluk te hêto have luck and wees in all infinitive functions, e.g. Dit kan waar weesIt may be true and om vrolik te weesto be happy. Wees is also the imperative form of the verb 'to be', as in Wees eerlik!Be honest! and in the case of 'to have', as in Hê baie pret!Have lots of fun!. is, however, somewhat marked as an imperative, and het is never used in this function. A typical well-wishing formula would be:

Example 1

Julle moet pret hê!
you.PL must fun have.INF
Have fun, all of you!

In a full infinitive construction with om teCOMP to plus verb, wees and are used as infinitives, but for all other verbs the infinitive is identical to the base form, as shown in example (2).

Example 2

Dit is lekker om tuis te wees, vriende te en te kan gesels.
it be.COP.PRS nice COMP home to be.INF friends to have.INF and to can.INF chat.INF
It's nice to be home, have friends and be able to chat.

When 'to have' is employed as auxiliary, only the form het is used:

Example 3

Om genoeg te gespaar het, kan later help.
COMP enough to PST.PTCP-save have.AUX.PST can later.on help
To have saved enough, can be of help later on.

Infinitives with an -e suffix, resembling Dutch infinitives, are found in constructions without omCOMP which are used in fixed expressions and with limited productivity, e.g.

Example 4

Die droogte is moontlik te wyte aan aardverwarming.
the drought be.COP.PRS possibly to blame.INF on earth-warming
The drought is perhaps due to global warming.

The preterite or imperfect no longer exists in Afrikaans as a verbal category. However, wasto be.PRT and the preterites of a number of modal auxiliaries, namely souwould, wouwanted to, moeshad to and koncould, are still frequently used.

Past participles are formed by affixing ge- to the base form, e.g. doen > gedoen, unless the base form has a rising stress contour, e.g. bèdánk, vèránder, in which case affixation is optional. For the same reason ge- is optional before collocations of lexical verbs, e.g.

Example 5

Sy het mooi (ge)lèèr síng.
she have.AUX.PST beautifully PST.PTCP-learn sing.INF
She learnt to sing beautifully.

In purely verbal usage, gehad, the past participle of hetto have, is irregular in the standard variety. In adjectival usage, forms stemming from Dutch strong or weak participles, e.g. gebonde instead of gebindbound and verward instead of verwarconfused, respectively, are used in specialised functions. The latter forms, with a -te/de ending in the case of regularised forms (e.g. verlepte blommewilted flowers), are also used attributively, and form the basis of further derivation, for example abstract nominals such as gebondenheidrestraint from bindto bind and verwardheidconfusion from verwarto confuse.

Present participles are also used adjectivally, e.g. 'n verwarrende toestanda confusing situation, and adverbially, as in

Example 6

Die optog kom al singende om die hoek.
the procession come while sing.PRS.PTCP around the corner
The procession is singing while rounding the corner.

Agreement with the subject is not expressed in the Afrikaans verb. A single base form of the verb is used regardless of the person or number of the subject:

Example 7

a. Ek/ jy/ ons/ hulle, etc. is hier in beheer.
I/ you.SG/ we/ they be.COP.PRS here in control
I/ you/ we/ they, etc. are in control here.
b. Hy/ sy/ julle, etc. neem gereeld foto's.
he/ she/ you.PL, etc. take regularly photos
He/ she/ you, etc. take photos regularly.

The base form of the verb is also used to express a command or in a nominalising function:

Example 8

Neem elke dag 'n foto!
take every day a photo
Take a photo every day!
Example 9

Dit is basiese kennis vir die neem van bloeddruk.
this be.COP.PRS basic knowledge for the take.NMLZ of blood-pressure
This is basic knowledge for measuring blood pressure.

A small number of verbs have variant stem forms, for example leef and leweto live, laaf and laweto refresh and bederf and bederweto spoil. Both forms are used in most functions, e.g. as base forms, bare infinitives and imperatives, and in past participles (geleef / gelewe, gelaaf / gelawe), though one form is preferred in attributive usage (geleefde, gelaafde) and as present participle (lewende, lawende). Variants of verbs such as staanto stand, gaanto go and slaanto hit, ending in -tstaat, gaat and slaat, are used in expressive functions or as the form of choice for some speakers.

Apart from two verbs, hetto have and isto be, which are formally marked as infinitives, viz. and wees, respectively, a [+/- finite] contrast is not expressed morphologically in Afrikaans. Even these instances of infinitive marking are anomalous; while weesto be corresponds closely in function with the Dutch infinitive zijn (also wezen), is only the infinitive of the main verbhetto have, possess and not of het as a past tense auxiliary. And while the forms and wees have disappeared in certain varieties of the language, they have been developing new functions in the standard variety. e.g.

Example 10

Kom ons wees daarom eerlik met mekaar
come we be.COP.INF therefore honest with each.other
So let's be honest with each other.
Example 11

pret saam met jou kinders.
have.IMP fun together with your children
Have fun with your children.

Wees is commonly used as imperative, while is slightly marked in this function and het is excluded:

Example 12

a. Wees gelukkig!
be.IMP happy
Be happy!
b. ? 'n lekker dag!
have.IMP a nice day
Have a nice day!
c. *Het 'n lekker dag!
have.IMP a nice day
To mean: Have a nice day!

The base form is also the form used in a full infinitive construction with om teCOMP to plus verb:

Example 13

Dit is belangrik om die probleem te begryp.
it be.COP.PRS important COMP the problem to understand.INF
It is important to understand the problem.

The complementiser om is omitted in a number of fixed expressions, such as te weteto wit and te danke aanthanks to as well as expressions implying ability or possibility, for example iemand te siene kryto get to see someone and nie te redde niewhich cannot be saved. The affixation of an -e brings the verb in line with Dutch infinitives (te begrijpen, weten, danken, redden) and may even surpass the Dutch infinitive (Dutch te zien: Afrikaans te siene; Dutch te verstaan: Afrikaans te verstane). (Note that the final -n in Dutch, which is usually left unpronounced after schwa, has not found its way into Afrikaans spelling.) The following examples will illustrate the use of this construction:

Example 14

a. Sy't Jason nooit te siene gekry nie.
she-have.AUX.PST Jason never to see.INF PST.PTCP-get NEG
She never got to see Jason.
b. Dit is te begrype dat die universiteit geen toegewings maak nie.
it be.COP.PRS to understand.INF COMP the university no concessions make NEG
It is understandable that the university will make no concessions.
c. Dit is te verstane dat jy nou so sal dink.
it be.COP.PRS to understand.INF COMP you now so will think
It is understandable that you will think so now.

The preterite or imperfect as a past tense category has, with a few important exceptions, ceased to exist in Afrikaans. The extant modal preterites, namely souwould , wouwanted to, moeshad to and koncould, are however frequently employed in past tense or modal functions. Dag/ dogthought has developed the specialised meaning of 'being under a certain expression'. Mogmight has become obsolete.

Example 15

a. Ek moes kon dink my reputasie sou my vooruitloop.
I must.PRT can.PRT think my reputation will.PRT me precede
I could have thought that my reputation would precede me.
b. Ek dog sy is klaar dertig.
I think.mistakenly.PRT she be.COP.PRS thirty
I would have thought that she is thirty already.
c. Maar ek dog dit is heel duidelik so uitgespel.
COMP I think.PRT.mistakenly it be.COP.PRS quite clearly so out-PST.PTCP-spell
But I would have thought that it was spelled out quite clearly in that way.

Periphrastic alternatives for the expression of past tense or modal meanings are encountered in all varieties of Afrikaans, e.g.

Example 16

a. Sy kon goed viool speel.
she can.PRT well violin play
She could play the violin well.
b. Sy kan goed viool gespeel het.
she can.PRS well violin PST.PTCP-play have.AUX.PST
She could play the violin well.

In the absence of modal auxiliaries, past and pluperfect tense is mainly expressed by the perfect, which typically consists of an auxiliary plus a past participle. The auxiliary is het in the active voice, and is or was in the passive. In the present tense, the passive is expressed by wordto become plus a past participle.

Example 17

Nadat die probleem opgelos was, het hulle huis toe gegaan.
after the problem solve.PST.PTCP be.AUX.PASS.PST have.AUX.PST they home to PST.PTCP-go
After the problem had been solved they went home.

Past participles are directly derived from the base form. The Afrikaans past participle is constrained by a phonological template, namely a contrast of rising stress between two syllables (which need not be adjacent). When this contrast is not present, as in the case of all monosyllabic verbs and verbs such as antwoord with primary stress on the first syllable, the prefix ge- is employed as a default filler. Consequently the vast majority of Afrikaans past participles are realised as ge- plus verbal base, e.g. geneem, gespeel, gegaan, gesien, geleef, gelewe, geëet, gebly, gebreek, gedink, gebind, gewaag, geantwoord.

In the presence of prefixes such as ver-, be- and ge- itself (cf. gebeurto happen), which supply an initial unstressed syllable, ge- is prescriptively blocked, e.g. in begryp, betaal, verstaan, verneem, ontneem, etc., though forms with ge- are encountered often enough (e.g. gebetaal).

Example 18

Jy werk en wil gebetaal wees.
you work and want.to PST.PTCP-pay be.AUX.PASS.INF
You work and want to be paid.
Example 19

Ekskuus, ek het meneer seker sleg geverstaan.
excuse I have.AUX.PST Sir perhaps badly PST.PTCP-understand
Sorry, Sir, but I must have understood you badly.
Example 20

Nalat ons nou eers ooreweer welstanings geverneem het.
after-that we now first to-and-fro wellbeing PST.PTCP-enquire have.AUX.PST
after we enquired about each other's wellbeing to-and-fro

The phonological template even extends beyond word boundaries. Thus the affixation of ge- is also optional with verb clusters, such as bly skietto keep on shooting, e.g.

Example 21

Toe McLuckie wegjaag, het die rowers op hom bly skiet.
when McLuckie away-speed have.AUX.PST the robbers on him keep.on.PST.PTCP shoot.INF
When McLuckie speeded away the robbers kept on shooting at him.

In general, optional ge- is realised quite differently in different varieties of the language. Thus while ge- is preferentially affixed in non-standard varieties, speakers of the standard variety prefer to drop it.

Gehad, the past participle of hê/ hetto have, is a very frequent irregular form; another irregular participle in verbal usage is gedag/ gedog, used in the sense of 'thinking mistakenly' or 'being right in thinking something'.

Example 22

Ek het so gedog.
I have.AUX.PST so PST.PTCP-think
I thought so.
Example 23

Ek moet erken ek het gedog hy gaan nie terugkom nie.
I must confess I have.AUX.PST PST.PTCP-think he go.FUT not back-come NEG
I must confess that I thought he was not going to return.

While all past participles in purely verbal usage, with the exception of gehad (often regularised as gehet in non-standard varieties) and gedag/ gedog have been regularised, irregular variants are encountered in certain syntactic contexts or are employed to express figurative or specialised meanings. Thus the regular past participle of breekto break is gebreek, but gebroke may be used as an adjective to express a figurative sense:

Example 24

Ek is gebroke omdat my duur horlosie nou gebreek is.
I be.COP.PRS broken.ADJ COMP my expensive watch now PST.PTCP-break.ADJ be.COP.PRS
I am devastated because my expensive watch is broken now.
Example 25

... maak as't ware heel wat gebroke is.
make as-it-were whole what broken.ADJ be.COP.PRS
... repairs what was broken, as it were.

The irregular form may also be the preferred form in attributive versus predicative usage:

Example 26

Dis verbode lektuur - dis mos nou verbied.
it-be.COP.PRS banned.ADJ literature - it-be.COP.PRS surely now prohibit.PST.PTCP.ADJ
It's banned literature; surely it is prohibited now.

In historically regular or "weak" past participles, a final -d or -t (realised as [t] in both cases) may be affixed, for instance in verbs expressing mental or emotional states, as in geseënd blessed, from seënto bless,, gewaagddaring, from waagto dare or ontsteldupset, from ontstelto upset.

Example 27

Dit sou uiters gewaagd wees om ronduit te beweer ...
it will.PRT extremely risky.ADJ be.COP.PRS COMP openly to claim.INF
It would be extremely risky to claim openly ...

Regularised past participles receive -te or -de(or -e when -d/t are already present) when used attributively, e.g. gebreek: gebreektebroken, ontstel(d): ontsteldeupset, gekam: gekamdecombed, bewerk: bewerktecultivated, geseën(d): geseëndeblessed, gewaag(d): gewaagdedaring, cf.

Example 28

sy altyd netjies gekamde hare
his always neatly PST.PTCP-comb.ADJ hair
his hair which is always neatly combed

Predicative adjectives derived from past participles form the basis of further nominalisations, e.g. breek 'break' > gebroke > gebrokenheidbrokenness, bindbind > gebonde > gebondenheidbondage, waag dare> gewaagde > gewaagdheiddaring, ontstel upset> ontsteld > ontsteltenisdismay. Examples:

Example 29

'n teken van demoniese gebondenheid
a sign of demoniacal bondage.NMLZ
a sign of demoniacal bondage
Example 30

toe sit die ontsteltenis in woede oor
then change the dismay.NMLZ in anger over
then the dismay changed into anger

Present participles are derived by affixing -end of -ende, e.g. brekendebreaking, bewerkendecultivating, bindendebinding, ontstellendeupsetting, hardlopenderunning and irregular staandestanding in attributive function. These may combine with alwhile to form adverbial phrases, e.g.

Example 31

Al hardlopende draai hy om
while run-PRS.PTCP turn he around
He turns around while running.

Al + VERB--ende alternates with VERB--end in adverbial function and VERB + -ende in attributive function:

Example 32

op 'n oggend kom sy singend binne
on a morning come she sing-PRS.PTCP.ADV in
on a morning she comes in singing
Example 33

en met singende harte gaan slaap
and with sing-PRS.PTCP.ADJ hearts go sleep
and go to sleep with singing hearts
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