• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Saterfrisian
  • Afrikaans
Show all
Question-word NP

A prepositional compound construed with a question word NP (also termed a wh-phrase) as complement of an adjective strongly prefers placement on the left of the adjective, whether the question itself is direct or indirect, as in the two examples below:

Waarmee is julle nou besig?
WH.with be.PRS you now busy
What are you busy with now?
Sy wonder waar·mee hy nou besig is.
she wonders WH.with he now busy be.PRS
She wonders what he is busy doing now.

Prepositional phrases used as complements of adjectives and incorporating pronouns form compounds in Afrikaans (at least orthographically) in a similar fashion as certain phrasal verbs (e.g. opstaan up.stand get up). However, animacy is a determining factor in this respect, since the question word wie who is used (as in English) for animate referents, and then written disjunctively, as in op wie on whom, as against waarop WH.on on what.

A PP, whether construed with a conjunctive wh-phrase with an inaminate referent or with a disjunctive WH-prase with an animate referent, precedes the adjective in WH-questions:

Waaraan is hy verslaaf?
WH.on be.PRS he addicted
What is he addicted to?
Op wie is sy jaloers?
on whom be.PRS she jealous
Whom is she jealous of?

A PP which is used as an indirect question (not necessarily containing a pronoun) follows the same pattern, e.g.

aan watter organisasie die kopers verbonde is
to what organisation the buyers attached be.PRS
with which organisation the buyers are associated

A special pattern in this regard is that of echo questions, where a statement by a speaker is echoed by the interlocutor, and the questioned argument replaced by a WH-question. In such cases, the PP is placed to the right of the adjective:

Hy is jaloers op wie?
he be.PRS jealous on whom
He is jealous of whom?

In the case of inanimate referents, there is a strong tendency, possibly because of the informal nature of echo questions, to use a disjunctive construction. Hence, instead of the normal

Hy is besig waarmee?
he be.PRS busy WH.with
He is busy doing what?

the question word, in casu the WH-pronoun wat what, can be used in the form of an echo question as follows:

Hy is besig met wat?
he be.PRS busy with what
He is busy doing what?
    printreport errorcite