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Placement of the finite verb

A finite verb is placed in the second position of the declarative main clause in Afrikaans, and in the final position of a subordinate clause. In interrogatives and imperatives, the verb occurs in the first position.

The final position is not an absolute final position, as certain constituents of the clause are permitted to follow the final verb cluster in the post-verbal field. The second position may at times appear to be the final position simultaneously, but there are clear differences between a clause that ends in a verb in second position and a clause that ends with a verb-final cluster (or a single verb in the final position).

The fact that dependent clauses have no verb in the second position, but a subordinator or complementiser at the beginning leads to the inference that the second position can accommodate only one of the two options: either a verb or a subordinator/complementiser. If these two are in complementary distribution, then the difference in word order is explained as a consequence of two different ways of marking the beginning of a new clause, and in doing so, signalling its status as main or subordinate clause right at the start. With main clauses, but not subordinate clauses, it is possible and also typical to have one element preceding the verb, which is either the subject, or some other element of the clause that is elevated to the thematically prominent initial position.

[+]Verb-final position and the post-verbal field

Non-finite verbs are clustered together in the verb-final position, after the nominal arguments, phrasal complementives and some adverbials. If the clause is a subordinate clause, then the finite verb will also be part of the final cluster. If the clause contains a single finite verb, which will be the main verb, then the verb-final position is occupied by that verb. The various types of final clusters are illustrated in (1), with the finite verb emphasised.

a. ...dat die huis altyd na afval ruik.
[(COMP) dat] [(MF) die huis altyd na afval] [(VF) ruik]
that.COMP the house always of offall smell.PRS
that the house always smells of offal.
b. ...dat die bokke net daar geval het.
[(COMP) dat] [(MF) die bokke net daar] [(VF) geval het]
that.COMP the goats just there fall.PST have.AUX
that the goats fell just there.
c. ...dat die onderskeid begin vervaag.
[(COMP) dat] [(MF) die onderskeid] [(VF) begin vervaag]
that.COMP the distinction begin.LINK fade.INF
that the distinction begins to fade
d. ...dat die storie eers sal moet wag.
[(COMP) dat] [(MF) die storie eers] [(VF) sal moet wag]
that.COMP the story first will.AUX.MOD must.AUX.MOD wait.INF
that the story will have to wait first.
e. ...dat dit deur 'n profeet van God geskryf moes wees.
[(COMP) dat] [(MF) dit deur 'n profeet van God] [(VF) geskryf moes wees]
that.COMP it by a prophet of God write.PASS must.AUX.MOD.PST be.PASS.INF
that it had to be written by a prophet of God.
f. ...of hy enduit sou gebly het.
[(COMP) of] [(MF) hy enduit] [(VF) sou gebly het]
if.COMP he to.the.end will.AUX.MOD.PST stay.PST have.AUX
if he would have stayed to the end.

The final position is not an absolutely final position, because certain heavier constituents, especially if they are subordinate clauses themselves, or phrasal adverbials and arguments, can still follow the final verb cluster, and then occupy the post-verbal field (PV). Single-word adverbs and nominal arguments do not follow the verbs, though. Possible post-verbal constituents are illustrated in (2).

a. ...dat die essensie van die kunstenaar vasgevang word in die kunswerk.
[(COMP) dat] [(MF) die essensie van die kunstenaar] [(VF) vasgevang word] [(PV) in die kunswerk]
that.COMP the essence of the artist capture.PASS be.AUX.PASS.PRS in the art.work
that the essence of the artist is captured in the work of art.
b. ...dat die land ingestem het om uraanverryking vir 90 dae te laat vaar.
[(COMP) dat] [(MF) die land] [(VF) ingestem het] [(PV) om uraanverryking vir 90 dae te laat vaar]
that.COMP the country agree.PST have.AUX for.COMP uranium.enrichment for 90 days PTCL.INF let.INF go.INF
that the country agreed to stop the enrichment of uranium for 90 days.

In formal traditions of linguistic inquiry, especially the generative tradition, the main verb is usually understood to originate in the final position, and only moves to an initial position through movement triggered by some feature in the higher functional phrases, either the TP or the CP. The analysis of Dutch on Taalportaal also applies to Afrikaans if that particular theoretical orientation is adopted.

[+]Verb-second position

The finite verb of declarative main clauses and wh-interrogative clauses occupies the second position of a clause. One constituent precedes it, which may be the subject, an adverbial or some other constituent that is topicalised in the case of declaratives, whereas the wh-phrase, irrespective of its syntactic role in the clause, occupies the first position of a wh-interrogative. The initial constituent is the thematic anchor of the clause. It usually encodes information that is known and has already been introduced into the discourse, whereas the verb immediately following it carries the tense or modality properties that anchor the clause relative to the time of utterance. In the generative tradition, the analysis assumes that these elements are raised into the relevant functional phrases from more deeply embedded positions in the tree, whereas non-derivational, functional traditions assume that these two early slots are selected because of their potential for thematic prominence and their ability to maintain topic continuity from the immediately preceding text.

When there is more than one verb in the main clause, only a single finite auxiliary occupies the second position, while all other (non-finite) verbs, including the main verb itself, are clustered together in the verb-final position. The examples in (3) illustrate the verbs of a declarative main clause, and the examples in (4) illustrate the verbs of a wh-interrogative clause.

a. Die kind stap deur die voordeur kombuis toe.
the child walk.PRS through the front.door kitchen to
The child walks through the front door to the kitchen.
[(CI) die kind] [(V2) stap] [(MF) deur die voordeur kombuis toe]
TK, adjusted
a.' Die kind het deur die voordeur kombuis toe gestap.
the child have.AUX through the front.door kitchen to walk.PST
The child walked through the front door to the kitchen.
[(CI) die kind] [(V2) het] [(MF) deur die voordeur kombuis toe] [(VF) gestap]
b. Hy verwag 'n baie gelykop stryd.
he expect.PRS a very even contest
He expects a very even contest.
[(CI) hy] [(V2) verwag] [(MF) 'n baie gelykop stryd]
b.' Hy het 'n baie gelykop stryd verwag.
he have.AUX a very even contest expect.PST
He expected a very even contest.
[(CI) hy] [(V2) het] [(MF) 'n baie gelykop stryd] [(VF) verwag]
c. By die tente speel die manne jukskei.
at the tents play.PRS the men juksei
At the tents, the men play juksei.
[(CI) by die tente] [(V2) speel] [(MF) die manne juskei]
c.' By die tente wou die manne jukskei speel.
at the tents want.to.AUX.MOD.PST the men juksei play.INF
At the tents, the men wanted to play juksei.
[(CI) by die tente] [(V2) wou] [(MF) die manne juskei] [(VF) speel]
a. Waar is die kind tog?
where be.PRS the child anyway
Where is the child anyway?
[(CI) waar] [(V2) is] [(MF) die kind tog]
a.' Waar sal die kind tog wees?
where will.AUX.MOD the child anyway be.INF
Where would the child be anyway?
[(CI) waar] [(V2) sal] [(MF) die kind tog] [(VF) wees]
b. Wie verwag jy dan hier?
who(m) expect.PRS you then here
Who do you then expect here?
[(CI) wie] [(V2) verwag] [(MF) jy dan hier]
b.' Wie het jy dan hier verwag?
who(m) have.AUX you then here expect.PST
Who did you then expect here?
[(CI) wie] [(V2) het] [(MF) jy dan hier] [(VF) verwag]

In certain short, typically intransitive, clauses, the finite verb may be the final word of the sentence, but it also occupies the second position after the subject. Such cases appear at face value to be verb-second and verb-final at the same time. In addition, in similarly short, intransitive clauses, the finite (auxiliary) and (non-finite) main verb may be immediately adjacent, which raises the question whether they form a cluster, and if so, whether that cluster should be regarded as verb-second or verb-final. The simplest way of deciding between these possibilities is to consider the effect that negation has on such sentences. Afrikaans usually has double negation, with the first negator nie not in the middle field, and the second nie at the very end of the sentence, after the verb-final and post-verbal fields.

If there is a single nie in the clause, it means that there is no material after the verb-second to require the second nie, and hence we deal with a single verb-second position. By contrast, if there are an auxiliary and main verb adjacent to each other, then a second nie is used, with the first one following the auxiliary and the second one following the main verb. By negating a clause, it can therefore be established, as shown in example (5a) that a single finite verb occupies the verb-second position, while adjacent auxiliary and main verbs should be analysed as belonging to two fields, verb-second and verb-final respectively, as shown in example (5b).

a. Die glas breek.
the glass break.PRS
The glass breaks.
[(CI) die glas] [(V2) breek]
a.' Die glas breek nie.
the glass break.PRS not
The glass doesn't break.
[(CI) die glas] [(V2) breek] [(MF) nie]
b. Die glas het gebreek.
the glass have.AUX break.PST
The glass broke.
[(CI) die glas] [(V2) het] [(VF) gebreek]
b.' Die glas het nie gebreek nie.
the glass have.AUX not break.PST PTCL.NEG
The glass didn't break.
[(CI) die glas] [(V2) het] [(MF) nie] [(VF) gebreek] [(NEG) nie]

There are a small number of cases in Afrikaans where the main verb and the linking verb occupy the verb-second position together. They form a verb cluster, and both members of the cluster can occupy the verb-second position together. It remains posible for the clause to adopt the more typical word order with the linking verb in the verb-second position and the main verb in the verb-final position. The contrast is illustrated by example (6).

a. Hy laat kom duisende werkloses uit Engeland.
[(CI) hy] [(V2) laat kom] [(MF) duisende werkloses uit Engeland]
he let.LINK come.INF thousands unemployed.PL from England
He lets thousands of unemployed come from England.
b. Hy laat duisende werkloses uit Engeland kom.
[(CI) hy] [(V2) laat] [(MF) duisende werkloses uit Engeland] [(VF) kom]
he let.LINK thousands unemployed.PL from England come.INF
He lets thousands of unemployed come from England.
[+]Verb-first position

Two main clause types typically have the finite verb in the first position, the polar (yes/no)interrogative and the imperative. Imperatives usually do not have an overt subject, and thus the verb occupies the first position in the clause. The imperative tends to take only a single main verb, with no non-main verbs, except for the few cases where a linking verb and main verb are both used, in which case they can either form a verb cluster in the verb-first position. Otherwise, the linking verb can occupy the first position and the main verb is found in the verb-final position, as illustrated by the contrasting pair in (7b). It is possible to make the subject overt in the imperative, in which case the subject, jy you.SG or julle you.PL, occupies the position immediately after the verb at the beginning of the middle field of the clause, as illustrated in (7c).

a. Staan maar net eenkant toe.
[(V1) staan] [(MF) maar net eenkant toe]
stand.IMP but just one.side to
Just stand aside.
b. Eet jy solank.
[(V1) eet] [(MF) jy solank]
eat.IMP you.SG so.long
You can start eating in the mean time.
b. Laat staan die strooi!
let.LINK.IMP stand.INF the nonsense
Let go of the nonsense.
[(V1) laat staan] [(MF) die strooi]
b.' Laat die stem staan in ons ore.
let.LINK.IMP the voice stand.INF in our ears
Let the voice linger in our ears.
[(V1) laat] [(MF) die stem] [(VF) staan] [(PV) in ons ore]

In polar (yes/no) interrogatives, the finite verb precedes the subject, leaving the subject at the beginning of the middle field. Traditionally, this is analysed as subject-finite inversion, but a generative analysis may regard this as a case of verb-raising not accompanied by subject raising. The descriptive facts are not changed by the manner in which the word order is construed, though. The verb that goes into the first position is the finite verb, irrespective of whether it is the main verb or a non-main verb, as illustrated by the examples in (8).

a. Eet jy baie vetterige kos?
[(V1) eet] [(MF) jy baie vetterige kos]
eat.PRS you.SG very fatty food
Do you eat very fatty food?
b. Het jy baie van haar geweet voor jy aan die prent begin werk het?
[(V1) het] [(MF) jy baie van haar] [(VF) geweet] [(PV) voor jy aan die prent begin werk het]
have.AUX you.SG much of her know.PST before you.SG on the picture begin.LINK work.INF have.AUX
Did you know much about her before you started working on the picture?

The verb-first position is analysed in the generative tradition as a consequence of verb-raising into the CP, without associated raising of the subject into the specifier of the CP. In functional traditions, the basic idea is that in these two cases, imperatives and polar (yes/no) interrogatives, the verb itself is thematically the most prominent, and therefore precedes the subject, which if present, usually follows the initial verb immediately at the beginning of the middle field.

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