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Binominal genitive constructions

There are two binominal genitive constructions in Afrikaans. The one construction is with the genitive particlese 's (1a). In this construction, the first noun or noun phrase (N1) is the possessor, followed by se, and then the possessum (N2). The possessum, N2, is the head noun of the construction, with N1 and the genitive particle functioning semantically as a kind of modifier. The other binominal genitive construction is with the genitive particle (sometimes classified as a preposition, even in genitive constructions) van of (1b). In this construction, the order of the nouns are reversed – N1 is the possessum, and head noun, followed by van, and then the possessor (N2).

Example 1

a. Newton se wet
Newton PTCL.GEN law
Newton's law
b. 'n vragmotor van PG Bison
a truck PTCL.GEN PG Bison
a truck of PG Bison

The central semantic relation typically associated with the genitive construction is that of possession. However, there are many different semantic relations expressed by genitive constructions, and specifically those with se and with van. Several semantic relations can be expressed by either construction, including non-prototypical relations such as subjective (2a) and attributive (2b) relations, and prototypical relations such as kin terms (2c), body parts (2d), part-whole (2e), and of course ownership (2f). There are also measure genitives (2g, 2h), where the possessor indicates a measure of some sort applied to the possessum.

Example 2

a. die ouens se musiek
the guys PTCL.GEN music
the guys' music
b. die taalvaardigheid van skoolverlaters
the language.proficiency PTCL.GEN school.leavers
the language proficiency of graduating learners
c. my sus se skoonfamilie
my sister PTCL.GEN in.law.family
my sister's in-laws
d. die hond se poot
the dog PTCL.GEN paw
the dog's paw
e. die sakke van 'n swart jas
the pockets PTCL.GEN a black coat
the pockets of a black coat
f. die huis van 'n bejaarde egpaar
the house PTCL.GEN an elderly couple
the house of an elderly couple
g. 'n oulap se rooi
a penny PTCL.GEN red
a penny's red
h. 'n proeftydperk van drie maande
a probation.period PTCL.GEN three months
a probationary period of three months

There are other semantic relations only expressed by van constructions, such as appositives (3a), partitives (3b), and descriptives genitives (3c). Both se and van constructions also feature in fixed expressions, such as (3d) and (3e).

Example 3

a. die daad van misdaadpleging
the deed PTCL.GEN crime.committing
the deed of committing a crime
b. twee van die bande
two PTCL.GEN the tyres
two of the tyres
c. 'n muur van herinnering
a wall PTCL.GEN remembrance
a wall of remembrance
d. 8-uur se kant
8-hour PTCL.GEN side
around 8 o'clock
e. een van die dae
one PTCL.PTV the days
any day now

The possessor in genitive constructions can refer to a number of different entities – some are humans (2a-c), some are animals (2d), temporal (2h), or inanimate objects (2e). Further types of possessors include collectives (4a) and locatives (4b).

Example 4

a. die deposito van 'n politieke party
the deposit PTCL.GEN a political party
the deposit of a political party
b. Franschhoek se munisipaliteit
Franschhoek PTCL.GEN municipality
Franschhoek's municipality

The NPs in genitive constructions can both be fairly complex. Sometimes they are coordinated or modified (5a-c), even with a PP (5d).

Example 5

a. die bure se Wit Hilux 4.2D Diesel Bakkie
the neighbours PTCL.GEN White Hilux 4.2D Diesel Truck
the neighbours' White Hilux 4.2D Diesel Pick-up
b. die bloed van pa en ma
the blood PTCL.GEN dad and mom
the blood of father and mother
c. verskeie ander basisse se beamptes en offisiere
several other bases PTCL.GEN officials and officers
officials and officers of several other bases
d. 'n ou vriend met 'n ernstige dwelmprobleem se vrou
an old friend with a serious drug.problem PTCL.GEN wife
the wife of an old friend with a serious drug problem

Genitive constructions can also be nested within one another. In (6a) there are two se constructions; in (6b) a se construction in a van construction, and in (6c) a van construction in a se construction. In (6d) it becomes clear that there can be multiple nested genitives, with three van constructions nested in one another.

Example 6

a. Kallie Kookfontein se plaas se naam
Kallie Kookfontein PTCL.GEN farm PTCL.GEN name
Kallie Kookfontein's farm's name
b. daai vertaling van bbnet se plasing
that translation PTCL.GEN bbnet PTCL.GEN placement
that translation of bbnet's placement
c. die jare se indoktrinasie van feite en realiteit
the years PTCL.GEN indoctrination PTCL.GEN facts and reality
the years' indoctrination of facts and reality
d. die bepalings van artikel 204 van Wet 51 van 1977
the provisions PTCL.GEN article 204 of Law 51 of 1977
the provisions of article 204 of Law 51 of 1977
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