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Adjective phrase arguments

An adjective phrase is used as complement of the verb in a limited number of constructions in Afrikaans. The AP is the most typical complementive, used in copular, resultative or stative transitive constructions. This use of the AP is illustrated by example (1).

My voete is baie sag.
my feet be.PRS very soft
My feet are very soft.

The AP is also used to express measurements, like the temporal duration, weight or cost of something, with appropriate verbs like duur to last, weeg to weigh or kos to cost, as illustrated by example (2). NP measurement phrases are more common, but for generalised, approximate or vague measurements, an AP suffices as well.

Eerlikheid kos duur.
honesty cost.PRS expensive
Honesty is expensive.
[+]AP complementives

Adjective phrase complementives occur freely with all three types of constructions that take complementives. In the copular construction, an AP typically encodes an attribute or characteristic that is assigned to the syntactic subject, the carrier of that attribute, as illustrated by example (1) and also by the examples in (3).

a. My rug is weer beter.
My back is better again.
PCSA, adjusted
b. Sy blare is groot.
Its leaves are big.
c. Mens se herinneringe bly maar altyd vars.
One's recollections do always stay fresh.

In the resultative construction, an AP typically encodes an attribute or characteristic that the object acquires as a result of the activity performed by the subject, or that some external force causes a subject or object to acquire. The object may also be reflexive, in which case the subject's activity results in the subject him/herself acquiring the new characteristic. These options are illustrated by the examples in (4).

a. Klits die eierwitte styf.
Beat the egg whites stiff.
b. Op pad terug kamp toe, reën hulle waternat.
On their way back to the camp, they became drenchingly wet from the rain.
c. Die bra oefen homself spasties, maar speel amper nooit nie.
This guy trains himself into the ground, but almost never plays a game.

The stative transitive construction is syntactically similar to the transitive resultative, but there is a semantic difference. The resultative construction denotes an activity that leads to the coming into existence of a particular end state, while the stative transitive expresses a desire or an attitude towards a particular state in which the object may already be. The verbs are usually mental verbs that represent a subjective perspective, as illustrated by the examples in (5).

a. Ek vind dit moeilik om nee te sê.
I find it difficult to say no.
b. Ouma Lenie hou van haar steak baie gaar.
Grandma Lenie likes her steak well done.
M. van der Vyfer: Al wat ek weet, 2016, adjusted
[+]AP measurement phrases

Verbs that denote a measurement require a complement that expresses the measured quantity. This is done easily by means of a noun phrase that contains numerals and the measurement scale, be that a time scale in hours for temporal duration, a length scale in meter for physical size, a weight in kilogram, or a currency scale in Rand. It is also possible to express the measurement in an approximate fashion by means of an adjective phrase, as illustrated by the examples in (6), where the adjective gives a general idea of the magnitude, typically picking the outer poles of the measurement scale, like lank long/tall and kort short for length or duration measurements, or swaar heavy and lig light for weight measurements. The adjective phrase allows for further refinement by means of modifying adverbs that can refine the scale, by boosting or toning down the adjective, e.g. baie much/very or taamlik fairly.

a. Sy vrede het maar bitter kort geduur.
His peace lasted for a very short while only.
a.' Hierdie vreemde gedrag het nogal lank geduur.
This strange behaviour lasted rather long.
b. Hierdie messe en vurke weeg swaar in sy hand.
These knifes and forks weigh heavy in his hand.
b.' Moody's se besluit weeg lig teen Covid-19.
Moody's decision doesn't measure up against Covid-19.
H. Stadler: Netwerk24
c. ...daardie rok wat jou so duur gekos het...
...that dress that cost you so much...
c.' Dit kos min om 'n ma van 'n tienerseun gelukkig te laat voel.
It costs little to make the mother of a teenage boy happy.

The idea of measurement is not restricted to physical measurements. As the examples above show, a decision can also have weight (6b'), and emotions can also have cost (6c'). Metaphoric extension is therefore quite possible, building on the basic pattern of concrete measurement. For abstract measurements, precise numerical scales are usually not meaningful at all, except when used hyperbolically, whereas adjectival measurement phrases are quite appropriate and in widespread use.

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