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Binominal and partitive constructions

Binominal constructions is noun phrases that contain two nouns. Although a binominal construction can also be of different types (such as genitive constructions or name constructions), in most cases, the first noun of a binominal constructions is the usually a partitive noun and the second noun is a content noun, and therefore binominal constructions are sometimes also referred to as partitive constructions. In partitive constructions, the two nouns may be stringed together in a bare partitive construction without an intervening element, as in the following example:

Example 1

'n pakkie skyfies
a packet chips
a packet of chips

The two nouns may also be joined by a preposition (also see De Stadler 1987). The partitive noun designates a part, a property or a measure of whatever is designated by the content noun. Examples are given below:

Example 2

a. 'n pakkie met skyfies
a packet with chips
a packet with chips
b. 'n klomp van die jonges
'a lot PTCL.PTV the young.NMLZ
a lot of the young ones
c. Drie van die jongmans
three PTCL.PTV the young.men
Three of the young men

Partitive constructions may be further subdivided, depending on the nature and function of the first noun.


More details about the partitive noun construction and other binominal constructions can be found by following the corresponding links:

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Binomial constructions vs binominal constructions

The linguistic term binomial constructions should not be confused with the linguistic term binominal constructions. Binomial constructions, sometimes also referred to as irreversible binomials or nonreversible word pairs, is a pair or group of words used as together as a fixed expression, in other words a collocation in a fixed order. In Afrikaans, these two words are usually connected by a linking word such as en and or of or. Furthermore, these two words in the binomial construction usually belong to the same part of speech (also compare (Malkiel 1959)).

(Bosman 2000:213) provides a number of examples of Afrikaans binomials, such as the nominal binomials tee en koffie tea and coffee, sout en asyn salt and vinegar, vis en tjips fish and chips, as well as binomials from other part of speech, for example teen heug en meug against one’s will, herwaarts en derwaarts back and forth, in rep en roer in uproar and tot tyd en wyl until then.

Although nominal binomials can in fact also be regarded as binominal constructions (since it is also a noun phrase containing two nouns), not all binomial constructions are nominal, and binomial constructions will therefore not be discussed further in this section.

  • Bosman, N2000Die meerwoordige leksikale item in Afrikaans Deel 3: Verskillende soorte MLI's: 'n randgroep en 'n paar spesiale soorte.Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe40213-224,
  • De Stadler, L.G1987Die partitiefkonstruksie in Afrikaans.Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe2779-96,
  • Malkiel, Yakov1959Studies in irreversible binomialsLingua8113-160
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