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Syntactic function of the relative pronoun in the relative clause
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The relative pronoun may have the following syntactic functions in the relative clause: a) an argument of the verb, b) a prepositional complement, or c) an adverbial.

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Three syntactic functions of the relative pronoun in a relative clause can be distinguished, namely a) an argument of the verb, b) a prepositional complement, or c) an adverbial. Examples of each are given below.

[+]a) As argument of the verb:

In a relative clause, the relative pronoun may have the syntactic function to introduce the argument of the verb. In the sentence example below, the relative clause, introduced by the relative pronoun wat what functions as an argument of the verb, more specifically, as the direct object:

Example 1

Die appels wat hulle weggooi.
the apples that.REL they away.throw
The apples that they throw away.
[+]b) As prepositional complement:

The Wh-pronoun can be used in prepositional arguments. The relative pronoun reserved for complements of prepositions is the Wh-pronoun waar where and cliticised onto specific prepositions, such as met/mee with as waarmee where.with, oor over as waaroor where.over, and op on as waarop where.on. This relative pronoun does not have any paradigm. It has the same form, regardless of the number and gender of its antecedent. It can refer to persons as well as to non-persons. A number of examples below illustrates the use of the Wh-pronoun as relative pronoun to introduce a prepositional complement.

Example 2

a. Die meisie waarmee ek praat.
the girl REL.with I talk
The girl that I talk to.
b. Die meisies waarmee ek praat.
the girls REL.with I talk.
The girls that I talk to.
c. Die saak waarop dit betrekking het.
the matter REL.on it relation have
The matter to which it relates.
d. Die saak waaroor ek en jy praat.
the matter REL.over I and you.SG talk
The matter you and I are talking about.
Although this often results in a semantically marked or informal statement, preposition separation can occur when a relative pronoun is a member of a preposition group (also see Ponelis 1979:464).
Example 3

a. Die meisies wat ek mee praat.
the girls that.REL I with talk
The girls that I talk to.
b. Die saak wat dit op betrekking het.
the matter that.REL it on relation have.PRS
The case it relates to.
c. Die saak waar ek en jy oor praat.
the matter where.REL I and you.SG over talk
The matter you and I are talking about.

In Afrikaans, questioned main clauses can be introduced by a preposition. This is illustrated by the examples below. The first and second examples involve a personal argument, while the third and fouth example in involves an non-animate argument.

Example 4

a. Met wie het jy gepraat?
with who.REL have.AUX you.SG talk.PST
With whom did you talk?
b. Oor wie het jy gepraat?
over who.REL have.AUX you.SG talk.PST
Who were you talking about?
c. Oor wat het jy gepraat?
about that.REL have.AUX you.SG talk.PST
About what did you speak?
d. Waaroor het jy gepraat?
REL.over have.AUX you.SG talk.PST
About what did you speak?

The relative pronoun may function as complement of a prepostion in the relative clause. In Afrikaans the relative pronoun waar where is used, and cliticised onto the preposition, as is illustrated with the prepositions mee with and oor over in the examples below:

Example 5

a. Die meisie waarmee ek gepraat het gister.
the girl REL.with I talk.PST have.AUX yesterday
The girl that I talked with yesterday.
b. Die saak waaroor ek en die direkteur gister vergader het.
the matter REL.over I and the director yesterday meet have.AUX
The matter about which the director and I had a meeting yesterday.
[+]c) As adverbial

The relative pronoun can introduce an adverbial of time, manner, type, reason or place. Each of these adverbials are discussed in more depth below:

  • As PP of time

    The following elements can be used as relative pronouns of time (Ponelis 1979:467-468). Examples of each are given below.

    • the neutral subordinating complementiser dat that
    • the interrogative pronoun wat what
    • the interrogative pronoun wanneer when
    • the relative pronoun waarop on which
    • the temporal complementiser of past reference toe when

    Temporal nouns, such as dag day are the natural antecedents for the relative pronoun of time. The relative pronoun of time is spelled out as the neutral subordinating complementiser dat that, as in the examples below:

    Example 6

    Kom ons droom van die dag dat so iets wel sal kan waar word!
    come we dream of the day that.COMP such something indeed will.AUX.MOD can.AUX.MOD true become
    Let us dream of the day that such a thing can become true!
    VivA-KPO
    Example 7

    Teen die tyd dat jou kinders tieners is, sal hulle voorbereid wees.
    by the time that your.SG children teenagers be.PRS will.AUX.MOD they prepared be.INF
    By the time you children are teenagers, they will be prepared.
    VivA-KPO

    The interrogative pronoun wat what can also be used as a relative pronoun of time, as illustrated by the following examples:

    Example 8

    Vandag is die dag wat die koek afgelewer moet word.
    today be.PRS the day that the cake off.deliver.PASS must.AUX.MOD be.AUX.PASS.PRS
    Today is the day that the cake must be delivered.
    VivA-KPO
    Example 9

    Teen die tyd wat die briefwisseling begin, bly sy ouers reeds op Worcester en loseer Charles in die Paarl.
    by the time that the letter.exchange start reside his parents already on Worcester and lodge Charles in the Paarl
    By the time the correspondence starts, his parents are already living in Worcester, and Charles is already lodging in Paarl.
    VivA-KPO

    The interrogative pronoun of time wanneer when may also be used as a relative pronoun of time:

    Example 10

    En nou is dit die tyd wanneer die hele nasie kan weet watter smart mense gely het.
    and now be.PRS it the time when the whole nation can.AUX.MOD know what grief people suffer.PST have.AUX
    And now is the time when the whole nation can know what grief people have suffered.

    Although examples of this relative pronoun of time were found in some impersonal sentences in a corpus of written Afrikaans (for example the first sentence below), it seems as though the use of this pronoun in past tense reference is limited and highly determined or influenced by the interpretation of the context. The use of the relative pronoun of time is grammatical and neutral when the singular form temporal noun tyd time is presented in the present tense. However, when these sentences are presented in the past tense, it becomes ungrammatical. On the other hand, it is grammatical when the plural form of the temporal noun, tye times, is used.

    Example 11

    Want dit was die tyd wanneer die mooi gesig van die akkerlande verbruin en die vrugte verwelk het.
    because it be.PRT the time when the beautiful face of the oak.lands brown and the fruit wither have.AUX
    Because it was the time when the beautiful face of the oak fields browned and fruit withered.
    VivA-KPO (adapted)
    Example 12

    a. Die tyd wanneer ek nou na ouma toe kom – kry ek ouma is stil.
    the time when I now to grandma to come get I grandma be.PRS silent
    The time when I come to grandma now – I find grandma is quiet.
    VivA-KPO
    b. ?Die tyd wanneer ek toe na ouma toe gekom het
    the time.SG when I then to grandma to come.PST have.AUX
    That time when I came to grandma
    VivA-KPO
    c. Die tye wanneer ek toe na ouma toe gekom het
    the time.PL when I to grandma to come.PST have.AUX
    The times when I came to grandma

    Cliticised Wh-pronouns, specifically waarop REL.on on which, but though not as frequent, also waarin REL.in in which and waartydens REL.while during may also be used as a relative pronoun of time:

    Example 13

    Ek is alleen sedert die dag waarop ek my geliefde vrou Naëhme verloor het.
    I be.PRS alone since the day REL.on I my beloved wife Naëhme loose have.AUX
    I am alone since the day on which I lost my beloved wife Naëhme.
    VivA-KPO
    Example 14

    Paastyd is 'n tyd waarin nuwe lewe gevier word.
    Easter be.PRS a time REL.in new life celebrate.PASS be.AUX.PASS.PRS
    Easter is a time in which new life is celebrated.
    VivA-KPO
    Example 15

    Na 'n dag waartydens Bettie nie 'n vinger kon verroer nie, volg 'n ontstellende werklikheid.
    after a day REL.while Bettie not a finger can.AUX.MOD.PRT move PTLC.NEG follow a unsettling reality
    After a day during which Bettie couldn't move a finger, a disturbing reality ensued.
    VivA-KPO

    Lastly, the temporal complementiser of past reference toe when can also be used as relative pronouns of time :

    Example 16

    My lekkerste ervaring was die dag toe Sjef Max vir ons gewys het hoe om 'n paar "gesonde" nageregte te maak!
    my nice·SUPL experience be.PRT the day when Chef Max for us show.PST have.AUX how for.COMP a few healthy desserts PTCL.INF make.INF
    My most enjoyable experience was the day Chef Max showed us how to make some "healthy" desserts!
    VivA-KPO
  • As PP of manner:

    The following elements can be used as relative pronouns of manner:

    • the interrogative pronoun of manner hoe how
    • the interrogative pronoun of placing waarop on which
    • the interrogative pronoun of content wat what

    Nouns of manner are the natural antecedents for the relative pronoun of manner. There are two nouns of manner: wyse way and manier manner. These are sometimes used with the relative adverb hoe how, which is also used for questions. Two examples are given below:

    Example 17

    Maar jy gaan verander in die wyse hoe jy jou maat verstaan.
    but you.SG go change in the way how you.SG your.SG friend understand
    But you are going to change in the way you understand your partner.
    VivA-KPO
    Example 18

    Daar is geen manier hoe ons mense die massa mense se druk kon hanteer op North Park Lane nie.
    there be.PRS no way how our people the mass people PTCL.GEN pressure can.AUX.MOD.PRT handle on North Park Lane PTCL.NEG
    There is no way in which our people could handle the pressure of the amount of people on North Park Lane.
    VivA-KPO

    Cliticised Wh-pronouns, specifically waarop REL.on on which, and to a lesser extend also waarin REL.in in which may be used as a relative pronoun of manner:

    Example 19

    Die enigste manier waarop katarakte verwyder kon word, was deur 'n operasie.
    the only way REL.on cataracts remove.PASS can.AUX.MOD.PRT become.AUX.PASS.PRS be.PST through a operation
    The only way cataracts could be removed was by surgery.
    VivA-KPO
    Example 20

    Die wyse waarin betekenisvolle elemente binne 'n taal gekombineer kan word, word deur reëls gereguleer.
    the way REL.in meaningful elements inside a language combine.PASS can.AUX.MOD become.AUX.PASS.PRS become.AUX.PASS.PRS by rules regulate.PASS
    The way in which meaningful elements can be combined within a language is governed by rules.
    VivA-KPO

    The interrogative pronoun wat what also be used as a relative pronoun of manner, as illustrated by the following examples:

    Example 21

    Kom ons doen wat gedoen moet word op 'n manier wat ons Christenskap en burgerskap van ons pragtige land waardig is!
    come we do what do.PASS must.AUX.MOD become.AUX.PASS.PRS on a manner that.REL our Christianity and citizenship of our beautiful country worthy be.PRS
    Let's do what needs to be done in a manner that is worthy of our Christianity and citizenship of our beautiful country!
    VivA-KPO
    Example 22

    Malan het nie op 'n wyse wat met sy eie weergawe versoenbaar is, gereageer nie.
    Malan have.AUX not on a way that.REL with his own version compatible be.PRS respond.PST PTCL.NEG
    Malan did not respond in a manner compatible with his own version.
    VivA-KPO
  • As PP of type

    The following elements can be used as relative pronouns of type:

    • the adverbial pronoun of manner soos as

    This relative pronoun turns its antecedent into a type. In the first example the antecedent is the noun boeke books.

    Example 23

    Boeke soos Dalene Matthee dit skryf
    books like Dalene Matthee them write
    Books like those written by Dalene Matthee

    The pronoun soos as, can be followed by another pronoun, such as wat what as illustrated in the first example below, waarin in which as illustrated in the second example below or waarop on which as in the last example below. In these examples the relative pronoun's antecedent is not a noun, but the preceding sentence.

    Example 24

    Maar ek sou tog graag wou hê dat die lesers eerstens die woorde soos wat hulle daar geskryf staan, ernstig moet opneem.
    but I want.to.AUX.MOD.PRT still eagerly want.PRT have.INF that.COMP the readers firstly the words as what they there written stand seriously must.AUX.MOD up.take
    But I still want the readers to firstly take the words they read seriously, as they are written there.
    VivA-KPO
    Example 25

    En as jy sien waar hy tuisgaan, blyk dit net so 'n gewone huis te wees soos waarin alle mense woon.
    and if you.SG see where he home.go seem it just as a ordinary house PTCL.INF be.INF as REL.in all people live
    And when you see where he lives, it seems to be just as ordinary a house as all people live in.
    VivA-KPO
    Example 26

    Want nie almal is altyd so eerlik soos waarop hulle in hul profiel aanspraak maak nie.
    because not everyone be.PRS always as honest as REL.on they in their profile claim make PTCL.NEG
    Because not everyone is always as honest as they claim in their profile.
    VivA-KPO
  • As PP of reason

    The following elements can be used as relative pronouns of reason:

    • the neutral complementiser dat that
    • the interrogative pronoun of reason waarom why

    Nouns expressing reason are the natural antecedents for the relative pronoun of reason. The antecedent that is mainly used is the noun rede reason. Relative clauses of reason can be introduced by i) the relative pronoun waarom why, which is homophonous with the question word, ii) the question word hoekom why or iii) by the neutral complementiser dat that.

    Example 27

    Miskien is dit die rede dat Thabo so baie tyd in die buiteland spandeer.
    maybe be.PRS it the reason that.COMP Thabo so much time in the abroad spend
    Maybe that's why Thabo spends so much time abroad.
    VivA-KPO
    Example 28

    Hy sê dit is die rede waarom bykomende polisie lank voor die tyd ontplooi is.
    he say it be.PRS the reason why additional police long before the time deploy be.AUX.PASS.PST
    He says that's the reason why additional police have been deployed long before.
    VivA-KPO
    Example 29

    Dit is die rede hoekom jou neus loop as jy huil.
    it be.PRS the reason why your.SG nose run when you.SG cry
    That is the reason why your nose is runny when you cry.
    VivA-KPO
  • As PP of place:

    The following elements can be used as a relative pronoun of place (Ponelis 1979:467):

    • the interrogative pronoun of place waar where
    • the interrogative pronoun of content wat whatNouns referring to places are the natural antecedents for adverbs of place.

    The interrogative pronoun of place, waar where, can be used as relative pronoun of place.

    Example 30

    Maar dit is nie noodwendig die plek waar mens sal begin soek na diepgaande inliging of hoop om deurdagte vakkennis op te doen nie.
    but it be.PRS not neccesarily the place where human will.AUX.MOD start seek for in.depth information or hope for.COMP thoughtful subject.knowledge on PTCL.INF gain.INF PTCL.NEG
    But this is not necessarily the place to start looking for in-depth information or hoping to gain thoughtful subject knowledge.
    VivA-KPO

    The interrogative pronoun of content, wat what, can also be used as relative pronoun of place.

    Example 31

    Kies die plek wat jou die beste pas.
    choose the place that.REL you.SG the best suit
    Choose the place that suits you best.
    VivA-KPO
References:
  • Ponelis, F.A1979Afrikaanse sintaksis.Van Schaik
  • Ponelis, F.A1979Afrikaanse sintaksis.Van Schaik
  • Ponelis, F.A1979Afrikaanse sintaksis.Van Schaik
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