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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


CONRADIE, C. Jac. Is regtig really German richtig?. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2011, vol.51, n.4, pp.716-729. ISSN 2224-7912.

Afrikaans, Dutch and High German (henceforth A, D and G, respectively) have several modal particles in common. In the case of A regtig/rêrig there is a correspondence with G richtig, but not with D, as rechtig is virtually absent in D. A rêrig, from the reduplication form reg-reg, nevertheless derives from A reg and ultimately from D recht "right". The provenance of A regtig, however, is still in need of an explanation. Regtig/rêrig, a modal particle meaning "true/truly, real(-ly), actual(-ly) ", also functions as a reinforcing or scalar particle or as an interjection. As speakers of German settled at the Cape of Good Hope in large numbers from the 17th century onwards, the poss ibility is explored that the A form regtig developed under the influence of G richtig, in a process of convergence with its slightly more informal synonym rêrig. As A reg-reg is morphologically based on reg/recht, the functions of A reg(te) and D recht(e) will be delineated to begin with, followed by a discussion of the origins of the reduplicatedform reg-reg and its development towards rêrig, and the relationship between rêrig(e) and regtig(e). Finally, it will be shown that the modal functions of rêrig(e)/regtig(e) are also encountered in G richtig(e-), so that it seems likely that A regtig(e), as far as its form is concerned, arose at the Cape under German influence. Semantically, a distinction is first of all made between the referential sense of "right" in contrast to "wrong". In the three syntactic contexts to be distinguished, viz. attributive and predicative adjective and adverb, D employs recht(e), A reg(te) and G richtig(e-). In the modal sense of "true/truly, real(-ly), actual(-ly) " D has obsolete recht(e); D echt(e), which seems to be the general "replacement" of recht(e), is not discussed further. In this sense, A has regte in attributive function, while reg is not encounteredpredicatively and is obsolete in adverbial function. Besides attributive A regte, the forms regtige and rêrige have become common, matched predicatively by regtig and rêrig. The latter forms are the forms used par excellence in adverbial function, i.e. as modal particles, and G richtig is often encountered in this function. Though the distinction between the modal and reinforcing uses is not clear-cut, both A regtig/rêrig and G richtig are employed as reinforcers, as well as being employed as negation mitigators (A nie regtig/rêrig, G nicht richtig) and as interjections. A conspicuous difference between D and A, therefore, is that A regte, unlike D rechte, may occur in attributive function in a modal sense. In the other modal and reinforcing (or mitigating) functions D recht and A reg have no role to play. The reduplicated form reg-reg is well attested in earlier A. Reduplication as a productive morphological device in A is said to derive from Malay, inter alia. G. S. Nienaber, however, claims that modal reg-reg, as a semantic entity, derives from Khoi - a language which also makes use of reduplication. The Khoi equivalent of A reg-reg "really" is said to form a contrastive pair in Khoi with the equivalent of A glo "allegedly ". Reg-reg was therefore imported into A by Khoi LI speakers transferring to A. Regarding the problem of how reg-reg, phonetically [rsxrsx], changed to rêrig, [rersx], I would like to hypothesize that the change was mediated by the uvular pronunciation of r, which is common in areas in the vicinity of Cape Town. A pronunciation [ReyRex] would readily be assimilated to [REREX], which would be converted to [rerexj by speakers with an apical r. Given that regtig [rextsxj was already present as a variant and the tendency of vowel reduction, the schwa in current rêrig [rersx] is readily explained. This raises the question of the relationship between regtig and rêrig. While on the one hand rêrig is the result ofa reduplicative process, regtig, on the other, could have been formed according to a familiar pattern for A, viz. the productive -ig suffix affixed to an underlying stem regt-, as in regte (plural and attributive form), regtens, tc. Modal regte in adverbial function was attested in earlier A, and could even have been a "veiled" representation of regtig. It is therefore neither possible to conclude that regtig was derived from rêrig, nor rêrig from regtig. The relationship between regtig(e)/rêrig(e), on the one hand, and reg(te) on the other, also merits our attention. It seems that regtig and rêrig are both used as modal particles, function as negative mitigators (hie regtig/rêrig) and as interjections. In referential sense these forms are found neither in adjectival, nor in adverbial function. This semantic field belongs to reg(te) exclusively. Modal usage and adjectival function may be looked upon as a border area. Predicatively we only encounter regtig/rêrig; reg is excluded. Attributively regtige/rêrige compete with reg as slightly less formal or more emotive variants. In conclusion one might say that regtig/rêrig typically have a modal and adverbial origin. From there they spread to an adjectival context where they compete with regte, while retaining their modal sense. G richtig(e-) is encountered in both referential and modal functions (including reinforcing and mitigating functions and as interjection) and as adjective as well as adverb. It therefore covers the fields not only of A regtig(e)/rêrig(e) but also of A reg(te), D recht(e) and D echt(e). Though its modal usages are overshadowed by its referential usage, at least in written texts, it seems likely that its presence in spoken G at the Cape during the 17th and 18th centuries facilitated the convergence of a form regtig(e) as variant of rêrig(e) - regtig(e) being similar in meaning to rêrig(e) and moreover in keeping with A derivation.

Keywords : Afrikaans; convergence; Dutch; German; interjection; Khoi; Malay; modal particle; negative mitigation; reduplication; reinforcement.

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