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Transitive resultative

Many transitive verbs in Afrikaans are compatible with the resultative construction. The activity performed by the agent, which is typically the subject of an active transitive clause, leads to another entity entering a particular result state, which is expressed by the complementive. As long as the object entity can conceivable find itself in the state encoded by the complementive, the expression is likely to be grammatically acceptable. Acceptability is judged on the semantic combination of complementive and object, and not on whether the object is a plausible object of the verb.

Transitive activity verbs are most likely combined with complementives to form a transitive resultative clause, while transitive accomplishment and achievement verbs, which in combination with a direct object already encode an end-state lexically, are not typically used in the resultative construction. In example (1), the act of buying unnamed objects leads to the result state that either the agent doing the buying, as in (1a), or somebody else, as in (1b) ends up in the result state of being bankrupt. (The use of this expression is often hyperbolic in Afrikaans.)

Example 1

a. Die toeris het homself bankrot gekoop in Festival Walk.
The tourist bought himself bankrupt in Festival Walk.
[Transitive resultative]
a.' Die toeris koop aandenkings in Festival Walk.
The tourist bought souvenirs in Festival Walk.
[Regular transitive use]
a.'' *Die toeris koop homself in Festival Walk.
The tourist bought himself in Festival Walk.
[Infelicitous transitive use]
b. Die student het haar ouers bankrot gekoop by die kafeteria.
The student bought her parents bankrupt at the cafeteria.
[Transitive resultative]
b.' Die student het middagetes gekoop by die kafeteria.
The student bought lunch at the cafeteria.
[Regular transitive use]
b.'' *Die student het haar ouers gekoop by die kafeteria.
The student bought her parents at the cafeteria.
[Infelicitous transitive use]

Example (2) shows that a transitive verb like saag to saw or hardloop to run can be used resultatively in a sentence with an object that is potentially also the object of the verb when in regular transitive use (non-resultatively). The same semantic relationship still holds, however. The object functions as argument of the complementive, and the complementive and object together function as argument of the main verb.

Example 2

a. Hy saag die planke.
He saws the boards.
[Regular transitive use]
a.' Hy saag die planke middeldeur.
He saws the boards right through.
[Transitive resultative]
b. Sy hardloop die Comrades.
She runs the Comrades.
[Regular transitive use]
b.' Sy hardloop die Comrades klaar.
She runs the Comrades to the end.
[Transitive resultative]

By contrast, as the semantically related examples in (3) show, if the verb already implies a final state, as is the case with accomplishment and achievement verbs like halveer to halve and voltooi to complete, the addition of a complementive is not possible, and hence the resultative construction is not available to these verbs. These regular transitive constructions already encode a meaning similar to the resultative construction, which requires the addition of the complementive to encode the result state.

Example 3

a. Hy halveer die planke.
He halves the boards.
[Regular transitive use]
a.' *Hy halveer die planke middeldeur.
He halves the boards right through.
[Infelicitous transitive resultative]
b. Sy voltooi die Comrades.
She finishes the Comrades.
[Regular transitive use]
b.' *Sy voltooi die Comrades klaar.
She finishes the Comrades to the end.
[Infelicitous transitive resultative]
[+]Syntactic and semantic properties of the transitive resultative

As is shown in example (1), with the regular transitive verb koop to buy, any object that can conceivably be bought is a possible direct object of the transitive clause. Hence, souvenirs and lunch in example (1) are typical objects than can be bought. However, when one considers the resultative clauses, it is clear that to buy oneself or one's parents is not possible, hence such sentences cannot be used felicitously as transitive sentences. Since the object in the resultative construction doesn't function as theme argument of the main verb, but rather as an argument of the complementive, the question to acceptability has to be asked of the entire situation encoded by the object and complementive together: is it possible that the end state encoded by the complementive can be attributed to the object as a result of the activity of the verb?

While it is the same for all the other resultative constructions that have a complementive and a syntatic direct object, beside the syntactic subject, there is more obvious potential overlap between the relations holding among constituents in the regular and resultative transitive constructions, especially in cases such as example (2). The unity of object and complementive is acknowledged in generative lines of inquiry by grouping them into a single constituent called the small clause, which is a non-verbal predicate and its logical subject. Broekhuis et al. (2015:282-284) propose the small-clause analysis as the most appropriate way to analyse the examples in Dutch, but note that there is still much difference of opinion among generative scholars about the detail.

[+]Resultatives with reflexive objects

Transitive resultatives, like intransitive resultatives, often have a reflexive object. This is expected, as the agent(s) can intentionally perform an activity in order to move themselves into a particular state or location. Oosthuizen (2015) identifies cases where a pronominal object is ambiguous between a reflexive and non-reflexive reading, and provides examples like the following.

Example 4

a. Marie praat haar in 'n depressie in.
Marie is talking herself/her into a depression.
Oosthuizen (2015:116)
b. Jan het hom 'n wrak gedrink.
Jan drank himself/him into dereliction.
Oosthuizen (2015:116)

With verbs that are inherently reflexive, the object, even if it forms a constituent with the complementive and not directly with the verb, has an exclusively reflexive reading, as illustrated by the examples in (5). The two objects, hom him and haar her are both interpreted as corefential with the subject, Jan and Marie respectively, and cannot refer to another person.

Example 5

a. Jan het hom stokflou teengesit.
Jan resisted to the piont of exhaustion.
Oosthuizen (2015:116)
b. Marie skaam haar bloedrooi.
Marie is turning crimson with shame.
Oosthuizen (2015:116)
  • Broekhuis, Hans, Corver, Norbert & Vos, Riet2015Syntax of Dutch. Verbs and verb phrasesComprehensive grammar resourcesAmsterdam University Press
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