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Infinitive complement clauses: syntactic distribution
quickinfo

Infinitive complement clauses in Afrikaans are used in three main syntactic roles: object clause, subject clause and predicate clause. The full infinitive clause with complementiser omfor/in order and infinitive particle teto is used in all three roles, as illustrated by example (1) to (3), with no obvious limitations.

Example 1

Holtzhausen dwing homself om iets te eet.
Holtzhausen force himself COMP something to eat
Holtzhausen forces himself to eat something.
TK
[Object clause]
Example 2

Om te skryf, gee vorm aan gedagtes.
COMP to write give form to thoughts
To write gives shape to thoughts.
TK
[Subject clause]
Example 3

'n Ander alternatief is om 'n wapen buite werking te stel.
an other alternative be.PRS COMP a weapon out.of order to set
Another alternative is to let a weapon be deactivated.
TK
[Predicate clause]

All three full infinitive complement clause positions can also be combined with a WH-interrogative, as illustrated by (4), to form an interrogative infinitive complement clause.

Example 4

Hy weet self nie wat om daarvan te dink nie.
he know self NEG what COMP there-of to think NOT
He doesn't know himself what to think of that.
TK

The bare infinitive clause is used as verb complement clause in a specific subset of constructions: aspectual verbs, as illustrated by (5), direct and indirect linking verbs, as illustrated by (6) and (7), and causative verbs, as illustrated by (8).

Example 5

Die wurm kan maande lank aanhou eiers sonder om weer te paar.
the worm can months long continue eggs lay.INF without COMP again to mate
The worm can continue to lay eggs for months without having to mate again
TK
Example 6

Klara kom vir Heidi kuier.
Klara come for Heidi visit.INF
Klara comes to visit Heidi.
TK
Example 7

Hy kon skaars loop en praat.
he could hardly walk and talk.INF
He was hardly able to talk while walking.
TK, adjusted
Example 8

Ek maak die muskietring staan langs my matras.
I make the mosquito-ring stand.INF beside my matrass
I put the mosquito ring upright next to my matrass.
TK, adjusted

In addition, if quite infrequently, the bare infinitive clause can be used as subject or predicate clause, with a limited set of options compared to the full infinitive clause. These two uses are illustrated by (9) and (10).

Example 9

Standpunt stel is moeilik.
viewpoint state.INF is difficult
To state a viewpoint is difficult.
Ponelis (1979: 431)
[Subject clause]
Example 10

Dis net hierdie toets wen.
it.is only this test win.INF
It's really to win this test.
Ponelis (1979: 430)
[Predicate clause]

The te-infinitive is no longer a productive verb complement construction in Afrikaans. It is limited to a small number of predicate constructions after copular verbs like blykappear or skynseem, as exemplified by (11), or other predicate clause uses that are mostly idiomatic expressions that do not allow easy extension to other verbs, exemplified by (12). Further testimony to its archaic and idiomatic status is the fact that in a number of cases, an inflected infinitive verb, with suffix [-e], is used, as shown by (13). Infinitive inflection no longer occurs elsewhere in Afrikaans.

Example 11

Tot sy verbasing blyk alles reg te wees.
to his surprise appear everything right to be.INF
To his surprise, everything appears to be in order.
TK
Example 12

'n Papegaai kon ek nie te huur kry nie.
a parrot could I NEG to rent.INF get NEG
I couldn't get a parrot to rent.
TK
Example 13

Sy opvoeding het veel te wense oorgelaat.
his education have much to desire.INF left
His education left much to be desired.
TK

Apart from its verb complement uses, the full infinitive in Afrikaans is also used as noun and adjective complement clause, and as adverbial clause that specifies reason. The adverbial clause use is sometimes very similar in surface word order to the verb complement clause use, as shown by example (14).

Example 14

'n Wye verskeidenheid onverwagte materiale word aangewend om dié boodskappe oor te dra.
a wide variety unexpected materials are used in.order these messages over to carry.INF
A wide variety of unexpexted maerials are used to convey these messages.
TK
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[+] Introduction

The distribution of the full infinitive complement clause is very similar to the finite infinitive clauses. The object, subject and predicate positions are quite common and the use of the full infinitive complement clause is not widely restricted. The subject clause use of the infinitive complement clause is more frequent than any of the finite clause options, though. The main distinctions are semantic, and are analysed in the section on the lexical and semantic associations .

Similar to the finite complement clauses, the full infinitive clause also varies between the dit-extraposition (DE) and clause-initial variant (CI) when used as subject clause. The DE variant is the more frequent of the two, as it is for the various finite complement clause types, but the CI is more widely used in combination with infinitive clauses than it is with any of the finite complement clauses. These further options are analysed in more detail below.

The bare infinitive clause is subject to a number of restrictions when used as subject or predicate clause, particularly pertaining to further elements besides the infinitive verb form. It is not compatible with extensive adverbial modification, and the phrasal complements of the verb are also limited to a small subset of modifying options.

The infinitive complement clause and adverbial clauses of reason are formally identical in some contexts, although adverbial clauses have a positional flexibility that infinitive complement clauses do not have. A comparison is drawn below to identify salient differences between these two uses of infinitive clauses.

[+] Dit-extraposition variant of the infinitive subject clause

Infinitive subject clauses offer the choice between the dit-extraposition (DE) and clause-initial variant (CI). The DE variant is subject to very few constraints as far as the subject clause itself is concerned. The basic syntactic pattern is [dit + COPULAR VERB + PREDICATE + SUBJECT CLAUSE], as illustrated by example (15) to (17).

Example 15

Dit is maklik [om te verstaan waar die storie vandaan kom].
it is easy COMP to understand where the story of.from come
It is easy to understand where the story comes from.
PCSA
Example 16

Dit is ’n onvergeetlike ervaring [om te sien wat ’n mens doen omdat jy graag vry wil wees].
it is an unbelievable experience COMP to see what a human do because you eager free want.to be
It is an unbelievable experience [to see what people can do because they are eager to be free].
PCSA
Example 17

Dit is in die mode [om dwelms te gebruik].
it is in the fashion COMP drugs to use
It is fashionable to use drugs.
Potchefstroom Herald, 13 Oct 2014

Example (15) shows the most frequent subtype, where the copular verb is the present tense form isbe.PRS in combination with an adjectival predicate. Predicates can also be expressed by noun phrases, as shown by example (16), or preposition phrases, as shown by example (17).

The verb isbe.PRS can be used in the past tense or in combination with modal verbs, as shown by example (18) and (19), although these options are not frequently exploited by users. Alternatively, a few other verb and predicate combinations, mostly of an idiomatic nature, are possible, as shown by example (20) and (21).

Example 18

Dit was nie vir ons moontlik [om Wimpie se toergeld te betaal nie].
it be.PST NEG for us possible COMP Wimpie GEN tour.money to pay NEG
It was not possible for us to pay Wimpie's travel money.
TK
Example 19

Dit sou belangrik wees [om ʼn verkeersregisterstelsel te hê].
it would important be.INF COMP a traffic-register-system to have
It would be important to have a traffic registration system.
PCSA
Example 20

Dit kan egter nog jare neem [om die plan tot uitvoer te bring].
it can however still years take COMP the plan to execution to bring
It can however still take years to execute the plan.
TK
Example 21

Dit maak sin [om dalk eerder iets te gee vir iemand wat niks het nie].
it make sense COMP perhaps rather something to give for somebody who nothing have NEG
It makes sense to rather give something to somebody who has nothing.
TK
[+] Clause-initial variant of the infinitive subject clause

While the clause-initial (CI) variant of the infinitive subject clause occurs less frequently than the DE variant, it still occurs more frequently than the CI variant of the declarative or interrogative subject clause. It is syntactically much more variable than the DE variant, and takes a wide range of verbs and verb complements. The syntactically simpler variant that corresponds to the DE patterns is attested, as illustrated by example (22), but the CI variant is selected more often when the verb phrase, including complements, is syntactically more complex, as illustrated by example (23) and (24).

Example 22

[Om stilte te vind], is dikwels baie moeilik.
COMP silence to find be.PRS often very difficult
To find some quiet is often very difficult.
TK
Example 23

[Om die 6.5 ton- landmyn- en ballisties-bestande wonderwa te koop], sit egter nie in elke man se broeksak nie.
COMP the 6.5 tonne landmine and ballistic-proof wonder.wagon to buy sit however NEG in every man GEN trouser.pocket NEG
To buy the 6.5 tonne dream truck that is landmine and ballistic proof doesn’t, however, sit comfortably in every man’s pocket.
TK
Example 24

[Om 'n kinderkamer te versier] is soos om 'n kind groot te maak.
To decorate a child’s room is like raising a child.
TK
[+] Constraints on the use of the bare infinitive clause

Bare infinitive clauses occur as complements to a number of specific verbs that are intermediate between main and auxiliary verb status, as illustrated by example (5) to (8) above. In addition, they can be used as subject and predicate clauses, as illustrated by (9) and (10) above. However, they are subject to a number of restrictions that do not apply to full infinitive clauses, as set out by Ponelis (1979: 430-432).

The bare infinitive can only be used in the clause-initial position, when used as subject clause, but not in the dit-extraposition variant. Thus, while (25a) and (25b) are both acceptable with the full infinitive, only (26a) is acceptable with the bare infinitive, but (26b) is not.

Example 25

a. Om standpunt te stel is moeilik.
COMP viewpoint to state.INF be.PRS difficult.
To formulate a viewpoint is difficult.
(Ponelis 1979: 431)
b. Dit is moeilik om standpunt te stel.
it be.PRS difficult COMP viewpoint to state.INF
It is difficult to formulate a viewpoint.
(Ponelis 1979: 431)
Example 26

a. Standpunt stel is moeilik.
viewpoint state.INF be.PRS difficult
Formulating a viewpoint is difficult.
(Ponelis 1979: 431)
b. *Dit is moeilik standpunt stel.
it be.PRS difficult viewpoint state.INF
It is difficult formulating a viewpoint.
(Ponelis 1979: 431)

Bare infinitives do not combine with modal auxiliaries, while full infinitives do combine with modals, which leads Ponelis (1979: 431) to conclude that bare infinitives are less clausal and more nominal in nature. Example (27) is therefore acceptable for full infinitive subject clauses, but example (28) with a bare infinitive and a modal is not.

Example 27

Om te kan teken is nie regtig moeilik nie.
COMP to can draw be.PRS NEG really difficult NEG
To be able to draw is not really difficult.
TK
Example 28

*Kan teken is nie regtig moeilik nie.
can draw.INF be.PRS NEG really difficult NEG
Can draw is not really difficult.

Bare infinitives do allow linking verbs to combine with the infinitive main verb, as illustrated by the wh-cleft construction in (29).

Example 29

Wat ek wil doen is [loop en kyk].
What I want.to do be.PRS walk and look.INF
What I want to do, is to go and look.
(Ponelis 1979: 431)

Bare infinitives allow very limited options for verb complementation and adverbial modification. Ponelis (1979: 431-432) lists three possible syntactic types: with only an intransitive verb, as in (30), with a transitive verb and a generic noun phrase as verbal complement, as in (31), and a short adverb or preposition phrase as adverbial modifier, as in (32).

Example 30

[Eet] is gesond.
eat.INF be.PRS healthy
Eating is healthy.
(Ponelis 1979: 431)
Example 31

[Ontbyt eet] is gesond.
eat.INF breakfast be.PRS healthy
Eating breakfast is healthy.
(Ponelis 1979: 432)
Example 32

[Gereeld eet] is gesond.
regularly eat.INF be.PRS healthy
Eating regularly is healthy.
(Ponelis 1979: 432)
[+] Infinitive complement and adverbial clauses

Full infinitive clauses are used more often as adverbial clauses of purpose than as verb object complement clauses. In a random sample of 6000 infinitive clauses from the Taalkommissiekorpus, the ratio of adverbial:complement clause is 3:2. On the surface, the word order of adverbial clauses and verb complement clauses is often similar, with the adverbial clause also following a verb in the main clause. In part, the distinction is semantic and has to be judged in context, but optional movement of the adverbial clause to the sentence initial position is usually decisive to distinguish between the two syntactic functions. Example (33a) shares some structural similarities with the verb complement clause, but the verb gebruikuse is transitive and has an object al ons kontantgeldall our cash. The adverbial function is clear from the possibility of moving the infinitive clause to a position before the main clause, which also requires inversion of the first verb and subject of the main clause (het onshave we, rather than ons hetwe have), as shown by (33b). Moreover, the om does not function as complementiser here, but as adverbial subordinator, and can be replaced by other adverbial subordinators that make the purpose reading even more explicit, such as ten eindein order, as shown in (33c).

Example 33

a. Ons het al ons kontantgeld gebruik [om 'n erf te koop in Rondebosch].
we have all our cash.money used in.order a plot to buy in Rondebosch
We have used all our cash to buy a plot in Rondebosch.
TK
b. [Om 'n erf te koop in Rondebosch] het ons al ons kontantgeld gebruik.
in.order a plot to buy in Rondebosch have we all our cash.money used
In order to buy a plot in Rondebosch, we have used all our cash.
c. Ons het al ons kontantgeld gebruik ten einde 'n erf te koop in Rondebosch.
we have all our cash.money used in order a plot to buy in Rondebosch
We have used all our cash in order to buy a plot in Rondebosch.
References:
  • Anderson, Stephen R2011Cliticsvan Oostendorp, Marc and Ewen, Colin J and Hume, Elizabeth and Rice, Keren (ed.)The Blackwell Companion to Phonology4: Phonological InterfacesWiley-Blackwell2002-2018
  • Anderson, Stephen R2011Cliticsvan Oostendorp, Marc and Ewen, Colin J and Hume, Elizabeth and Rice, Keren (ed.)The Blackwell Companion to Phonology4: Phonological InterfacesWiley-Blackwell2002-2018
  • Anderson, Stephen R2011Cliticsvan Oostendorp, Marc and Ewen, Colin J and Hume, Elizabeth and Rice, Keren (ed.)The Blackwell Companion to Phonology4: Phonological InterfacesWiley-Blackwell2002-2018
  • Anderson, Stephen R2011Cliticsvan Oostendorp, Marc and Ewen, Colin J and Hume, Elizabeth and Rice, Keren (ed.)The Blackwell Companion to Phonology4: Phonological InterfacesWiley-Blackwell2002-2018
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