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Free relative clauses
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Free relative clauses are relative clauses without antecedents. The free relative pronoun may have various syntactic functions inside the relative clause. An example is given below:

Example 1

Wie dit weet mag dit sê.
who it know may.AUX.MOD it say
Who knows it, may say it.
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The free relative pronoun may bear the following syntactic functions in the relative clause:

  • As NP argument of the verb
  • As prepositional complement
  • As clause of time, manner, type, reason or place
  • As nominalised possessor
[+]a) As NP argument of the verb

Free relatives may function as verbal arguments. The free relative functions as a subject in the first example below, and as a direct object in the second:

Example 2

Nou sal wie die valse profeet so laster, te laat ontwaak om die waarheid in profesie te glo.
now will.AUX.MOD who the false profit so blaspheme too late wake.up for.COMP the truth in prophecy PTCL.INF believe.INF
Now those who blaspheme the false prophet will wake up too late to believe the truth of the prophecy.
VivA-TK, adapted
Example 3

Hy gebruik wat hy teëkom.
he use that.REL he against.come
He uses what he comes across.
[+]b) As prepositional complement

Free relative clauses may function as prepositional complements. The following sentence involves a free relative clause functioning as a prepositional complement:

Example 4

Dit is opgemaak na wat toeriste verwag om te kry.
it be.AUX.PASS.PST up.made.PASS after that.REL tourists expect for.COMP PTCL.INF get.INF
It is tailored to what tourists expect to find.

It is possible for the combination of preposition and relative pronoun to function both in the relative clause and the containing clause, provided that both clauses have the same main verb, as shown below:

Example 5

Ek wag vir wie hy wag.
I wait for who he wait
I am waiting for whom he is waiting.
Example 6

Ek stem vir wie hy stem.
I vote for who he vote
I vote for whom he votes.
[+]c) As clause of time, manner, reason or place

The free relative clauses involved are of the following type: time, manner, type, reason and place.

i) As clause of time

Free relative clauses may be used as clauses of time. The free relative pronouns of time are wanneer when and as when. An example of each pronoun is given below:

Example 7

Hy lag wanneer jy dit die minste verwag
he laugh when.REL you.SG the least expect
He laughs when you least expect it.
Example 8

Hy lag as jy dit die minste verwag
he laughs when.REL you.SG it least expect
He laughs when you least expect it

ii) As clause of manner

Free relative clauses may be used as clauses of manner. The free relative pronouns of manner are hoe how and soos as. Hoe how is homophonous with the question word. Examples are provided below:

Example 9

Hoe hy dit wil doen, mag nie.
how.REL he it want.to.AUX.MOD do may.AUX.MOD not
The way he wants to do it, is not allowed.
Example 10

Soos hy dit wil doen mag nie
as.REL he it want.to.AUX.MOD do may.AUX.MOD not
The way he wants to do it, is not allowed.

iii) As clause of reason

Free relative clauses may be used as clauses of reason. The free relative pronouns of reason is waarom en hoekom why. It is homophonous with the question words. Examples are given below:

Example 11

a. Dit is waarom hy dit doen.
it be.PRS why.REL he it do
That is why he does it.
b. Dit is hoekom hy dit doen.
it be.PRS why.REL he it do
That is why he does it.

iv) As clause of place

Free relative clauses may be used as clauses of place. The free relative pronoun of place is waar where. It is homophonous with the question word. Two examples are provided below:

Example 12

a. Dit is waar ek wil bly
it be.PRS where.REL I want.to.AUX.MOD live
This is where I want to live
b. Waar ek wil bly is net hier!
where.REL I want.to.AUX.MOD stay be.PRS just here
Where I want to stay, is just here.
[+]d) As nominalised possessor

A free relative cannot function as a possessor. However, a free relative pronoun may occur in the possessor position of a noun phrase (NP). The possessive construction may be turned into a free relative clause functioning as an adverbial clause, as illustrated by the example below.

Example 13

Maak nie saak wie s'n nie, hulle is mal oor troues.
make not matter who PTCL.GEN PTCL.NEG they be.PRS crazy over weddings
Doesn’t matter whose, they are crazy about weddings.
VivA-KPO, adapted

The free relative clause functions as an adverbial clause. Note that there has been elision of the noun following the possessive particle s'n 's. The content of the noun can be recovered from the discourse context.

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