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Attributive possessive pronouns

The exact classification of attributive possessive pronouns in Afrikaans is not a simple matter. On the one hand, possessive pronouns used attributively function syntactically as determiners of NPs. On the other hand, the form and meaning still fit into the pronominal paradigm of Afrikaans. Furthermore, Ponelis (1979:84) is critical of classifying attributive possessive pronouns as separate from the broader class of personal pronouns, and rather indicates it as personal pronouns performing a specialised function. In the context of a broad syntactic overview of Afrikaans, and because of the form and function of these pronouns, they are classified as a specific category of possessive pronouns here.

Attributive possessive pronouns in Afrikaans can be classified according to person (first, second, third, impersonal) and number (singular, plural), and with singular pronouns also gender (male, female). Below are examples of the frequently used first person singular (1a), first person plural (1b), second person singular (1c), second person plural (1d), third person singular male (1e), third person singular female (1f), and third person plural (1g).

Example 1

a. My huurkontrak het 'n paar maande gelede verstryk.
my rent.contract have.AUX a couple months ago expire
My lease expired a few months ago.
b. Welgedaan aan ons wenners van die Sisonke-kompetisie.
well.done to our winners of the Sisonke-competition
Well done to our winners of the Sisonke competition.
c. Dui asseblief jou maandelikse salaris aan.
indicate please your.SG montly salary PREP.PTCL
Please indicate your monthly salary.
d. Julle liefde en ondersteuning het my deur die storms van die lewe gehelp.
your.PL love and support have.AUX me through the storms of the life help.PST
Your love and support helped me through the storms of life.
e. Lees sy inspirerende verhaal op bladsy twee.
read his inspiring story on page two
Read his inspiring story on page two.
f. Sy het Kaapstad as haar bestemming gekies.
she have.AUX Cape.town as her destination choose.PST
She chose Cape Town as her destination.
g. Dit onderskei hulle posisie van Botha se posisie.
it distinguish their position from Botha PCTL.POSS position
It distinguishes their position from Botha's position.
VivA-KPO, adapted
[+]First person attributive possessive pronouns

The first person singular attributive possessive pronoun my my is used only for first person singular possession, as illustrated in 2. The form is shared with first person singular object pronouns.

Example 2

Dit was nie my vraag nie.
it be.PST not my question PTCL.NEG
It was not my question.

The first person plural attributive possessive pronoun ons our can be used in an exclusive and inclusive way. Example (3a) and (3b) shows that the addressee(s) is clearly not included in the reference, while in (3c) and (3d) the addressee is probably included based on the context.

Example 3

a. Oefening was die een ding wat julle, ons lede, uitgelig het as iets wat julle meer van sou wou doen.
exercise be.PST the one thing that you.PL our members out.lift.PST have.AUX as something that.REL you.PL more of want.to.AUX.MOD.PRT would do
Exercise was the one thing that you, our members, pointed out as something that you would want to do more of.
VivA-KPO, adapted
b. Ons onderneming teenoor u is om aan u meer keuses te bied.
our undertaking to you.HON be.PRS for.COMP to you.HON more choices PTCL.INF offer.INF
Our promise to you is to offer you more choices.
c. Ons moet ons houdings, ons waardes en ons sedes ondersoek.
we must.AUX.MOD our attitudes our values and our morals examine
We should examine our attitudes, our values and our morals.
d. Ons het ons eie geskiedenis wat ons erken en aan ons nageslag vertel.
we have our own history that.REL we acknowledge and to our offspring tell
We have our own history that we acknowledge and convey to our offspring.
[+]Second person attributive possessive pronouns

The second person singular attributive possessive pronoun jou your.SG is used with mainly two functions. The first function is to simply refer to the addressee's possession (4a). As mentioned in Impersonal pronouns, it is also used in conjunction with the impersonal pronoun ('n) mens one, illustrated in (4b).

Example 4

a. Dis jou beurt om tafel te dek.
it.is your.SG turn for.COMP table PTCL.INF set.INF
It's your turn to set the table.
b. Waar moet 'n mens jou broodblik hou en jou biltong en jou droë boontjies en jou ertjies en jou koffie en jou suiker en jou meel?
where must.AUX.MOD a human your.SG breadbin keep and your.SG biltong and your.SG dry beans.DIM and your.SG peas and your.SG coffee and your.SG sugar and your.SG flour
Where should you keep your breadbin and your biltong and your beans and your peas and your coffee and your sugar and your flour?

The second person plural attributive possessive pronoun takes on two forms, on the one hand the full form julle your.PL (5a), and on the other hand the shortened form jul (5b).

Example 5

a. Ons bedank julle vir julle lojaliteit aan julle beroep.
we thank you.PL for your.PL loyalty to your.PL profession
We than you for your loyalty to your profession.
b. Lees stories of gaan stap om die blok met jul honde.
read stories or go walk around the block with your.PL dogs
Read stories or go for a walk around the block with your dogs.

The honorific second person pronoun u your.HON is also used as an attributive possessive pronoun, with both singular (6a-b) and plural (6c-d) contexts.

Example 6

a. Hoe groot is u plaas?
how big be.PR your.HON farm
How large is your farm?
VivA-KPO, adapted
b. U toespraak, verneem ek, was baie waagmoedig.
your.HON speech hear I be.PST very daring
Your speech was quite daring, I hear.
c. Mag ek u ouderdomme kry.
may.AUX.MOD I your.HON ages get
May I get your ages.
d. "Ek dink dis makliker as ek u verklarings een vir een afneem," sê Adriaan.
I think it.is easier if I your.HON statements one for one off.take say Adriaan
"I think it's easier if I take your statements one by one", Adriaan says.
[+]Third person attributive possessive pronouns

The third person male attributive possessive pronoun is the only one of the possessive pronouns with a different form as that of the object pronoun (in the case of singulars) or with only one form for subject, object and possessive uses. Incidentally, the male form sy his corresponds to the third person singular female subject pronoun form. This particular form is used with reference to several different possessors – the expected singular male (7a-b), but also inanimate objects (7c-d) and institutions (7e-f) as Afrikaans does not have an equivalent of English its, and sometimes for a generic person (7g-h), although this use is often in combination with the female form (7i-j). The third person female attributive possessive pronoun haar her is obviously also used on its own (7k-l).

Example 7

a. Sy ma was 'n huisvrou, en sy pa 'n stootskraperoperateur asook 'n baggerbootman.
his mom be.PST a housewife and his dad a bulldozer.operator also a dredging.boat.man
His mom was a housewife, and his dad a bulldozer operator and also a dredging boat operator.
b. Mnr. Radlof beweer dat hy sy rekeninge wel betaal, maar dat betalingsbewys nie op rekening is nie.
mr Radlof claim that.COMP he his bills do pay but that payment.proof not on account be.PRS PTCL.NEG
Mr Radlof claims that he does pay his bills, but the proof of payment does not show in the account.
c. Hul taal het sy oorsprong hier in Afrika.
their language have his origin here in Africa
Their language has its origins here in Africa.
d. Fynbos is bekend vir sy ryke biodiversiteit.
fynbos be.PRS famous for his rich biodiversity
Fynbos is famous for its rich biodiversity.
e. Wat is die beste belang van Suid-Afrika en al sy mense?
that.REL be.PRS the best interest of South Africa and all his people
What is in the best interest of South Africa and all its people?
VivA-KPO, adapted
f. Die Gelykheidshersieningskomitee kan by sy vergaderings sy sake en verrigtinge na eie goeddunke behartig.
the equality.review.committee can.AUX.MOD at his meetings his matters and proceedings to own discretion manage
The Equality Review Committee can manage its matters and proceedings to its own discretion.
g. 'n Waterverbruiker wat nie sy rekening betaal nie, sal vervolg word.
'n water.user that not his bill pay PTCL.NEG will.AUX.MOD prosecute be.AUX.PASS.PRS
A water user that does not pay their bill, will be prosecuted.
h. As die geregsbode die diens aanvaar het, moet jy voor die verhoordatum 'n afskrif kry van sy skriftelike bewys dat hy dit gedoen het.
if the messenger the service accept have.AUX must.AUX.MOD you.SG before the hearing.date a copy get of his written proof that.COMP he it do.PST have.AUX
If the messenger accepted the service, you have to get a copy of his written proof that he did it before the hearing date.
i. Let op na sy / haar ouderdom, lengte, haarkleur, littekens, kleredrag, spraak en gedragspatrone.
notice to his her age length hair.colour scars clothing speech and behaviour
Pay attention to his / her age, length, hair colour, scars, clothing, speech and behaviour.
j. 'n Afskrif sal slegs outomaties aan die betrokke verdagte of sy of haar verteenwoordiger beskikbaargestel word.
a copy will.AUX.MOD only outomatically to the involved suspect or his or her representative available.make.PASS be.AUX.PASS.PRS
A copy will only be made available automatically to the relevant suspect or his or her representative.
VivA-KPO, adapted
k. As die werknemer bygedra het tot die Werkloosheidsfonds, sal sy voordele tydens haar kraamverlof kan eis.
if the employee contribute.PST have.AUX to the unemployment.fund will she benefits during her maternity.leave can.AUX.MOD claim
If the employee contributed to the Unemployment Fund, she can claim benefits during her maternity leave.
l. Kategorie drie is vir diegene wat aan informele markte verskaf en sodoende vir haar familie sorg.
category three be.PRS for those that.REL to informal markets provide and so for her family care
Category three is for those that provide to informal markets and cares for her family that way.

The third person plural attributive possessive pronoun has two forms, similar to the second person plural. The full form is hulle their used with reference to humans (8a) as well as inanimate objects (8b), with the shortened form hul also used for humans (8c) and inanimate objects (8d).

Example 8

a. Dus kon skrywers ook volspoed voortgaan om boeke op hulle rekenaars uit te hamer.
so can.AUX.MOD.PRT writers also full.speed proceed for.COMP books on their computers out PTCL.INF hammer.INF
And so writers could proceed with hammering out books on their computers at full speed.
b. Inheemse spesies en hulle omgewing sal ook beskerm word in die see en getyrivier.
indigenous species and their environment will also protect.PASS be.AUX.PASS.PRS in the sea and estuary
Indigenous species and their enviroments will also be protected in the sea and estuary.
c. Baie mense wat hul werk verloor het, was die broodwinners van arm families.
many people that.REL their work lose have.AUX be.PST the breadwinners of poor families
Many people that lost their jobs were the breadwinners of poor families.
d. Ek dink aan vrugtebome en hul koue behoeftes.
I think about fruit.trees en their cold needs
I'm thinking about fruit trees and their cold needs.
VivA-KPO, adapted
[+]Impersonal attributive possessive pronouns

The use of the second person singular jou your.SG was already mentioned above. However, while this use is frequently used in conjunction with ('n) mens, an alternative is also used. The alternative is based on the NP origins of the pronoun, with ('n) mens and the possessive particle se, as illustrated in the examples below, both with the indefinite article (9a-b) and also without it (9c-d).

Example 9

a. Lood is skadelik vir 'n mens se hart, niere, senustelsel en bene.
lead be.PRS harmful for a human PTCL.GEN hart kidneys nervous.system and bones
Lead is harmful to one's heart, kidneys, nervous system and bones.
b. Maar soms laat iets 'n mens se bloed kook.
but sometimes let.LINK something a human PTCL.GEN blood boil
But sometimes something lets your blood boil.
c. Maar nouja, sommiges word herlees of draal net langer deur mens se kop as ander.
but now.yes some be.AUX.PASS.PRS reread.PASS or linger just longer through human PTCL.GEN head than other
But yes, some are reread or just linger longer in your head than others.
d. Musiek as 'n besigheid kan baie keer mens se fokus verwar.
music as a business can.AUX.MOD many time human PTCL.GEN focus confuse
Music as a business can often confues one's focus.
[+]Modification with attributive possessive pronouns

There are different ways that NPs with attributive possessive pronouns can be modified. One frequently used construction is with the adjective eie own, which can be used to emphasise ownership, as in (10a-b). Ocassionaly, the possessed noun can be omitted if it can be inferred from the context, as in (10c). This adjective and an attributive possessive pronoun is also used in the PP op X eie on X own, illustrated in (10d-e).

Example 10

a. Maar dit is nie jul eie verdienste nie.
but it be.PRS not your.PL own merit PTCL.NEG
But it is not your own merit.
b. Kan u in u eie woorde vir ons vertel wat gisternag gebeur het.
can.AUX.MOD you.HON in your.HON own words for us tell what last.night happen have.AUX
Can you tell us in your own words what happened last night.
VivA-KPO, adapted
c. Ons het 'n taal, ons besing die taal, o moedertaal, o soetste taal jou het ek lief bo alles, en as ons taal bedreig word, kom ons in opstand want ons eie word bedreig.
we have a language we sing the language oh mother.language oh sweetest language you.SG have I love above everything and if our.PL language threaten.PASS be.AUX.PASS.PRS come we in revolt because our.PL own be.AUX.PASS.PRS threaten.PASS
We have a language, we sing the praise of the language, oh mother tongue, oh sweetest language, I love you above all, and if our language is threatened, we revolt because our own is being threatened.
d. Ek moes op my eie regkom en vir myself dink.
I must.AUX.MOD.PRT on my own right.come and for myself think
I had to get along on my own and think for myself.
e. Hulle boer op hulle eie sonder enige vennote.
they farm on their own without any partners
They farm on their own, without any partners.

Another type of modification is with the adjective alleen only/alone. It is used postnominally to indicate exclusive ownership, usually with abstract concepts such as responsibility or duty, and with singular (11a-d) and occasionally plural (11e) possessors.

Example 11

a. Hulle is nou jou verantwoordelikheid en jou verantwoordelikheid alleen.
they be.PRS now your.SG responsibility and your.SG responsibility alone
They are your responsibility now, and your responsibility alone.
b. As dit haar plig alleen was, het sy sweerlik die vlaktes ingehardloop.
if it her duty alone be.PST have.AUX she surely the plains in.run.PST
If it was her duty alone, she surely would have run away.
c. My woord alleen moes die inhoud uitmaak van 'n gemeenskap.
my word alone must.AUX.MOD.PRT the content out.make of a community
My word alone should make out the content of a community.
VivA-KPO, adapted
d. Ons albei is onderskrywers van die oortuiging dat die eer van God in dade van gehoorsaamheid aan Sy gesag alleen bewerkstellig kan word.
we both be.PRS underwriters of the conviction that.COMP the honour of God in deeds of obedience to his authority alone effect.PASS can.AUX.MOD be.AUX.PASS.PRS
Both of us are supporters of the conviction that God's honour can be effected through obedience to His authority alone.
VivA-KPO, adapted
e. Dit is nie húlle skuld alleen dat hulle so tekere gaan nie.
it be.PRS not their fault alone that.COMP they so fuss go PTCL.NEG
It is not only their fault that they're going on like this.
VivA-KPO, adapted
  • Ponelis, Frits A1979Afrikaanse sintaksisPretoriaJ.L. van Schaik
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