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Constructions with explicit aspectual function

Two durative constructions are involved here: (i) the progressive construction aan die loop weesbe walking and related inchoative and resultative variants and (ii) the progressive construction besig wees om te veranderbe in the process of changing. Both constructions have been thoroughly grammaticalised, and are employed inter alia to describe ongoing activity in the background of an event:

Example 1

a. Jan was aan die lees toe die krag skielik afgaan.
Jan be.COP.PST on the read.NMLZ when the power suddenly off-go
Jan was reading when the power suddenly went out.
b. Jan was besig om te lees toe die krag skielik afgaan.
Jan be.COP.PST busy COMP to read.INF when the power suddenly off-go
Jan was reading when the power suddenly went out.
[+] The progressive and inchoative aan die + NOM construction

The progressive construction (or durative construction, cf. Ponelis 1979:224) consists of the copula weesbe plus a complement consisting of a prepositional phrase headed by the preposition aanon, at and a noun phrase with the definite article die as determiner, a nominalised verb (e.g. natgooiwater, or a noun expressing movement (as in aan die ganggoing on) as head noun and, optionally, an internal object (e.g. indefinite planteplants), as in:

Example 2

Sy is aan die plante natgooi.
she be.COP.PRS on the plants water.NMLZ
She is watering plants.

Is expresses present tense here, therefore the duration of the event runs parallel to what the speaker perceives as "the present". If waswas, were is used, the event temporarily parallels a designated period in the past:

Example 3

Sy was aan die plante natgooi toe die bom bars.
she be.COP.PST on the plants water.NMLZ when the bomb explode
She was watering plants when the bomb exploded.

Adverbial particles and bare objects (i.e. without definite/indefinite marking) may be internal or external to the prepositional phrase (as in (4a) and (4b)); objects marked as definite or indefinite (4c), or extended objects (4d), are external to the prepositional phrase:

Example 4

a. Sy is die plante <*uit> aan die <uit>plant.
she be.COP.PRS the plants <out> on the <out>-plant.NMLZ
She is transplanting the plants.
b. Sy is <blomme> aan die <blomme> plant.
she be.COP.PRS <flowers> on the <flowers> plant.NMLZ
She is in the process of planting the flowers.
c. Sy is <'n gousblom> aan die <*'n gousblom> plant.
she be.COP.PRS <a daisy> on the <a daisy> plant.NMLZ
She is busy planting a daisy.
d. Sy is plante wat sy pas gekoop het, aan die plant.
she be.COP.PRS plants that she just PST.PTCP-buy have.AUX.PERF on the plant.NMLZ
She is planting plants which she has just bought.

A variant which formally resembles a Dutch construction and has the neutral Dutch article 'tthe and an optional infinitival -e ending, is sometimes employed in more formal style (Geleyn & Colleman 2014:61) or perhaps as an intended archaïsm (Breed 2012:117), e.g.

Example 5

Sy is nou die plante aan 't natgooie
she be.COP.PRS now the plants on the wet-pour.NMLZ.INF
She is watering the plants now.

Apart from the 'be copula', intransitive blystay, remain and transitive hethave and houkeep are also used in progressive (or durative) function, while intransitive raakbecomeor gaango and transitive kryget, maakmake and sitput are used in inchoative (or ingressive) function (cf. Van Schoor 1983:175). Progressive aspect is expressed in the following:

Example 6

a. Die voerband blyaan die beweeg.
the conveyor-belt remain on the move.NMLZ
The conveyor belt keeps moving.
b. Julle het dit nou aan die beweeg; hou dit tog aan die beweeg.
you.PL have.VT.PRS it now on the move.NMLZ; keep.VT.IMP it PTCL on the move.NMLZ
You've got it moving now; do keep it moving.

In the following inchoative aspect is expressed:

Example 7

a. Die leeus gaan aan die brul en ineens raak die skare aan die beweeg.
the lions go on the roar.NMLZ and suddenly become the crowd on the move.NMLZ
The lions begin to roar and suddenly the crowd starts moving.
b. Kry nou asseblief die kar aan die loop.
get.IMP now please the car on the run.NMLZ
Please get the car running now.
c. Die aria maak my sommer aan die huil.
the aria make me PTCL on the cry.NMLZ
The aria makes me almost start to cry.
d. Jou voorstel het my aan die dink gesit.
your suggestion have.AUX.PERF me on the think.NMLZ PST.PTCP-put
Your suggestion got me thinking.

Note that the deflection of the infinitive in Afrikaans and the loss of nominal gender render Dutch aan het kletsen on the chatter.NMLZ (aan't klets(e) in archaic Afrikaans) and aan de klets on the chatter.PR indistinguishable in Afrikaans, as only aan die klets, with klets as nominalised verb, is possible.

For a terminativekry construction, cf. Constructions with aspectual characteristics.

(ii) The progressive construction besig wees om te + V

Progressive aspect is frequently expressed by the construction besig wees om tebe busy plus full infinitive (cf. Ponelis 1979:258), as in:

Example 8

Die eksaminatore is besig om die skrifte na te sien.
the examiners be.COP.PRS busy COMP the papers after to see
The examiners are busy marking the papers.

Progressive aspect is also expressed by besig wees metbe busy with/ involved in plus nominalisation, as in:

Example 9

Hulle is nou besig met nasien.
they be.COP.PRS now busy with after-see.NMLZ
They are now busy marking.

The met construction only occurs at a ratio of 1:99 in comparison with the full infinitive construction (Geleyn & Colleman 2014:66). In contrast to Dutch bezig zijn om te + lexical verb and English to be busy verb-ing, Afrikaans besig wees om te has developed into a marker of progressivity as such (cf. Geleyn & Colleman 2014:70),"een loutere markeerder van progressiwiteit"semantically as vague as expressing 'something is going on' rather than lively activity, combining frequently with non-activity verbs or non-volitional agents, cf.

Example 10

In die huidige resessie is baie mense besig om te verarm.
in the present recession be.COP.PRS many people busy COMP to empoverish
In the present recession many are in the process of being empoverished.

In Afrikaans, unlike in Dutch, passivisation is possible (cf. Breed & Brisard 2015:20):

Example 11

Die boek is besig om deur hom gelees te word.
the book be.COP.PRS busy COMP by him PST.PTCP-read to become.AUX.PASS.PRS
The book is being read by him.

In Afrikaans the besig weesbe busy plus full infinitive construction (besig wees om te V) is the most frequent of the progressive constructions, surpassing even theaan die V weesbe on the V and postural types in frequency (Breed & Brisard 2015:11). The Afrikaans besig wees om te + V construction has developed into a fully auxiliated periphrasis with the function of expressing progressive aspect, according to Breed & Van Huyssteen (2014:722).

  • Mol, H. & Uhlenbeck, E. M1956The linguistic relevance of intensity in stressLingua5205-213
  • Ponelis, Frits A1979Afrikaanse sintaksisPretoriaJ.L. van Schaik
  • Tamminga, Douwe Annes1993Wêr komt it subst. JOK (wyfkeljip) wei?Tydskrift foar Fryske Taalkunde8159-161
  • Tamminga, Douwe Annes1993Wêr komt it subst. JOK (wyfkeljip) wei?Tydskrift foar Fryske Taalkunde8159-161
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