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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versão On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versão impressa ISSN 0041-4751


CONRADIE, C. Jac. Willing and knowing: Perspectives on the Afrikaans verb wil. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2016, vol.56, n.1, pp.7-24. ISSN 2224-7912.

The Afrikaans verb wíl, a cognate of English will but closer in meaning to "want to", is usually employed as an auxiliary rather than a main verb and is defined, inter alia, as "to wish, desire, intend, be able, resolve, be prepared, be willing, be on the verge of, and is used to express wishes and as a reduplication form (wil-wil). This paper endeavours to show that most of these nuances of meaning and usages are derivable from a core meaning of "preparatory action" and two perspectives on this. If"wíl is compared to other modal verbs, it appears that though it has certain syntactic and semantic features in common with them, it nevertheless differs greatly from them in many other respects. Historically, wíl differs from most other modal verbs in being semantically stable. Afrikaans wíl differs from other Afrikaans modals in several respects. (a) Wíl is not used epistemically. (b) Wíl can be used as a transitive verb and is the only modal to have a past participle, viz. gewíl. (c) Only wíl has a derivation resembling a present participle, viz. welwíllende "benevolent". (d) In passive sentences, wíl remains subject oriented, i.e. retains the grammatical subject as its agent - for example Sy wíl gesíen word "She wants to be seen". (e) Wees doubles with word as a passive auxiliary in a construction such as Sy wíl gesíen wees deur díe mense "She wants to be seen by the people". (f) Only wíl (and its preterite form wou) reduplicates, as in wíl-wíl and wou-wou. It is argued that wíl primarily expresses preparatory action - "preparatory" to distinguish it from a distinctly different action resulting from wíl or an ensuing state of affairs, as in Hy wíl wen "He wants to win", or Sy wíl ryk wees "She wants to be rich". "Action" is considered a suitable common denominator, as it could refer to anything from mental action to forces of nature. "Action" is taken to contrast with concepts such as "knowledge, attitude, obligation, ability, permission", etc. not expressing an activity as such. Most of the semantic nuances of wíl are derivable from two perspectives on wíl, an internal and external one, to be distinguished as wíl1and wíl2. The action character of wíl is supported by grammatical factors such as the following: (i) In the series Ek kan/moet wen (" can/must win"); ek wil wen ("I want to win"); ek gaan/ sal wen ("I am going to/will win"); ek het gewen ("I won"), where each proposition implies the previous, it seems as though the action culminating in "I won" commences with "I want to win". (ii)The fact that wíl, unlike other modal verbs, retains the sentential subject as agentive even in passive sentences, as in Hy wíl bederf word "He wants to be spoilt", is another indication that that wíl expresses an action. (iii)The sentences Ek wens jy wil weggaan! "I wish you will go away" and Ek wens jy gaan weg! "I wish you go away" are virtually synonymous, whereas substituting moet "must" for wíl, as in Ek wens jy moet weggaan "I wish you have to go away", changes the objective of the wish to a particular state of affairs. If we accept that a wish containing wíl (first sentence) has the same illocutionary force as one not supplemented by a modal verb (second sentence), and both presuppose that a certain action be taken by the addressee, then it follows that wíl is closely associated to action. One way to look at wíl is through an "inner" perspective. It is claimed that one only has access to one's own mental states - which would include the "meaning" of wíl - in a direct and noninferential way. To this may be added the role of language in creating an intersubjective awareness of the meaning of wíl. Though the meaning of wíl may seem absolutely clear to the user of the word and between language users, in reality this may not be the case at all. While a projection of wíl on another person in a request such as Wil jy (nie) asseblief die deur toemaak (nie)? "Will/won't you please close the door?" still remains within the bounds ofwhat is understood under wil, projections on non-humans as in Daardie muskiet wil my byt! "That mosquito wants to bite me!" and even onto a vehicle, as in My kar wil nie vat nie! "My car doesn t want to start!," may be far from intentional wil in the "human" sense of "desiring to" or "intending to". Quite another use of wil is found when wil is reduplicated, as in My kar wil-wil vat "My car is about to start", where anterior aspect is indicated. In sum, the "internal"perspective on what will be referred to as wil1may be characterised in two ways. Firstly, negation is possible, as in Hy wil nie nog drank hê nie "He doesn t want any more liquor", though generally not in speech acts. A second characteristic is that reduplication is excluded, viz. *Ek wil-wil eendag Everest beklim, to mean "I want to climb Everest one day". Next we may consider an "external" perspective on wil, to be referred to as wil2. In a proposition such as Dit wil reën "'Rain is imminent", wil is used in the sense of "to be on the verge/point of or "to be threatening". Wil here refers to a force of nature. An internally motivated action in nature only becomes obvious when some kind of change is observed. Thus we can only say "Rain is imminent" when dark rain clouds and chilly gusts of wind, etc. are in evidence. As the initiator is not observable, it is of necessity identical to that of the force itself. Thus, in Dit wil reën, literally "It wants to rain", the volitive force of wil and the action of raining - though distinct as forces or actions - are assumed to have the same origin or source. In its association with "imminence", the modal auxiliary wil is further grammaticalised to express anterior aspect. The ability of the speaker to handle two perspectives on the same action at the same time by "dividing" him-/herself into two persons, is referred to by Leiss (2012: 45-46) as "double displacement". An action characterised as being "on the verge of" cannot be negated, as it is not possible for an action to be on the verge of taking place and not taking place at the same time. While wil1, as was noted above, can be projected onto non-humans and even objects, wil2, as an auxiliary expressing anterior aspect, can be applied to propositions with human subjects, such as Sy wil huil "She is about to cry, is on the verge of crying". In sum, wil2, unlike wil1, cannot be negated. However, wil2can be reduplicated, e.g. Dit wil-wil reën "It is threatening to rain". This has the effect of emphasizing the imminence of the rain. Reduplication in Afrikaans has the function, inter alia, of highlighting various kinds of repetition, one of which is repetition as part of an effort to achieve a goal, for example Hy hap-hap na sy aanvaller, literally "He snaps-snaps at his attacker", i.e. keeps snapping at his attacker. If we assume a pragmatic link between an effort that is not completely successful and an action that is on the verge of being realised, the previous example may be seen to bear a semantic resemblance to Hy wil-wil sy aanvaller byt, "He is on the verge of biting his attacker". Finally, the difference between wil1, meaning "to want to, wish, intend, desire", etc., and wil2, meaning "being on the point/verge of" and expressing anterior aspect, is related to the difference between an interior ("inner") and exterior ("outer") perspective on "will", conceived of as an action, whether mental or physical in nature. The two perspectives are, however, not in absolute contrast with each other but may merge into each other so that a continuum between the two may be assumed. For example, the following sentence may be taken to describe a man recovering from a coma:   Soms lyk dit asof hy sy oë wil-wil oopmaak,   sometimes seem it as-if he his eyes want-to REDUP open-make maar of die inspanning te groot is. (I. Winterbach) but if the effort too great is "Sometimes it seems as though he is about to open his eyes, but it is too great an effort." As he is getting closer to regaining consciousness (i.e. from being "on the verge of), the gradual opening of his eyes is transformed to an act of will (cf. inspanning "effort") until he consciously strives to open his eyes.

Palavras-chave : continuum; double displacement; epistemic; external perspective; grammaticalization; internal perspective; modal verb; observational perspective; passive; projection; reduplication; speech act; volitive action; will.

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