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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
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KIRSTEN, Johanita. "Dit gaan nog belangrik word": Changes in grammatical future reference in Afrikaans. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2018, vol.58, n.2, pp.277-292. ISSN 2224-7912.

Future reference in Afrikaans can be indicated both grammatically and lexically, similar to other West-Germanic languages such as Dutch and English. The modal auxiliary sal "shall", from Dutch zullen, and the auxiliary gaan "go", from Dutch gaan, are commonly used for future reference in Afrikaans, as well as the futurate present where sentences without explicit use of tense still refer to the future. The overall frequency of gaan does not show changes in a particular direction since initial standardisation in the early twentieth century, but that does not preclude more subtle changes. The lexical item gaan is used as a main verb on the one hand, but also as two types of auxiliary verbs. The main verb usage includes a concrete reference to movement, as well as a more abstract sense of "being about". The one type of auxiliary usage is as a direct linking verb, and the other as a future auxiliary. While some scholars group these two uses together, there are syntactic and semantic differences that warrant the distinction. Early in the twentieth century, gaan is still used more frequently as a main verb than as an auxiliary, even if the two types of auxiliary uses are put together. In the early twenty first century, however, the auxiliary uses make up two thirds of the overall usage frequency, with future reference as the most frequent function. This shows a significant increase in the use of gaan for future reference. On the other hand, the auxiliary sal shows a decline in frequency. An important difference between using sal and gaan for future reference, is that gaan only expresses epistemic future reference, while sal can also express a more participant oriented modality (which may or may not include future reference). When the instances of sal with participant oriented modality are removed from the data set, it becomes clear that gaan is slowly moving in on the epistemic uses of sal. While sal is still the preferred form in the written data, the increasing use of gaan might be even more pronounced in informal spoken language. The futurate present is also frequently used in Afrikaans, but without tagged corpus data it is difficult to describe in much detail. There is a limited exploration of the instances with future adverbials, and these show a limited increase in usage in the course of the century. Because of the limited extent of the data extraction, these findings remain preliminary. The spread of a change like this often does not proceed at the same pace in different contexts and text types, which is why it is pertinent to explore how the increase in gaan proceeds in more detail. The data suggest that sal is still a more formal variant than gaan, which spreads at a greater tempo in informal text types. Furthermore, the use of gaan to indicate the immediate future rather than a more remote future, as is the case in Standard Dutch, is not reflected in the data from the 1940s onwards. Other expansions in the use of gaan include being used proportionally more frequently in passive and copula constructions, and not just active constructions with agents performing the verbs. It is also increasingly used in intransitive clauses, and with inanimate objects in the clause. All of these expansions, together with the increase in auxiliary usage, further point to the ongoing grammaticalisation of gaan. As is often the case during grammaticalisation, the grammaticalising construction is used increasingly in contexts where other constructions are the preferred option, and it is possible that at the current rate, gaan might overtake sal in certain contexts, even in formal written Afrikaans.

Keywords : grammaticalisation; grammatical change; temporal reference; future reference; verbs; linking verbs; auxiliary verbs; futurate present; corpus linguistics; historical written Afrikaans.

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