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Afrikaans morphology

This section of Taalportaal is about the morphology of Afrikaans, with the following main sub-sections:

  • Word formation: The two main word formation processes in Afrikaans are affixation (more narrowly also called derivation) and compounding, while conversion and subtraction (i.e. subtractive processes) also feature prominently in the morphology. The infrequent but productive process of univerbation is also discussed in this sub-section.
  • List of affixes: The most productive, prominent, and/or interesting (unique) affixes of Afrikaans are presented in individual topics. While the aim of scope is width rather than depth, a select few affixes (like -baar and -ies) are discussed in more detail.
  • Themes: A number of special themes in descriptive and theoretical morphology, and how it pertains (or could pertain) to Afrikaans, is introduced in this sub-section. These include:
    • {UNDER CONSTRUCTION} Allomorphy, specifically the distinction between stem allomorphy and affix allomorphy.
    • {UNDER CONSTRUCTION} Construction-dependent morphology, including discussions on the associative plural, and pseudo-participles.
    • {UNDER CONSTRUCTION} Inflection, specifically whether it is at all possible or necessary to view inflection as a separate morphological process/category in Afrikaans.
    • {UNDER CONSTRUCTION} Morphological networks, like the morphology of numerals and geospatial direction names, names for inhabitants of geographical entities, formation of person names, the morphology of terminology in the medical domain and in chemistry, negative and pejorative morphology, etc.
    • {UNDER CONSTRUCTION} Morphology-phonology interface, with specific attention to the prosodic structure of compounds, and the relation between prosody and morphology.
    • {UNDER CONSTRUCTION} Morphological productivity.

[+]Afrikaans morphology research: a very brief (and subjective) history

If modern linguistic morphology is a relatively young and small field of study internationally, then it is all the more true for Afrikaans. Combrink (1990:427-435) provided a comprehensive bibliography of all publications on Afrikaans morphology (or loosely related publications, excluding publications from computer linguistics) until July 1989. He listed a total of 213 publications, the oldest of which dates from 1932 and deals with the use of diminutive forms in Afrikaans (Hoge 1932).

A search on the Digital Bibliography of Afrikaans Linguistics revealed that Wittmann's (1928) thesis ("Die sprachgeschichtliche Entwicklung des Deflexionstypus im Afrikaans") on the loss of inflection (a.k.a. deflection) in Afrikaans might be the oldest publication dedicated exclusively to the morphology of Afrikaans.

Van Huyssteen (2017) noted that 49 publications on Afrikaans morphology appeared from 1990 to 2016, with a further thirteen related to Afrikaans computational morphology. A more correct and extended bibliography – covering the period from July 1989 to the present – can be found here. Also consult the Digital Bibliography of Afrikaans Linguistics for up-to-date references.

The two most important (and most comprehensive) publications on Afrikaans morphology are surely Willem Kempen's Samestelling, afleiding en woordsoortelike meerfunksionaliteit in Afrikaans (translated title: Composition, derivation and conversion in Afrikaans) (1969), and Johan Combrink's Afrikaanse morfologie: capita exemplaria (translated title: Afrikaans morphology: capita exemplaria (1990). These two works are the standard works on Afrikaans morphology, and also forms the foundation for all topics discussed on Taalportaal. The most recent overview of Afrikaans morphology is Van Huyssteen (2017).

In addition to the work of these authors, the contributions of the following Afrikaans morphologists/linguists can also serve as starting points for further study (in alphabetical order): Rudie Botha; Anna Coetzee; Jac Conradie; Gert de Klerk; Meyer de Villiers; Alf Jenkinson; Francois Odendal; Marthinus Posthumus.

[+]Research ideas and topics

While writing material for Taalportaal, all the authors tried to identify some essential and/or interesting research themes and topics for students and scholars. Here follows a few ideas on possible research questions/topics that could be addressed in Afrikaans morphology research in the foreseeable future.

  • New descriptions
    A large number of morphological constructions have yet to be described in Afrikaans. A few examples suffice:
    • many affixes and affix families/cluster – their etymology, formal qualities, productivity, etc. – still need to be described in much more detail;
    • constructions of degrees of comparison (see AWS-11, chapter 16 for a first attempt to formalise these constructions);
    • derivations to form personal names and adjectives of domestic and foreign geographical names (for example, Amsterdam Amsterdam > Amsterdamm·er person from Amsterdam > Amsterdam·s related to Amsterdam) (see Van Huyssteen and Davel (2010) for some early computational explorations);
    • polymorphemic constructions (for example, anti·koper·kabel·dief·stal·een·hed·e anti-copper cable theft units);
    • the nature and development of affixoids;
    • the systematics of subtractive processes (Coetzee 2000) in general and specifically in SMS language (Olivier 2013);
    • the extent of univerbation in Afrikaans;
    • the morphology of Afrikaans proper names, like first names and place names;
    • and so on, and so on.

  • Updating/revising existing descriptions
    Existing descriptions can be revisited in order to test hypotheses on the basis of more comprehensive corpora available today, as well as some of the latest theoretical insights. For example:
    • various affixes discussed by Kempen (1969) and Combrink (1990);
    • the plural construction (see AWS-11, chapter 14 as a point of departure, but also, in chronological order, Sieberhagen (1949); De Klerk (1962); Combrink (1993); and Wissing (1996));
    • the reduplication construction (see Van Huyssteen and Wissing 2007 and reference therein);
    • the diminutive construction (see Coetzee and Kruger 2004 and references therein);
    • attributive adjectives (see Kotzé 2009 and references therein, as well as the Taalportaal topic on attribution);
    • interfixes (see Trollip 2016, and Trollip and Van Huyssteen 2018);
    • participles (see Butler 2014);
    • compounds with and derivations of multi-word proper names (for example Middellandse See-bootreis Mediterranean cruise'; see Van Huyssteen 2016);
    • and so on, and so on.

  • Themes
    Of course, numerous new themes in morphology can also be explored, of which a few examples are listed below.
    • The debate on the distinction between inflection and derivation in Afrikaans has not yet been decided. New insights from new theories and new data could reconsider and re-describe the views presented here on Taalportaal.
    • There will probably be always numerous topics in compounding to explore further or in new depths. For example, the nature of and distinction between different types of subordinate compounds could be made clear, the occurrence of specific types of compounds must be described on the basis of corpus data, a classification based on part-of-speech categories need to be done, the role of metaphor and metonymy in the formation of compounds should be investigated, and so on. Also, the distinction between parasynthetic compounding, compositional compounding, and separable complex verbs should be made clearer, preferably by means of corpus data. Theoretical insights from, for example, construction morphology could contribute to more clearly explaining and modelling these distinctions.
    • Comparative and contrastive descriptions with Dutch and other Germanic languages are also fruitful areas for research. For example, it can be described how Afrikaans and Dutch compounds differ and why, or to what extent, Germanic languages have more or less subtractive phenomena, or the use of different types of constructions in different languages to express aspect, for example. Such types of research will provide insight into the grammaticalisation or lexicalisation of particular constructions in the respective languages, which in turn may provide insight into the development and change of language in general.
    • Computational modelling of many morphological processes could also bring new insights to the description of such processes. For example:
      • Much can be done to model the semantic relationships in different types of compounds (for example, the difference between eet+kamer+tafel eat+room+table dining table, kombuis+tafel kitchen+table kitchen table, and hout+tafel wood+table wooden table).
      • Simulation of affixation in general, but also specific affixation processes (for example, person name formers), could not only provide insight into morphological information storage and processing, but could also be a valuable resource for linguistic descriptions.
      • Afrikaans still lacks a complete morphological analyser. An affix database (also known as a derivational database, similar to the well-known English, German and Dutch CELEX database, or the multilingual DeriNet), a compounding database (like CompoNet), and other similar resources could be of great value towards developing such an analyser.
    • Very little psycholinguistic research has been done in and about Afrikaans (and specifically Afrikaans morphology). By following in the footsteps of Dutch researchers, interesting comparative studies can be done on the interfix, or on plural formation in Afrikaans. The psycholinguistic links between morphology and spelling (such as, for example, the influence on conceptualisation of the orthographic tradition in Afrikaans to style compounds as one word) could also be explored. For example, psycholinguistic research could also establish what the cognitive reality (or not) of schemas is, which can eventually provide more insight into memory and the human processing of language in general.
    • Sociolinguistic research on variation in Afrikaans morphology is by and large restricted to small sections in sociolinguistic publications on the varieties of Afrikaans. First order of business could be to do a literature survey of existing knowledge on variation in Afrikaans morphology, which could then lead to data-driven projects that would provide a better understanding of the spread of variety in the Afrikaans community.

[+]Symbols, abbreviations and glossing conventions

See the extensive section on morphology on the page about notations and symbols for presenting examples.

Also see this page regarding abbreviations used in glosses, and abbreviations for dictionaries, corpora, etc.

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