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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versión On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versión impresa ISSN 0041-4751


WIERENGA, Roné  y  BREED, Adri. A diachronic approach to the development of the progressive periphrastic constructions in Afrikaans and Dutch: A corpus study. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2021, vol.61, n.2, pp.588-619. ISSN 2224-7912.

The progressive periphrastic constructions are a well published topic in Afrikaans and Dutch. Various publications outlining the individual forms and functions of the three dominant periphrastic progressives in Afrikaans and Dutch, namely the PREP-, besig- (or busy-construction), and CPV-constructions, as well as many publications comparing these constructions, among which the most prevalent is that of Breed, Brisard and Verhoeven (2017), and Breed and Brisard (2015), have taken a synchronic approach. The results of these publications indicated that whilst Afrikaans and Dutch share these three periphrastic constructions as markers of progressive aspect, there are numerous differences in the forms, functions and usage parameters of these constructions. Many of these differences are ascribed to divergent developmental circumstances due to the geographical placement of these language groups in the Netherlands and South-Africa. Since Afrikaans has its roots in 17th century Dutch it is assumed that these progressive periphrastic constructions in both languages originated from the same 17th century Dutch constructions. Therefore, the Afrikaans progressive periphrastic constructions are expected to be more similar to their Dutch counterparts in historical corpus data and that the differences that are currently visible have since developed due to grammaticalisation and language contact in South Africa. This article addresses the gap within the literature on this topic by following a diachronic approach to establish if these constructions were in fact more similar in late 17th century linguistic data from the Cape colonies than they currently are. A diachronic corpus study is undertaken in order to identify when these differences between the Afrikaans and Dutch progressive constructions became visible in the corpora over a period of nearly 300 years. The Tracing History Trust corpus (2011) consisting of handwritten dairy entries by the early Dutch settlers at the Cape, dating from the late 17th century to the late 18th century, is used as the primary corpus. The secondary corpus is the Historical corpus of Standard Afrikaans (2017) which is a stratified corpus containing Afrikaans texts from the 20th and early 21st centuries. Results show that, contrary to the expectation set forth by the synchronic publications, the progressive periphrastic constructions in Afrikaans and Dutch were not more similar in the 17th and 18th century than they currently are. Although many of the differences noted in synchronic studies were clearly visible in the corpora, it was found that some of these constructions had alternative forms in the past and some even had other functions and usage parameters than they currently have in either Afrikaans or Dutch. The dominant findings of each progressive periphrastic construction are: a) The aan het PREP-constructions were still primarily locative constructions and had yet to grammaticalise to aspectual markers denoting progressiveness, whilst the aan't-progressive was already becoming more specialised in the 17th and 18th century Cape-Dutch (or early Afrikaans); b) The besig met-construction was the most common progressive periphrastic construction in the 17th and 18th century and is most commonly spelled without the "z" characteristic of Dutch, whilst the popularity that the besig om te-progressive construction currently enjoys in Afrikaans is found to be a much more recent development than expressed in synchronic studies; c) Contrary to expectation, the CPV-progressive constructions do not commonly occur in the 17th and 18th century corpus data and take on a much more Afrikaans form than expected, especially considering that these are the most popular progressive periphrastic constructions in 21st century Dutch. This raises the possibility that the CPV-progressive constructions were incorporated into Dutch post 1652 via language contact in the Cape colony. This hypothesis provides interesting possibilities for future research.

Palabras clave : corpus linguistics; progressive periphrastic constructions; Afrikaans; Dutch; diachronic study; diachronic corpora; grammaticalisation; imperfect aspect; Tracing History Trust corpus; Historical Corpus of Standard Afrikaans.

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