The subjective use of postural verb in Afrikaans (I): Evolution from progressive to modal

  • Adri Breed School of Languages, Potchefstroom Campus, North-West University
Keywords: subjective, progressive, postural, modal use, CPV


A general linguistic use of progressive aspect is to express some kind of subjective meaning. In other words, this aspectual construction is applied to postulate the speaker’s attitude towards or emotional involvement with a particular situation. Although this practice occurs in all three Afrikaans progressive constructions, it is clear that the postural progressive in Afrikaans in particular became specialised with respect to subjective expression. The CPV [1] en construction is even used in constructions that cannot be interpreted as progressive situations (for example, stative or anterior situation types), and furthermore this construction collocates significantly strongly with negative communication verbs (verbs like skinder 'gossip', kla 'complain' and pla 'bother'). The subjective use of progressive constructions in Afrikaans has not received much attention to date. In two complementary articles (this article and The subjective use of postural verbs in Afrikaans (II): a corpus analysis of CPV en in Zefrikaans) the development and use of the CPV en as a subjective or interpretative construction, are investigated. Based on a relevant literature review, the purpose of this article is to propose a development route for the evolution of the subjective CPV en construction; and also to highlight some typical characteristics of the subjective CPV en construction, on the basis of a pilot corpus study. The modal CPV en construction develops in five phases. During the first two phases, the postural verb is used to express the physical or spatial orientation of the subject. During the third and fourth phases, the postural verb develops into an aspectual auxiliary verb. It is only in the fourth phase that the progressive construction is used in modal contexts. In the last, fifth phase, the progressive meaning of the CPV en construction fades completely and it evolves into a pure modal construction. The subjective CPV en construction is characterised by two typical characteristics: firstly, the construction is mostly used in negative contexts (such as insult, blame, self-reproach or judgment) and secondly, it is mainly used in informal or spoken language. It does not appear frequently in a corpus of written Standard Afrikaans.[1] The term CPV refers to cardinal postural verbs "which (commonly) profiles the Agent as assuming one of the [three] cardinal postures when carrying out the activity" (Lemmens 2005:1). In this article the four postural verbs sit 'sit', staan 'stand', lê 'lie' and loop 'walk' are regarded as CPVs. In most typological literature on postural verbs, loop ('walk') is not regarded as a postural verb, as it rather is a dynamic activity verb. However, as indicated by Breed (2012), loop in Afrikaans has the same semantic features, lexical form and grammatical function as the grammaticalised CPV en progressive, and in this article it is therefore considered and discussed entirely as a cardinal postural construction.


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Author Biography

Adri Breed, School of Languages, Potchefstroom Campus, North-West University
Senior Lecturer in Afrikaans linguisticsSubject group: Afrikaans and Dutch
How to Cite
Breed, A. (2017). The subjective use of postural verb in Afrikaans (I): Evolution from progressive to modal. Stellenbosch Papers in Linguistics Plus, 52, 1-21.