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Partitive question constructions
quickinfo

The Afrikaans partitive question construction consists of three elements. The first is the question wordwatter what. The second is the noun tipe or soort type. The third is the content noun. An example of a partitive question is given below:

Example 1

Watter tipe boek het jy gekoop?
what type book have.AUX you.SG buy.PST
What kind of book did you buy?

A partitive question construction which is similar to the partitive question construction of Frisian and Dutch (namely to form with the preposition vir for as the second element of the construction) and a content noun can still be found in Afrikaans. However, this construction is highly idiomatic (almost always used in negative contexts, for example to express blame, shame or shock), as illustrated in the examples below:

Example 2

a. Ag nee man wat vir 'n man is jy om 'n bul te wil wees.
oh no man what for a man be.PRS you.SG for.COMP a bull PTCL.INF want.to.AUX.MOD be.INF
Oh no man, what kind of man are you to want to be a bull.
internet example
b. Wat vir 'n ma is sy? Persoonlike probleme moenie keer dat jy weet saam met wie jou kind is nie.
what for a mother be.PRS she personal problems must.not.AUX.MOD prohibit that.COMP you.SG know together with your.SG child be.PRS PTCL.NEG
What kind of mother is she? Personal problems should prevent you from knowing who your child is with.
F. Bloemhof: Jy-weet-wie, 2012, 59
c. "Wat vir 'n hond is dit?” Kiki is bly Spokie is veilig in die kamer, want die bruin hond lyk of hy enigiets heelhuids kan devour.
what for a dog be.PRS it Kiki be.PRS happy Spokie be.PRS safe in the room because the brown dog look if he anything completely can.AUX.MOD devour
"What kind of dog is that?” Kiki is glad Spokie is safe in the room because the brown dog looks like he can devour anything .
K. Loots: Om jou te vind', 2018
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The Afrikaans partitive question construction consists of three elements, namely i) the question word watter what, ii) the noun tipe or soort type and iii) a content noun.

Two of the three elements in the partitive question constructions, namely the question word watter and the content noun, will be discussed in this section.

The question word in the partitive question construction:

The partitive question is ambiguous between a kind interpretation and a specific object interpretation.

The example below can be used to illustrate that the partitive question is ambiguous between a kind reading and a specific object reading:

Example 3

Watter tipe boek het jy gekoop?
what type book have.AUX you.SG buy.AUX
What kind of book did you buy?

The answer to such a question could be the naming of a genre, as below:

Example 4

'n spannende boek
a thrilling book
a thrilling book

The answer to such a question could also be a specific book:

Example 5

Deon Meyer se nuutste boek.
Deon Meyer PTCL.GEN latest book
Deon Meyer’s latest novel.

Partitive questions are therefore ambiguous between these two readings.

Other question words, such as wie who or wat what can not be used in partitive question constructions:

Example 6

a. *Wie soorte mense?
Who types people
What kind of people?
b. *Wat tipe klere?
what type clothing
What kind of clothing?

The content noun in partitive question construction:

The noun phrase (NP) following the preposition can be modified by adjectives in the partitive question construction, but it cannot be modified by other elements, such as quantifiers.

The following sentence illustrates that the content NP in a partitive question can be premodified by adjectives:

Example 7

Watter tipe spannende boeke het jy gekoop?
what type thrilling books have.AUX you.SG buy.PST
What type of thrilling books did you buy?

The content noun cannot be modified by existential quantifiers (nor can it be in English):

Example 8

*Watter tipe sommige spannende boeke het jy gekoop?
what type some thrilling books have.AUX you.SG buy.PST
What kind of some thrilling books have you bought?
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