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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

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


BREED, Adri  and  VAN HUYSSTEEN, Gerhard. Aan die and besig in Afrikaans progressive constructions: the origin and development. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2014, vol.54, n.4, pp.708-725. ISSN 2224-7912.

Progressive aspect is a grammatical category which signifies that an event is continuing or taking place (Comrie 1976:33-36; Bybee et al. 1994:126). In two articles, this article and Breed and Van Huyssteen (submitted), we investigate the manner in which two periphrastic constructions, namely the VCOP besig om te V and the VCOP aan die V constructions, are used to express progressive meaning in Afrikaans. The discussions are based on a corpus investigation in which the three Afrikaans periphrastic progressive constructions (the two already mentioned) and the VPOS en V constructions are compared to each other (Breed 2012; Breed & Brisard submitted). Dutch has three similar constructions, and for this reason the constructions were also compared to the Dutch ones where relevant. Breed and Brisard (submitted) explain how the VPOS en construction is used to express progressive meaning. In this article and in Breed and Van Huyssteen (submitted) the focus is therefore on the specific manner in which the besig and aan die constructions are used as progressive markers. The main objective of this first article is to show the origin and development of the two constructions, while the focus of the second article is to demonstrate - on the basis of the results of the corpus investigation - the specific ways in which the constructions are used. The grammaticalisation theory offers insight into the manner in which grammatical constructions develop. For this reason, the origin, development and use of the two relevant periphrastic constructions were investigated from this perspective. Grammaticalisation can be described as the process of language change during which lexical constructions develop systematically into constructions with grammatical meaning (Bybee et al. 1994; Hopper & Traugott 2003; Lehmann 1995). This process of language change is characterised by specific mechanisms or characteristics, for instance universal routes, unidirectional change, lexical origin, semantic generalisation, an increase in frequency and re-analysis. This first article firstly explains the theory of grammaticalisation. The grammaticalisation of the Afrikaans auxiliary het is given as an example to illustrate specific relevant aspects of grammaticalisation. Secondly, it explains how the aan die and besig periphrastic constructions originate and develop. One of the most general lexical origins ofprogressives is constructions with locative meaning (Bybee et al. 1994:129). The motivation behind the development of a progressive from locative constructions is probably the connotation of "be in the place of VERBing" or "be at VERBing" (Bybee et al. 1994:129-130). The hypothesis offered by Bybee et al. (1994:131) is that, apart from a few exceptions, all progressive constructions develop from locative meaning. The aan die progressive is a construction of locative origin. The structure of the periphrastic construction can be divided into three parts: firstly, the introductory copulative verb; secondly, the locative aan preposition; and thirdly, the nominalised verb which is preceded by the definite article die [aan + die] has received unit status andforms the analysed construction of the periphrase. The aan die progressive therefore supports the hypothesis that progressive constructions develop from locative meanings. The besig progressive 's lexical origin differs from that of the aan die progressive, as well as from the VPOS en progressive (consult Breed 2012; Breed & Brisard submitted), due to the fact that this progressive construction does not have a locative origin. The word besig has a lexical meaning which implies that a subject is involved in a process which is continuing, and the development of this progressive construction is, therefore, lexically motivated.

Keywords : aspect; imperfective; progressive; periphrastic construction; grammaticalisation; Afrikaans; Dutch.

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