• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Saterfrisian
  • Afrikaans
Show all
Past participles and departicipial adjectives

The purpose of the present section is to provide a description of Afrikaans past participles (or participles in purely verbal usage), on the one hand, and departicipial adjectives (or adjectival participles) on the other, and interrelationships of form and function between them. As no distinction is made between a past, passive and perfect participle, past participle will be used throughout. Past participles typically have a ge- prefix, as in gebreek for the verb breek to break, though the presence or absence of ge- is determined by prosodic and other factors.

Past participles and departicipial adjectives cannot be distinguished in Afrikaans by comparing clause-final verb clusters as is done in Dutch, for example dat ze dat afgemaakt heeft vs dat ze dat heeft afgemaakt that she completed that, where the participle in the second sequence is likely to be verbal rather than adjectival. Afrikaans only has dat sy dit voltooi het / *het voltooi that she completed that. However, in Afrikaans a system has developed according to which morphological relics of some so-called strong / weak / irregular participles are employed in non-verbal or adjectival functions, e.g. gebroke broken, gewaagd daring and verdag suspicious in contrast with the regular past participles gebreek, gewaag and verdink, for the verbs breek to break, waag to dare and verdink to suspect, respectively. Though many departicipial adjectives are not distinguished in this way and are in fact identical with past participles, the formal difference can be applied as a test to distinguish between the two functions.

Past participles will be discussed first and afterwards departicipial adjectives, which are intricately linked to them. So-called present participles, which have adjectival and adverbial functions in Afrikaans (cf. lopende en staande water running and stagnant water; al singende deur die park loop singing while walking through the park) will not be discussed here as they do not form part of the verbal system.

Also cf.

[+]Past participles

Afrikaans past participles are typically formed by affixing ge- to the uninflected verbal base (breek > gebreek to break > broken) or between a non-verbal particle and the verb (afbreek > afgebreek to break down > broken down). Affixing can be done with multiple variants of a verb, e.g. skryf > geskryf to write > written and skrywe > geskrywe idem. In non-verbal usage, for example the adjectival use of geskryf in geskrewe korrespondensie written correspondence or of vermoei to tire out in Hy kom vermoeid voor He appears to be tired, suffixes such as -d in the latter case or an entirely different morphological configuration, as in geskrewe instead of geskryf written, are encountered.

Although ge- is a typical characteristic of past participles, it is no more than a prosodic filler syllable, as participles are required to adhere to a phonological template, according to which the syllable with main stress is preceded by a syllable with weaker stress. If this requirement is met, the affixation of ge- is optional, as in bedién served, veróórloof permitted and ontstáán originated. For monosyllabic verbs, ge- is obligatory (gaan > gegaan to go > gone, as well as for verbs with initial main stress (ántwoord > geantwoord to answer > answered).

The template extends to the entire lexical section of the verb cluster, so that ge-is optional in a cluster such as om hulle te (ge)laat sing het to have let them sing. The word stress constraint has been extended to a word group constraint (cf.Combrink 1990:223) and the main verb usually receives more stress than any other verb. While optional ge- is mostly omitted in the standard variety, it is commonly realised in other varieties even when unstressed prefixes are present, e.g ge-betáál paid and ge-verwág expected..

There are few exceptions to the regularisation of verbal participles. The participle gehad 'had from het to havegehet in some varieties – has a very high frequency, and gedag/gedog thought rightly or wrongly is used for the verb dink to think, which has gedink as its regular participle. The participle gewees been for the verb meaning 'to be' can be considered regular, in view of the extant infinitive form wees (from Dutch wezen to be, a dialectal variant of zijn).

[+]Function of past participles

From a functional point of view, past participles can be defined as lexical items which form part of a periphrastic verbal cluster by combining with auxiliaries in a number of constructions. Auxiliaries can in turn be identified as verbs undergoing systematic changes in tense or aspect. Thus het to have as a main verb is a present tense form, but het geskryf to have written, as a result of diachronic reinterpretation, is past tense; is to be as a copula, is present tense, but is geskryf was written as a passive cluster, expresses past tense, and word to become as a copula, signals inchoative aspect, but word geskryf to be written as a passive has durative aspect. Both word constructions express present tense.

As the verbal participle may form part of past tense as well as passive clusters, it must be functionally adaptable to both. While the participles of durative and terminative verbs both make provision for being employed in perfects and passives, they do so in different ways, however. Terminative participles follow a semantic trajectory towards a state or static phase through a causal activity leading up to that state. While the eventuality preceding the state corresponds to the expression of past tense as something completed before the moment of speaking and therefore to the active and passive perfect of het/is geskryf, the participle becomes adjectival when the final state (also is geskryf is reached, and is becomes a present tense copula. Terminative verbs, however, do not comfortably combine with the durative auxiliary word, as in (1a), in contrast to (1b) with a durative verb, e.g.

a. ?Die nuwe motor word deur Jan afgeskryf.
the new car be.AUX.PASS.PRS by Jan off.write.PST.PTCP
The new car is being written off by Jan.
b. Die nuwe motor word deur Jan bestuur.
the new car be.AUX.PASS.PRS by Jan drive.PST.PTCP
The new car is being driven by Jan.

Both types of verb allow a past tense passive, as in (2) and (3):

Die nuwe motor is gister deur Jan afgeskryf.
the new car be.AUX.PASS.PST yesterday by Jan off.write.PST.PTCP
The new car was written off by Jan yesterday.
Die nuwe motor is gister deur Jan bestuur.
the new car be.AUX.PASS.PST yesterday by Jan drive.PST.PTCP
The new car was driven by Jan yesterday.

With the copula is to be in the present tense governing a terminative main verb, as in (4a), the participle expresses a state and is adjectival. Under the same conditions, the durative verb in (4b) fails to express a state or to be used adjectivally.

a. Die nuwe motor is nou afgeskryf.
the new car is now off.write.PST.PTCP
The new car is written off now.
b. *Die nuwe motor is nou bestuur.
the new car is now drive.PST.PTCP
To mean: The new car is being driven now.

Mutative or unaccusative verbs, with a theme rather than patient as internal argument, only allow an active perfect and possibly adjectival usage:

a. Die nuwe motor het gister verdwyn.
the new car have.AUX yesterday disappear.PST.PTCP
The new car disappeared yesterday.
b. *Die nuwe motor is nou verdwyn.
the new car be.PRS now disappeared.ADJ
The new car has now disappeared.

A process verb such as voorskryf to prescribe may allow both a durative (process, verbal) or terminative (state, adjectival) perspective, as in (6a) and (6b), respectively:

a. Hierdie bundel word nou voorgeskryf.
this volume be.AUX.PASS.PRS now prescribe.PST.PTCP
This volume is prescribed now.
b. Hierdie bundel is nou voorgeskryf.
this volume is now prescribed.ADJ
This volume is prescribed now.

For a description of the semantics of participles from a Cognitive Linguistic point of view, cf. Butler (2016).

Thus far we have seen that regularised participles combine with auxiliaries such as het, word and is to form verbal clusters as long as a state does not result. However, a small set of non-regularised participles (as well as adjectives) also meet the criterion of being verb-like in spite of formal irregularities.

[+]An irregular verb set

A small set of "familial" or "life cycle" participles (see (7a)) meet the criterion of verbality by expressing past tense (though without being passive) when governed by is to be. In this respect they resemble Dutch mutative verbs. This group also comprises lexical items such as oorlede deceased and dood dead, that are no longer or not at all related to verb stems and can therefore only be adjectives, but are still able to refer to a past eventuality in combination with is. The same participles/adjectives also combine with is as copula to express a present tense state, as in (7b). They function as adjectives or, in as far as they derive from past participles, can be regarded as departicipial adjectives.

a. Dié twee is verlede jaar gebore / verloof / getroud / geskei/ oorlede / dood.
these two be.AUX.PST last year born.PST.PTCP engage.PST.PTCP marry.PST.PTCP divorce.PST.PTCP deceased.ADJ dead.ADJ
These two were born / got engaged / got married / were divorced / passed away / died last year.
b. Dié twee is  nou gebore / verloof / getroud / geskei / oorlede/ dood.
these two be.PRS now born.ADJ engaged.ADJ married.ADJ divorced.ADJ deceased.ADJ dead.ADJ
These two are born / engaged / married / divorced / deceased/ dead now.

These participles/adjectives have diverse relationships – if any – with verb stems. The word gebore born is derived from baar to give birth – a verb referring to the physical process rather than an eventuality in a social context. The verbal participle verloof engaged is related to the expression om verloof te raak to get engaged, where the selection of the copula raak to become indicates that verloof is an adjective rather than a participle. It is also a reflexive verb:

Hy het hom aan haar verloof.
he have.AUX him.REFL to her engage.PST.PTCP
He got engaged to her.

The verb getroud married is related to the verb trou to marry, with getrou as past participle. Example (9a) differs from (9b) in that the former construction is implicitly reflexive, i.e. they married each other, while (9b) may be applicable to two separate marriages. The difference in usage between getroud and getrou as verbal participles is illustrated by the following:

a. Hulle is gister getroud.
they be.AUX.PST yesterday marry.PST.PTCP
They got married yesterday.
b. Hulle het gister getrou.
they have.AUX.PST yesterday marry.PST.PTCP
They married (each other) yesterday.
c. Hulle is deur 'n predikant getrou.
they be.AUX.PASS.PST by a minister marry.PST.PTCP
They were married by a minister.

While the verb skei usually means 'to separate', the past participle is used here in the institutionalised sense of a 'divorce' rather than a 'separation'. In both (10a) and (10b) is is a past tense auxiliary, though (10a) is active and (10b) passive.

a. Hulle is verlede jaar geskei.
they be.AUX.PST last yeat divorce.PST.PTCP
They got divorced last year.
b. Hulle is deur 'n amptenaar geskei.
they be.AUX.PASS.PST by an official divorce.PST.PTCP
They were divorced by an official.

The form oorlede deceased is related to the archaic nominalisation oorlye, as in sy oorlye his passing away, from the Dutch infinitive overlijden. Terms for 'dying' and 'killing' form a formally irregular network. The following examples are all perfect or past tense; (11a) and (11b), with participles of 'dying', are active, and (11c), expressing 'to kill', is passive. The various terms differ in their degree of formality and acceptabilty. The form oorlede in (11a) and gesterf, afgesterwe in (11b) are formal, and transitive gedood killed in (11c) more formal than doodgemaak. Intransitive gedood in (11b) is, however, non-standard.

a. Jan is onlangs dood/oorlede.
Jan be.AUX.PST recently dead/dead
Jan died recently.
b. Jan het onlangs gesterf/doodgegaan/afgesterwe/gedood.
Jan have.AUX.PST recently died/died/died/died
'Jan died recently.
c. Jan is onlangs deur 'n inbreker gedood/doodgemaak.
Jan be.AUX.PASS.PST by a burglar kill.PST.PTCP / dead.make.PST.PTCP
Jan was killed recently by a burglar.
[+]Departicipial adjectives

Some departicipial adjectives, when used predicatively, are identical to past participles in form, but differ from them in function. Thus the participles of terminative verbs, such as gesteel stolen in (12) and geskei divorced in (13) are easily interpreted as expressing states. But even the participles of durative verbs, such as geroer stirred in (14) and gewas washed in (15) may have terminative reference and may therefore be conceived of as a state. The following clauses are all present tense and their participles are adjectival.

Die horlosie is nie syne nie, maar gesteel.
the watch is not his PTCL.NEG but.CNJ stolen.ADJ
The watch is not his but is stolen.
Hulle blyk geskei te wees.
they appear divorced.ADJ PTCL.INF be.INF
They appear to be divorced.
Die pap is nou goed geroer.
the porridge is now well stirred.ADJ
The porridge is now well-stirred.
Haar motor is nou mooi gewas en blink.
her car is now nicely washed.ADJ and shiny.ADJ
Her car is nicely washed and shiny now.

When used attributively, regularised verb stems in attributive function take the suffix -te or -de, depending on whether the stem ends in a voiceless or voiced sound. The stems also take ge- as prefix, as required by the rules of participle formation, e.g. die geskeide paartjie the divorced couple and die gewaste motor the washed car. Though an attributive participle may have the grammatical status of adjective, it is semantically interpretable on a scale ranging from activity (i.e. verbal) to state (i.e. adjectival), e.g., respectively:

a. die deurgaans geroerde pap
the throughout stir.PST.PTCP.ATTR porridge
the porridge which was stirred all the time
b. die geroerde maar dik pap
the stirred.ADJ.ATTR but.CNJ thick.ADJ.ATTR porridge
the stirred but thick porridge
[+]Historically weak departicipial adjectives

Formally, weak (and some irregular) participles end in -t or -d (both phonetically voiceless) in Dutch, e.g. bewerktcultivated and bedaard calmed down (of storm); composed (of person). There is no formal distinction between verbal and adjectival (and adverbial) usage in Dutch. While in Afrikaans the majority of departicipial adjectives, of which bewerk is one example, do not attach the affix -t/-d, there is a small set which does. Many of them, which express emotional states or mental conditions for instance, have an obligatory suffix, e.g. gewaagd risky (from waag to dare), verward confused (from verwar to confuse), bekommerd worried (from (jou) bekommer to worry), vermoeid fatigued (from jou vermoei to become tired) and bedaard composed (from bedaar to calm down). In some cases the departicipial adjective is semantically distinct from the past participle (and even relexified), e.g. beroemd famous as against om jou op iets te beroem to pride oneself on something; in other cases the departicipial adjective merely expresses the final stage of an event, e.g. to be verward confused as a result of having been verwar confused by perplexing circumstances. In a number of cases the situation is in flux, i.e. participles with and without -t/-d are in variation in adjectival function, e.g. geseën(d) blessed, cf. (17).

a. Die priester het die vrou geseën/*geseënd.
the priest have.AUX the woman bless.PST.PTCP
The priest blessed the woman.
b. Sy is vroeër deur hom geseën/*geseënd.
she be.AUX.PASS.PST by him bless.PST.PTCP
She had been blessed by him earlier on.
c. Sy is waarlik geseën(d).
she is truly blessed.ADJ
She is truly blessed.

Other examples with variable -t/-d affixation in adjectival (and adverbial) usage, are: teleurgestel(d) disappointed, beskaaf(d) civilised, onversorg(d) unkempt, slovenly and onbewoon(d) uninhabited.

a. Die ouers is erg onversorg(d).
the parents be.PRS very slovenly.ADJ
The parents are very slovenly.
b. Die kinders loop ook onversorg(d) rond.
the children walk also slovenly.ADV about
The children are also going about in a slovenly way.

In attributive usage the formal difference between participles with and without -t/-d is levelled out, as both verwar confused and verward confused are rendered as verwarde – morphologically verwar + de and verward + e, respectively.

a. Daardie is die deur die storm verwarde beeste.
those be.PRS the by the storm confuse.PST.PTCP.ATTR cattle
Those are the cattle that were confused by the storm.
b. Die totaal verwarde beeste maal in die rondte.
the totally confused.ADJ cattle mill.about in the round
The completely confused cattle are milling about.
[+]Historically strong departicipial adjectives

A considerable number of participles resembling the Dutch strong verbal participle are still in use in adjectival functions, e.g. bedorwe vs bederf, verborge vs verberg, verbode vs verbied, opgewonde vs opgewen. With the exception of predicativegedaan vs attributive gedane which mostly occur in fixed expressions and are adjectival variants of gedoen, they have the same form in attributive and predicative context, e.g. verbode liefde forbidden love and Visvang is verbode Fishing is prohibited, respectively. The latter may also alternate with a regularised participle, but still in adjectival function, Visvang is nou verbied, or with a passive, as in Visvang word nou verbied. Fishing is now prohibited. However, this participle is not regularised attributively, e.g. as *verbiede liefde.

The formal contrast between a regular and a non-regularised departicipial adjective often corresponds with literal and figurative usage, e.g. 'n gebreekte bord a broken plate vs 'n gebroke huwelik a broken-up marriage, and gesluite vs geslote in the following:

a. probeer om by my gesluite kamer in te kom
try for.COMP at my locked.ADJ room in PTCL.INF come.INF
to try to enter my locked room
b. die lidmaat wat skynbaar geslote voorkom
the parishioner who.REL seemingly reserved.ADJ appear
the parishioner who seems to be reserved

The formal contrast may also be syntactically motivated, viz. between attributive and predicative usage:

a. 'n eenmaal geslote huwelik
a once contract.PST.PTCP.ATTR marriage
a marriage once contracted
b. 'n huwelik wat eenmaal gesluit is
a marriage which.REL once contract.ADJ be.PRS
a marriage once contracted

In some cases the non-regularised form has been relexified, e.g. opgewonde excited vs opgewen stressed, lit. wound up.

a. Maar ek is so opgewonde soos 'n kind
but.CNJ I be.PRS as excited.ADJ as a child
but I am as excited as a child
b. sy is so opgewen dat sy skaars kan praat
she is so stressed.ADJ that.COMP she scarcely can.AUX.MOD speak.INF
she is so stressed that she is scarcely able to speak
HAT, adapted

Sometimes both form types are used in a verbal and an adjectival sense:

my voorgeskryfde medikasie
my prescribed.ADJ.ATTR medication
my prescribed medication
die voorgeskryfde aantal gekleurde spelers
the prescribe.PST.PTCP.ATTR number coloured.ADJ.ATTR players
the prescribed number of coloured players
voorgeskrewe werke en handboeke
prescribed.ADJ.ATTR works and text.books
prescribed works and text books
Mnr Roux het goed gereageer op die voorgeskrewe medikasie
Mr Roux have.AUX well react.PST.PTCP to the prescribe.PST.PTCP.ATTR medication
Mr Roux reacted well to the medication prescribed for him

For the alternation between participles retaining their historical strong verb form in adjectival function, such as gebonde bound, and regularised past participles, such as gebind bound, also cf. Conradie (1979).

    printreport errorcite