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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
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BREED, Adri  and  VAN HUYSSTEEN, Gerhard. Aan die and besig in Afrikaans progressive construction: A corpus investigation (2). Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2015, vol.55, n.2, pp.251-269. 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 & Van Huyssteen 2014), 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 2015). Dutch has three similar constructions, and for this reason the constructions were also compared to the Dutch ones where relevant. Breed and Brisard (2015) explains how the VPOS en construction is used to express progressive meaning. In this article and in Breed and Van Huyssteen (2014) the focus is therefore on the specific manner in which the besig and aan die constructions are used as progressive markers. 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. 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 (cf. Bybee et al. 1994:4-5; Croft 1990:257; Heine & Reh 1984:11-12; Hopper & Traugott 2003:1; Lehmann 1995:3). Breed and Van Huyssteen (2014) 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, namely universal routes, unidirectionality, lexical source, semantic bleaching, frequency and reanalysis. Secondly this article explains how the aan die and besig periphrastic constructions originate and develop. One of the most general lexical origins for progressive constructions is constructions with locative meaning (Bybee et al. 1994:129). The motivation behind the development of a progressive from locative constructions is probably due to 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 and forms the analysed construction of the periphrasis. 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 2015), 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 by means of a process which is continuing, and the development of this progressive construction is, therefore, lexically motivated. In this article, we investigate the frequency of these two constructions, as well as the verbs with which each of the constructions prototypically combine. The frequency of the two constructions was investigated in order to determine to what extent the constructions have been generalised. The aan die progressive (approximately 4,900 results in a corpus of circa 60 million words) appears significantly less frequently than the besig progressive (approximately 8,000 results). For the aan die construction a variant construction was also apparent, namely the aan 't progressive. This construction is, however, very scarce (only 330 results) and is seemingly archaic. Furthermore, it seems as though besig has been generalised to such an extent that the progressive use of this word (62%) in Afrikaans, is more frequent than the lexical use (38%). It seems as though the aan die construction forms strong collocations and has a few specialised uses, amongst others, to be combined with i) inchoative verbs (such as toeneem, afneem, taan and opbou); ii) idiomatic expressions such as aan die brand, aan die slaap andaan die rol; iii) process nouns such as aan die gang and aan die stuur, and iii) activity verbs. The aan 't progressive seems to be less specialised than the aandie progressive, although this construction is combined mainly with activity verbs. This construction is also generally found in contexts where a feeling of being "old-fashioned" or nostalgic is being conveyed, for example historical novels. The besig progressive combines with a great variety of verb types (i.e. activities, accomplishments and achievements). The frequency of transitive verbs with the besig progressive is also high in comparison to the other Afrikaans periphrastic progressive constructions.

Keywords : aspect; imperfective; progressive; periphrastic construction; grammati-calisation; Afrikaans; Dutch.

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