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Word order in dependent clauses

Afrikaans has a range of dependent clause types, which have in common that there is a subordinator in the position that corresponds to the verb-second position of main clauses, while all verbs in subordinate clauses are clustered together in the verb-final position. Only finite and infinitive interrogative complement clauses allow any constituent to precede the subordinator, which can only be a WH-interrogative form, and no other type constituent. This section examines the initial positions and verb placement of complement clauses, relative clauses and adverbial clauses and the perspective of their shared word-order characteristics.

The general word order for dependent clauses in Afrikaans is that the subordinator – be that a subordinating conjunction in the case of adverbial clauses, a relative pronoun in the case of relative clauses, or a complementiser in the case of complement clauses, occupies the same early, usually initial, position of the clause that the first finite auxiliary or main verb would in a main clause. This is followed by the middle field, with all verbs clustered together in the verb-final cluster. Example (1) to (3) illustrate this basic pattern for the three major types of dependent clauses.

Example 1

Voordat die eerste dame aan die woord kom...
[(SUBORD) voordat] [(MF) die eerste dame aan die woord] [(VF) kom]
before the first lady on the word come.PRS
Before the first lady gets the word...
[Adverbial clause]
Example 2

(Ek gaan vra) of ek bietjie koue melk kan leen.
[(COMP) of] [(MF) ek bietjie koue melk] [(VF) kan leen]
I go.LINK ask.INF if.COMP I little cold milk can.AUX.MOD borrow.INF
(I will ask) if I can borrow a little bit of cold milk.
[Complement clause]
Example 3

...(die goed) wat hulle in 'n man se kop sit
[(REL) wat] [(MF) hulle in 'n man se kop] [(VF) sit]
the things that.REL they in a man PTCL.GEN head put.PRS
...(the stuff) that they put in a man's head
[Relative clause]

In the case of specific or WH-interrogative complement clauses, an overt complementiser is not required, but the interrogative pronoun or the phrase containing the interrogative occupies the initial position of the subordinate clause, as shown in example (4a). If the interrogative complement clause is an infinitive clause, an overt complementiser om for/in order (to) is required, and will follow the interrogative form, as shown in example (4b). In informal spoken Afrikaans, an overt complementiser, dat [dat] that, usually pronounced as [lat] is optionally present after the interrogative pronoun in finite interrogative complement clauses too, as illustrated in example (4c).

Example 4

a. Hy moet weet [waar dit beskikbaar is].
[(MC) hy moet weet [(CC) [(CI) waar) [(MF) dit beskikbaar] [(VF) is]]]
he must.AUX.MOD know.INF where it available be.PRS
He must know where it is available.
b. Hulle weet [hoe om ekonomies te lewe].
[(MC) hulle weet [(CC) [(CI) hoe] [(COMP) om] [(MF) ekonomies] [(VF) te lewe]]]
they know.PRS how for.COMP economically PTCL.INF live.INF
They know how to live economically.
c. Nou weet ek nie [waar (lat) sy is] nie.
[(MC) nou weet ek nie [(CC) [(CI) waar] [(COMP) lat] [(MF) sy] [(VF) is]] nie]
now know.PRS I not.NEG where that.COMP she be.PRS PTCL.NEG
Now I don't know where (that) she is.
PCSA, adjusted
[+]Adverbial clauses

Adverbial clauses in Afrikaans are consistently introduced by an overt subordinator, such as omdat because, sodat in order to/so that, tensy unless, terwyl while, or wanneer when. The subordinator occupies the initial position of the clause, but without the option of anything preceding the subordinator. The subordinator is followed by the middle field, with the subject of the finite dependent clause consistently after the subordinator at the beginning of the middle field. Topicalisation within the adverbial clause is not usually possible, neither in front of the subordinator, nor between the subordinator and the subject. The basic pattern of the adverbial clause is set out in example (1).

The adverbial clause as a unit can either precede or follow the main clause, and can even be placed parenthetically in the middle field of the main clause. These options are illustrated by example (5), where example (5c) represents a case of parenthetical insertion of the adverbial clause in the middle field of an infinitive complement clause, which is itself attached to a main clause.

Example 5

a. [Terwyl ons daar was vir drie maande] het dit een keer gereën.
[(MC) [(ADVC) terwyl ons daar was vir die maande] [(V2) het] [(MF) dit een keer] [(VF) gereën]
while we there be.PRS for three months have.AUX it one time rain.PST.PTCP
While we were there for three months, it rained once.
[Adverbial clause in initial position]
b. My pa het soms hier gedans [terwyl my ma nog geleef het].
[(MC) [(CI) my pa] [(V2) het] [(MF) soms hier] [(VF) gedans] [(PV) [(ADVC) terwyl my ma nog geleef het]]]
my dad have.AUX sometimes here dance.PST while my mom still live.PST have.AUX
My dad sometimes danced here while my mother was still alive.
[Adverbial clause in post-verbal position]
c. Ons poog liewer om hulle, terwyl hulle werk, te behandel.
[(MC) Ons poog liewer [(CC) [(COMP) om] [(MF) hulle [(ADVC) terwyl hulle werk]] [(VF) te behandel]]]
we try.PRS rather for.COMP them while they work.PRS PTCL.INF treat.INF
We rather try, while they work, to treat them.
[Adverbial clause in parenthesis in middle field]
[+]Complement clauses

Complement clauses display a range of variability as far as their initial position is concerned, as well as their subsequent word order. The variability is in the form of deviations from the canonical word order of dependent clauses in the direction of the word order of main clauses. As far as finite declarative complement clauses are concerned, the basic dependent clause word-order pattern, as illustrated in example (6a), has an initial subordinator dat that, followed by the middle field in which the subject of the complement clause occupies the initial position, with all the verbs clustered together in the verb-final position. The first variant is one where complementiser omission takes place, and the complement clause has the same word order as a main clause, with the subject in the clause-initial position and the finite verb in the second position, as illustrated by example (6b). The third variant is illustrated by example (6c). This word order is not deemed acceptable in written Afrikaans, but occurs widely in spoken Afrikaans, where the complementiser occurs in the initial position, but it is followed by the subject and the verb, as if it is a main clause. The complementiser is in a certain sense not part of the complement clause, but a link between the main clause and the complement clause, without altering the main-clause word-order properties displayed by the complement clause. It doesn't function like a typical clause-initial constituent either, and is therefore not followed by the verb.

Example 6

a. Ek voel [dat dit niks vir haar beteken nie].
[(MC) ek voel [(CC) [(COMP) dat] [(MF) dit niks vir haar] [(VF) beteken] [(NEG) nie]]
I feel.PRS that.COMP it nothing for her mean.PRS PTCL.NEG
I feel that it means nothing to her.
b. Ek voel [dit beteken niks vir haar nie].
[(MC) ek voel [(CC) [(CI) dit] [(V2) beteken] [(MF) niks vir haar] [(NEG) nie]]
I feel.PRS it mean.PRS nothing for her PTCL.NEG
I feel it means nothing to her.
c. Ek voel [dat dit beteken niks vir haar nie].
[(MC) ek voel [(CC) [(COMP) dat] [(CI) dit] [(V2) beteken] [(MF) niks vir haar] [(NEG) nie]]
I feel.PRS that.COMP it mean.PRS nothing for her PTCL.NEG
I feel that it means nothing to her.

Finite interrogative complement clauses can be differentiated into general and specific interrogatives.

General interrogatives, as illustrated by example (2), take the complementiser of if/whether, and displays limited variability. The initial complementiser is followed by the middle field, in which the subject occupies the first position, while all verbs are clustered in verb-final position.

The specific interrogative complement clauses always start with the interrogative pronoun or the phrase containing the interrogative, but allow two word-order patterns after that. Written Afrikaans mainly prefers the regular subordinate word order, as illustrated in (7a), with the middle field after the interrogative, and all the verbs in the verb-final position. Spoken Afrikaans, as illustrated in (7b), mainly prefers the same word order for the interrogative complement clause as for the interrogative main clause, i.e. with the interrogative phrase in clause-initial position, followed by the first finite verb, then the middle field and the non-finite verbs in the verb-final cluster. When the finite complementiser dat/lat is used alongside the interrogative, as is illustrated by (4c), the word order is consistently subordinate and does not occasionally become similar to the main clause.

Example 7

a. Jy weet hoe sy is.
[(MC) jy weet [(CC) [(CI) hoe] [(MF) sy] [(VF) is]
you.SG.SUB know.PRS how she be.PRS
You know how she is.
b. Hy weet nie hoe word daardie trok bestuur nie.
[(MC) hy weet nie [(CC) [(CI) hoe] [(V2) word] [(MF) daardie trok] [(VF) bestuur]] nie]
he know.PRS not how be.AUX.PASS.PRS that truck drive.PASS PTCL.NEG
He doesn't know how is that truck driven.

Infinitive complement clauses consistently start with the complementiser om for/in order (to), followed by the middle field, with the infinitive verb and its infinitive particle te to in the verb-final position. Infinitive complement clauses do not have overt subjects, so only other arguments of the verb, alongside possible complementives and adverbials, can be found in the middle field. This basic pattern is illustrated by example (8a), with the only variation that Afrikaans allows is for infinitive specific-interrogative complement clauses to position the interrogative pronoun or the phrase containing the interrogative before the complementiser in clause-initial position, as illustrated by (8b), and also by (4b) earlier.

Example 8

a. Ek sal hulle vra om dit tog uit te saai.
[(MC) ek sal hulle vra [(CC) [(COMP) om] [(MF) dit tog] [(VF) uit te saai]]]
I will.AUX.MOD them ask.INF for.COMP it nonetheless out.PREP.PTCL PTCL.INF send.INF
I will ask them to broadcast it nonetheless.
b. Ons het geleer ook hoe om lewende hawe te hanteer.
[(MC) ons het geleer ook [(CC) [(CI) hoe] [(COMP) om] [(MF) lewende hawe] [(VF) te hanteer]]]
we have.AUX learn.PST also how for.COMP living animals PTCL.INF handle.INF
We also learnt how to treat living animals.
[+]Relative clauses

Relative clauses start with a relativiser, which is simultaneously an anaphor that refers to an antecedent noun, and performs some role in the relative clause itself, as argument or as adverbial. Relative clauses always start with the relative pronoun in clause-initial position, or by extension the preposition phrase that contains the relative pronoun, as illustrated by example (9a) and (9b) respectively. The main reason for postulating the clause-initial, rather than verb-second, position for the relative pronoun, is that the relative pronouns parallel the interrogative pronouns and share many properties with them, including extraction from the subordinate clause and similar combination possibilities with prepositions to form complete phrases. They are thus complete constituents of the clause, and not merely subordinators.

The relative clause has the middle field immediately after the clause-initial phrase containing the relative pronoun, and all verbs are clustered together in the final position. Afrikaans does not show any variability in the placement of verbs in relative clauses, they occupy the final position consistently.

Example 9

a. mense [wat van Carnavon se kant af ingekom het]
mense [(RELC) [(CI) wat] [(MF) van Carnavon se kant af] [(VF) ingekom het]]
people that.REL from Carnavon PTCL.GEN side off enter.PST have.AUX
people who arrived from the Carnavon side
b. Juffrou Miempie Botha [van wie meneer Swarts ook vertel het]
Juffrou Miempie Botha [(RELC) [(CI) van wie] [(MF) meneer Swarts ook] [(VF) vertel het]]
Miss Miempie Botha of who.REL mister Swarts also tell.PST have.AUX
Miss Miempie Botha, whom Mr Swarts also spoke about

When the relative pronoun is part of a preposition phrase, three possible solutions are adopted in Afrikaans. If the relative pronoun is wat that/which, it is possible to form a compound with the preposition, and the compounded form occupies the clause-initial position of the relative clause, leaving a complete gap later the in the clause, as illustrated by (10a). If the relative pronoun is wie who/whom, then compounding does not occur, but the entire preposition phrase can move to the clause-initial position, as illustrated in (9b) above. These first two solutions are two ways of pied-piping the preposition. The alternative, third option, is to strand the preposition in situ in the relative clause, and only move the relative pronoun to the clause-initial position, as illustrated by (10b) and (10c). In the case of preposition stranding, the relative pronoun either keeps it basic form wat, as in (10b), or it changes to waar, without forming a compound with the preposition, which remains stranded, as in (10c).

Example 10

a. die toegewydheid [waarmee hulle dinge doen]
die toegewydheid [(RC) [(CI) waarmee] [(MF) hulle dinge] [(VF) doen]]
the dedication which.with they things do.PRS
the dedication with which they do things
b. die motorkar [wat ons mee gery het]
die motorkar [(RC) [(CI) wat] [(MF) ons mee] [(VF) gery het]]
the motor.car that.REL we with drive.PST have.AUX
the motor vehicle that we drove with
c. plekke [waar jy na toe kan gaan]
plekke [(RELC) [(CI) waar] [(MF) jy na toe] [(VF) kan gaan]]
places that.REL you to towards can.AUX.MOD go.INF
places that you can go to
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