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Inf-nominalization (Infinitival nominals)
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Infinitival nominals (from now on: inf-nominalizations) are characterized by the fact that they inherit the denotation (namely, state of affairs) and the argument structure of the verb they are derived from. In this sense, they are not fully nominal. The following subsections will discuss the form of the derived noun, its relation to the base verb and the restrictions on the derivational process; a comprehensive discussion of complementation of inf-nominalizations can be found in Section 2.2.3.2.

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[+] Form of the derived noun

Inf-nominalizations constitute the most productive type of nominalization in Afrikaans: virtually any infinitive, regardless of the type of verb, can be nominalized and thus be given the external distribution of a noun. The examples in (1) and (2) show that this type of category change is achieved by conversion (zero-derivation): it is not morphologically marked. The two sets of examples present two different types of nominalization: in (1) we find bare nominalizations (from now on: bare-inf), and in(2) nominalizations preceded by a determiner (from now on: det-inf).

Example 1

bare-inf nominalizations
a. Seil is baie lekker.
sail is very nice
b. Jan hou van seil.
Jan likes prt. sail
c. Vrugte (eet) is baie gesond.
fruit eat is healthy
'To eat fruit is healthy.'
Example 2

Det-inf nominalizations
a. Die eet van vrugte is baie gesond.
the eat of fruit is very healthy
'The eating of fruit is very healthy.'
b. Jan het homself vermaak met die teken van poppetjies.
Jan amused himself with the draw of dollsdim
'Jan amused himself by drawing human figures.'
c. Die (ge)hamer/bons/stamp van die masjinerie kon mens goed hoor.
the pound of the engines could a person good hear
'The pounding of the machines could be heard very clearly.'
[+] Nominal properties

Apart from the fact that they have the distribution of noun phrases, inf-nominalizations do not exhibit many nominal properties; they rather retain a number of verbal properties. We illustrate this in the following subsections by means of article selection, pluralization and modification.

[+] Determiners

The examples in (3) show that the determiner of det-inf nominalizations can be realized by the definite article, a demonstrative, or a possessive pronoun; a genitive form of a proper noun is also possible; cf. Table 1.

Example 3

a. Die geseil het hom nooit verveel nie.
the sail bored him never
b. Daardie/Die/Hierdie geseil begin my behoorlik verveel.
that/this sail begins me considerably to bore
'Iʼm beginning to get fed up with this sailing.'
c. Piet se/Sy geseil kos hom baie geld.
Peterʼs/his sail costs him much money

Although det-infs can be preceded by a definite determiner, they do not normally co-occur with an indefinite article, as is shown by (4a). Still, there are some cases in which an indefinite article can be used. These concern noun phrases like (4b), which are headed by a nominalization derived from an input verb that denotes an emission of sounds, and in which the infinitive is usually pre- or postmodified.

Example 4

a. ’n Seil/Geseil het hom nooit verveel nie.
a sail bored him never
b. ’n Harde geruis van water het hoorbaar geword.
a loud gushing of water became audible
c. Ons het ’n eienaardige getik op die solder gehoor.
we heard a strange tick on attic
'We heard a strange ticking in the attic.'

In addition, there are occasional inf-nominalizations that obligatorily combine with the indefinite article. This particular use of the infinitive is either entirely nonproductive, as in the idiomatic constructions in (5a).

Example 5

a. Daar was ’n (voortdurende) kom en gaan van belangrike mense.
it was there a come and go of important people
'There was a (constant) coming and going of important people.'
[+] Pluralization, quantification and questioning

Another difference with most nouns is that inf-nominalizations cannot be pluralized. They also differ from true nouns in that they cannot be quantified or questioned. These characteristics are illustrated in (6).

Example 6

a. Piet hou baie van seile.
Peter loves very much of sailpl
b. Die seile van Piet kos hem baie geld.
the sailpl of Peter cost him much money
c. Elke seile is weer ’n nuwe avontuur.
every sail.pl is again a new adventure
d. Watter seile vind jy nou die lekkerste (hier of op Hartbeespoortdam)?
which sail consider you prt most pleasant here or on the Hartbeespoortdam
[+] Modification

All inf-nominalizations denote abstract entities, more specifically states of affairs: they refer to the event or situation denoted by the verb from which they derive. As such, they exhibit a number of properties characteristic of verbs. First, (7) shows that inf-nominalizations may be modified for manner, frequency or duration. Second, example (7b) shows that in the det-inf pattern, the adverbial (= bare) form of the adjective can be used alongside the adjectival form, ending in -e.

Example 7

a. Uitgebreid/reëlmatig/lank vergader oor triviale sake is nutteloos.
extensively/frequently/long meet over trivial matters is pointless
'Meeting extensively/frequently/long over trivial matters is pointless.'
b. die uitgebreide/regelmatige/lank vergader oor triviale sake is nutteloos.
the extensive(ly)/frequent(ly)/lengthy meet over trivial matters is pointless
[+] The form of the complement

Unlike the case with deverbal ing-, ge- and er-nouns, the theme argument of the bare-inf nominalizations may appear as a noun phrase in prenominal position, as shown in (8a); realizing the theme as a postnominal van-PP, as in (8b), is also possible, but this is a less preferred option. Again this is a property typical for verbs, not nouns.

Example 8

bare-inf nominalizations
a. Posseëls versamel is ’n onskuldige tydverdryf/stokperdjie.
stamps collect is an innocent pastime
'Collecting stamps is an innocent pastime/hobby.'
b. Versamel/Die versamel van posseëls is ’n onskuldige tydverdryf/stokperdjie.
collecting of stamps is an innocent pastime

The preferred pattern for realizing the theme in det-inf nominalizations like those in (9) is the opposite of that in bare-infnominalizations: the theme can appear as a prenominal noun phrase, as in (9a), but it is preferred to have it as a postnominal van-PP, as in (9b); see Section 2.2.3.2 for more discussion.

Example 9

det-inf nominalizations
a. Die posseëls versamel is ’n onskuldige tydverdryf/stokperdjie.
the stamps collect is an innocent pastime
'The collecting of stamps is an innocent pastime.'
b. Die versamel van posseëls is ’n onskuldige tydverdryf.
the collect of stamps is an innocent pastime
'The collecting of stamps is an innocent pastime.'
[+] Relation to the base verb

Inf-nominalizations can be said to inherit the argument structure of the input verb. Apart from the change in syntactic category (from V to inf-n), the argument structure of the verb remains unaffected by the derivational process: both the number of arguments and their thematic functions remain essentially the same. The only difference is that while the arguments of a verb normally are obligatorily present, those of the derived noun are not. This is illustrated for a number of verb types.

[+] Intransitive verbs

An inf-nominalization of an intransitive verb always has one argument (typically the agent), although, unlike the case with the verbal construction, the realization of the agent is not compulsory. If the agent is realized, it may appear either postnominally in the form of a van-PP, or prenominally in the form of a genitive noun phrase or a possessive pronoun. This is illustrated in (10b) for the nominal infinitive derived from the intransitive verb lag'to laugh'. Observe that, although we are dealing with a case of nominalization, the deverbal noun is given the category INF-N, rather than N, in order to signal the special nature of the nominal infinitive, with its combination of nominal and verbal features.

Example 10

Nominal infinitive derived from an intransitive verb
a. lag (Agent)
to laugh/laughing
b. (Die) (ge)lag (van kinders) maak hom vrolik.
the laugh/laughing of children cheers him up
c. Jan se (harde) (ge)lag is irriterend.
Janʼs loud laugh/laughing is irritating
[+] Transitive verbs

An inf-nominalization of a transitive verb inherits both arguments of the input verb. This is illustrated in (11a) for the inf-nominalizations derived from the verb versamel'to collect'. Example (11b) shows that, just as in the case of the agent, realization of the theme is optional.

Example 11

Nominal infinitive derived from a monotransitive verb
a. versamel (Agent, Theme)
to collect/collecting
b. (Posseëls) versamel is ’n onskuldige tydverdryf.
stamps collect is an innocent pastime
'Collecting stamps is an innocent pastime.'

However, if the agent is realized, the theme is normally obligatorily expressed by means of a prenominal noun phrase or a postnominal van-PP. This is illustrated in (12) for cases in which the agent is expressed by means of a prenominal genitive noun phrase or possessive pronoun.

Example 12

a. Piet se/Sy posseëls versamel is ’n onskuldige tydverdryf.
Pietʼs/his stamps collect is an innocent pastime
'Pietʼs/His collecting of stamps is an innocent pastime.'
b. Piet se/Sy versamel van posseëls is ’n onskuldige tydverdryf.
Pietʼs/his collect of stamps is an innocent pastime
'Pietʼs/His collecting of stamps is an innocent pastime.'

If the agent is expressed as a postnominal PP its form depends on the realization of the theme: if the theme argument occurs prenominally as a noun phrase, the agent will be expressed by means of a van-PP, as shown in (13b); if the theme is realized postnominally as a van-PP, the agent will normally be realized by means of a deur-PP, as shown in (13b). Since (13b) is probably the most unmarked way of expressing the intended proposition, we marked the other examples with a question mark.

Example 13

a. Die posseëls versamel (van Piet) is ’n onskuldige tydverdryf.
the stamps collect of Piet is an innocent pastime
'Peterʼs collecting of stamps is an innocent pastime.'
b. Die versamel van posseëls (deur Piet) is ’n onskuldige tydverdryf.
the collect of stamps  by Piet is an innocent pastime
'The collecting of stamps by Peter is an innocent pastime.'

In construction with a postnominal theme PP introduced by van, it is sometimes possible to add an agent PP also introduced by van. Example (14a) shows that such constructions are fully acceptable only if the determiner takes the form of a demonstrative. The contrast between (14a) and (14b) furthermore suggests that the theme PP must contain an indefinite noun phrase. This restriction may be due to the fact that in the case of a definite noun phrase, the second van-PP is likely to be interpreted as modifying the noun posseëls, i.e., with Piet as the possessor of the stamps; see Section 2.2.3.2, sub I, for more details.

Example 14

a. Daardie/Die versamel van posseëls van Piet is ’n regte obsessie.
that/the collect of stamps of Peter is a true obsession
'This collecting of stamps by Peter is a true obsession.'
b. Daardie/Die versamel van die posseëls van Piet is ’n regte obsessie.
[+] Ditransitive verbs

Deverbal nouns derived from ditransitive verbs also inherit the argument structure of the input verb, but instances where all three arguments are explicitly mentioned are not very common: realization of the recipient (and the agent) is typically optional, whereas the theme argument is normally present. Like the theme argument, the recipient may appear in prenominal position, in which case it may take the form of a noun phrase as in (15b). As in clauses, the recipient can also be realized as an aan-PP, in which case it may occur either in pre- or postnominal position, as shown by (15b'). If the theme argument is realized as van-PP, the recipient must also appear in postnominal position, as shown by (15b'').

Example 15

Nominal infinitive derived from a ditransitive verb
a. skenk (Agent, Theme, Recipient)
to donate/donating
b. (Vir)* Die kerk geld skenk is ’n goeie saak.
the church money donate is a good thing
c. Geld <aan die kerk> skenk <aan die kerk> is ’n goeie saak.
money  to the church donate is a good thing
d. Die skenk van geld aan die kerk is ’n goeie saak.
the donate of money to the church is a good thing
[+] Unaccusative verbs

Unaccusative verbs can also be the input for infinitival nominalization. The theme argument is inherited from the input verb, but is normally optionally expressed. The theme argument cannot occur as a prenominal noun phrase, but must be realized as a postnominal van-PP, as is shown by (16b'&b''). Since bare-inf nominalizations prefer the realization of their argument as a prenominal noun phrase, they only occur if the theme argument is left implicit, as in the generic example in (16b).

Example 16

Nominal infinitive derived from an unaccusative verb
a. val (Theme)
to fall/falling
b. (die) blare val
 the leaves fall
c. Val is pynlik.
fall is painful
d. die val van blare
the fall of leaves
[+] Verbs with a PP-complement

Verbs such as jagop'to hunt', which select a PP-theme, can also be nominalized. Again the nominalized structure may take the form of a bare-inf or a det-inf. In either case the preposition selected by the input verb is inherited by the nominalization. In the bare-inf nominalization in (17b), the PP-themes are acceptable both in pre- and in postnominal position, whereas in the det-inf nominalization in (17b') there is a clear preference for placing the PP-theme in postnominal position.

Example 17

Nominal infinitive derived from a verb selecting a PP-theme
a. jag op (Agent, Theme)
to hunt/hunting
b. <Op groot wild> jag <op groot wild> is ’n populêre tydverdryf.
 on big game hunt is a popular pastime
'Hunting big game is a popular pastime.'
c. Die <op groot wild> jag <op groot wild> is ’n populêre tydverdryf.
the   on big game hunt is a popular pastime
'Hunting big game is a popular pastime.'
[+] Restrictions on the derivational process

Inf-nominalization is an almost fully productive process in the sense that it is possible with most verbs. As is shown in (18), however, with the perfect auxiliaries and the modal verbs the outputs are ungrammatical.

Example 18

a. *?[Die gelees het van soʼn boek ] is nie voldoende om jou ’n taalkundige te noem nie.
the read have of such a book is not enough to yourself linguist to call
'Having read such a book isnʼt enough to call yourself a linguist.'
b. *?[Die kan ry met ’n kar] is ’n voorwaarde vir hierdie werk.
the be.able drive with a car is a requirement for this job
'Being able to drive a car is a condition for this job.'

Both types of inf-nominalization retain all the verbal properties listed in Table 9. Thus, inf-nominalizations have arguments, and these arguments can be realized as nominal objects in prenominal position. The fact illustrated in (7) that inf-nominalizations can be modified by means of an adverbial phrase also points in the direction of verbal status. While retaining their verbal properties, inf-nominalizations acquire few exclusively nominal ones: the two subtypes cannot co-occur with indefinite determiners or quantifiers, and both lack the ability to undergo pluralization. Still, det-inf (but not bare-inf) nominalizations do exhibit some of the nominal characteristics in Table 9: they can be modified by an adjective, can be preceded by the definite article die or a demonstrative/possessive pronoun, and are compatible with a theme-PP in postnominal position.


Table 1: Table 9: The degree of verbalness/nominalness of inf-nominalizations
properties
presence of arguments yes yes
prenominal theme/recipient with objective case yes yes
prenominal recipient-PP yes yes
adverbial modification yes yes
adjectival modification ? yes
theme with genitive case no no?
theme/recipient realized as postnominal PP no yes
definiteness - yes
indefiniteness - no
quantification no no
pluralization no no

On the basis of this data, we may conclude that although both bare-inf and det-inf have the external distribution of nouns, they are to a considerable degree still verbal. Table 9 also shows that there is a difference between bare-inf and det-inf in the sense that bare-inf nominalizations are more verbal than det-inf nominalizations. For a comparison of the inf-nominalizations with other types of nominalization, see Table 17 in Section 1.3.1.6.

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