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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


COLLEMAN, Timothy. Constructions with krijgen and kry. A comparison from a (diachronie) constructionist perspective. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2018, vol.58, n.2, pp.237-257. ISSN 2224-7912.

Verbs of getting or receiving are a special sub-class of the verbs of transfer ofpossession in that, unlike more prototypical sub-classes such as verbs of giving and verbs of dispossession, they have a subject which is the tail rather than the head of the main action chain (cf. Newman 2005). Cross-linguistically, they constitute an interesting topic for linguistic analysis for several reasons, including "their susceptibility to semantic extension and also to grammaticalization" (Lenz & Rawoens 2012:1075). The present article presents a corpus-based contrastive study of the basic verbs of receiving of Dutch and Afrikaans, i.e. krijgen and kry, respectively. More specifically, the focus is on a number of different constructions in which krijgen and kry are combined with a main lexical verb in the form of an infinitive or past participle and, thus, have at least partly auxiliarized. Data culled from the SoNaR-corpus of contemporary written Dutch and the corpus of the Language Commission of the South African Academy for Arts and Science allow for a comparison of the relative frequencies of these different patterns in present-day Dutch and Afrikaans and of their lexical and semantic ranges. With regard to the constructions in which krijgen and kry are combined with a past participle, it can be observed that, in present-day Dutch, the "passive" krijgen + past participle pattern in which krijgen is typically combined with the past participle of a ditransitive verb (e.g. Hij krijgt een geschenk aangeboden "He is offered a present") occurs over three times more frequently than the "resultative" krijgen + past participle pattern (e.g. Hij krijgt het vuur geblust "He manages to extinguish the fire"). This is an interesting finding because the passive pattern is the younger of the two constructions: its earliest observed examples date back to around the turn of the 19th to 20th Century (cf. Colleman 2015), whereas the resultative krijgen-pattern has been part of the language since at least the 17th Century. Thus, the Dutch krijgen-passive has rapidly overtaken the resultative krijgen-pattern in token frequency. Nothing of this kind has happened in Afrikaans. The Afrikaans corpus data contain just a handful of examples in which kry + past participle seems to encode a passive rather than a resultative meaning, allowing for the conclusion that, even though the construction is not completely inexistent, "passive" kry has not taken off in Afrikaans. The few occurrences ofpassive kry + past participle seem to belong to two different marginal clusters of uses. The resultative kry + past participle pattern, on the other hand, has thrived in Afrikaans: it occurs with a wide variety of lexical verbs in the data, including intransitive and pseudo-transitive verbs (also see Molnárfi 1995, 1997), which are impossible in the equivalent Dutch construction. The difference between Afrikaans and Dutch is not limited to the presence vs. absence in this pattern of intransitive verbs, however: in addition, the Afrikaans construction also occurs with a wider set of transitive predicates, including atelic verbs and verbs which denote an activity that hardly has a noticeable effect on the direct object referent - that is, there are clear indications of host-class expansion in the sense of Himmelmann (2004). In Dutch, by contrast, the resultative krijgen + past participle pattern is still more closely related to the complex-transitive patterns from which it developed, i.e. it is restricted to cases where the subject acts to bring about a change-of-state in the direct object referent. Both krijgen and kry also occur in a pattern with an infinitival rather than participial main verb. In Dutch, this infinitival pattern seems to be developing into a productive pattern encoding a modal meaning of permission or external obligation, at least for some speakers. In present-day Afrikaans, by contrast, kry + te-infinitive is an archaic and unproductive pattern, limited to just a handful of verbs (te doen(e) kry, te make kry, te ete kry, etc.). In this way, the question whether it is Dutch krijgen or Afrikaans kry that has grammaticalized the furthest is impossible to answer, as it is phrased at the wrong level of granularity: some krijgen/kry + main verb patterns have developed further in Dutch than Afrikaans whereas in others, it is the other way around. Thus, the findings from the corpus-based investigation lend added support to the observation that grammaticalization does not merely seize a word, but an entire construction (cf. Lehmann 1992; Himmelmann 2004; Traugott & Trousdale 2013 etc).

Keywords : krijgen; auxiliarization; construction grammar; diachronic construction grammar; Dutch vs. Afrikaans; grammaticalization; krijgen ("get"); kry ("get"); resultative construction; semi-passive; verbs of receiving.

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