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Past participles

The most extensive category of past participles is represented by forms derived from passive forms, reflecting a direct object thematic rol, such as:

opgetekende gevalle
recorded cases’
cases which have been recorded
afgehandelde sake
concluded matters
matters which have been concluded
besette grond
occupied land
land which has been occupied
'n beleërde stad
a besieged city
a city which is under siege

Although it is a very productive construction, not all the relative constructions with passive forms necessarily qualify:

  • ?'n bekruipte rooibok a stalked impala
  • *gebêrede kruideniersware stowed groceries
  • *'n geglode stelling a believed statement
  • ?'n geneuriede wysie a hummed tune

(Botha 1973)


As in the case of adjectives in general, certain past participles are used either in the attributive or in the predicative position, or in certain cases in both.

Verbal structures

  • Phrasal verbs:

    Phrasal verbs, such as aankondig announce and afbaken demarcate’, have the following past participles, with the ge- affix inserted before the verbal component:

    • aangekondigde salarisverhogings announced salary increases
    • afgebakende gebied demarcated area
  • Adverbial phrases:

    Adverbial phrases consisting of a particle (adjectival or otherwise) plus past participle may reflect the extent to which lexical condensation has taken place, in the sense that the particle may be separated orthographically from the participle or not, as in the following cases:

    • skerp bewoorde brief sharply worded letter
    • goed toegeruste kampe well-equipped camps
    • handgemaakte juweliersware hand-made jewellery
    • voorafvervaardige geboue prefabricated buildings

    The syntactic projection of such constructions when more than one argument is involved, however, rarely occurs in Afrikaans. Hence:

    • 'n droogtegeteisterde gebied a drough-stricken area
    • die verfoeide leier a despised leader

    but not:

    • *'n deur die droogte geteisterde gebied a by the drought afflicted area a drought-stricken area
    • *die deur die populiste in die party verfoeide leier the by the populists in the party despised leader

Weak and strong adjectival past participles

  • Weak past participles:

    Weak past participles, when used as attributive adjectives, consist of the verb stem followed by -d or -t, roughly depending on whether the stem ends on a voiced phone or not. This is, however, not very reliable, and may also be linked to the voicing of intervocalic obstruents in the corresponding Dutch infinitives, such as verslaven enslave and verslaafde enslaved, in which case the Afrikaans past participle would likewise probably be verslaafde rather than *verslaafte. In these examples, the participles are also inflected by means of the suffix -e when used attributively.

    As a rule of thumb, past participles ending on an obstruent do not add a -d or -t when used verbally, because of a phonological rule which simplifies consonant clusters in the auslaut of all word classes.

  • Strong past participles:

    Strong past participles, which are characterised by the absence of the -d/t affix, or a change of stem vowel, as in verlore lost or belese erudite, are not used as main verb in a predicate, except for the passive forms gebore born, as in Hy is op Dinsdag gebore. He was born on Tuesday. and oorlede deceased, as in Hy is verlede week oorlede. He died last week. One active form, in biblical language, which is still used, is geskape created, as in Op die sesde dag het God die mens geskape. on the sixth day have.AUX God the human.being created On the sixth day, God created man., although in more recent Bible translations, the weak form geskep is often used.

    In some cases, only the strong adjectival past participles occur as attributive forms (weak past participles may still be used predicatively, particularly if they overlap with the main verb equivalent), as in the following examples:

    • die ontslape staatsman the deceased statesman, not *die ontslaapte staatsman
    • 'n onbesonne daad an ill-considered act, not *'n onbesinde daad
    • die verdagte moordenaar the suspected murderer, not *die verdinkte moordenaar

    In other cases, there is there are semantic and collocational differences between the two forms, such as

    • splyt: 'n gesplyte atoom a split atom, but 'n gesplete persoonlikheid a split personality a schizoid personality
    • breek: 'n gebreekte bord a broken plate, but 'n gebroke hart a broken heart
    • slyp: geslypte messe whetted / sharpened knives, but 'n geslepe skelm a cunning crook

    Judged by the examples above, one could conclude that the weak form seems to be used for a literal meaning, while the strong form is mostly used for figurative, metaphorical applications. From a different, diachronic perspective, however, it would seem that the strong forms represent inherited links with 17th century Dutch expressions, while the weak forms are used when sentences are articulated tabula rasa, on the basis of the basic denotation, regardless of literal or figurative intention. A case in point would be an expression such as gebreekte beloftes broken promises, which may occur next to gebroke verhouding broken relationship.

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