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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

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


KIRSTEN, Johanita. Changes in adverbial temporal reference in Afrikaans from 1911 to 2010. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2016, vol.56, n.1, pp.45-61. ISSN 2224-7912.

The Afrikaans tense system simplified somewhat in its development from Dutch, retaining only the present tense (which is unmarked), and a past tense (marked by the auxiliary verb "het" and, usually, the verbal prefix "ge-") based loosely on the Dutch present perfect tense. In order to express more specific and fine-grained temporal reference, speakers and writers of Afrikaans frequently draw on additional linguistic options, including temporal adverbs (for example "toe" (then), "gister" (yesterday), "oormöre" (the day after tomorrow)) and preposition phrases (for example "in die aand" (in the evening)). The tense system of Afrikaans shows few radical changes during the past century, after the standardisation of Afrikaans eliminated the last remnants of the extended Dutch tense system. However, the use of temporal adverbs has been much less stable. This article investigates the use of the temporal adverbs "nou" (now), "toe" (when/then) and "dan" (then) in diachronic Afrikaans corpora that covers a century of language use, including specifically the periods 1911-1920, 1941-1950, 1971-1980 and 2001-2010, with more or less 261 000 words per period, represented by text samples from a variety of written genres. The genres included are: fiction, biographical texts, news reports, informative texts, religious texts, texts from the humanities, texts from the natural sciences, and manuscripts (letters and diary entries). The abovementioned lexical items ("nou", "toe " and "dan") are some of the most frequently used adverbs in Afrikaans according to the corpora used in this article, and their frequent use is also noted by Van der Merwe (1996:91) - however, temporal reference is not the only functions that these lexical items perform. During the course ofthe twentieth century, the use ofthese lexical items, as temporal adverbs and otherwise, shows some significant changes. Specifically "nou" and "dan" show a radical decline in overall use as well as temporal use, and the different uses of "toe " are also not stable throughout. The lexical item "nou" is used predominantlyfor temporal reference, although its overall use and temporal use decrease significantly. The different types of temporal reference for which "nou" is used do not show significant changes other than reflecting the overall decrease. The overall use of "dan" shows the most radical decrease ofthe three lexical items in question, although the temporal use decreases the least. There are some noticeable changes with regard to the different temporal uses, showing a slight increase in uses referring to the future. The use of "toe" is predominantly temporal throughout, although there is a slight decrease in temporal usage, and some shift to the historical present in the tense accompanying the temporal uses. One explanation offered for these changes is the increasing use of more specific and less context dependent temporal adverbs, like "terwyl" (while) and "wanneer" (when), which indicates a partial shift in the functional load from the more general temporal adverbs to some that are more specific andfine-grained. While there is not a compensatory increase in one specific temporal adverb to account for the decrease of the abovementioned ones, there are a number of more specific temporal adverbs that show some increase, pointing to a noticeable tendency. The abovementioned shift towards more specific temporal adverbs also relates to the broader socio-cultural context of Afrikaans during the course of the century, which includes the persistent and ongoing standardisation as well as the expansion of contexts of (formal) use until shortly before the lastperiod. The increasing formality and sophistication ofthe demands put on Afrikaans aided the formalisation of the language, where more formal, specific and seemingly sophisticated options in linguistic expression became more attractive and were used increasingly. This tendency is further confirmed by the decrease of the use of the lexical items "nou" and especially "dan" as discourse markers, as the use of discourse markers is associated with more involved (compared to more informative) language use (Biber 1998:148).

Palavras-chave : Afrikaans; tense; temporal reference; absolute temporal reference; relative temporal reference; temporal adverbs; corpus; diachronie corpus linguistics; frequency; formalisation.

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