1. Grammar and Spelling
Section One - Grammar and Spelling
1. Gender: There are only 2 genders, masculine and feminine. There are no cases in Afrikaans. Articles are “hy” (masc.) / “sy” (fem.) and “hom” (masc.) / “haar” (fem.). The genders are easily recognised and do not require any agreements of any kind.
2. Articles: There are 2 forms, the definite article is “die” (meaning “the”) and refers to a specific object or thing, such as “die hond” (meaning the dog”) and the indefinite article is “’n” (meaning “a”) and refers to any object or thing, such as “’n hond” (meaning “a or any dog”).
3. One letter words: There are a few one-letter words in Afrikaans that might appear to be a typographical error but are grammatically correct. These mainly consist of vowels but with a few exceptions. Examples of these include:
“x” – which can be translated plainly as “x”, for example “X-straal” (“X-ray”) and followed by a hyphen and another word.
4. Accents: As a rule, accents are not normally used on upper case letters in Afrikaans, though they are often used stylistically. If they are used (in some magazines, for example), they should be used consistently. For example “dié” (synonym for “hierdie”, meaning “this”). Another example is “dít” (meaning “that”) and “ék” (meaning “me” or “myself”). Accents will normally only appear on vowels.
5. Plurals: Plural words normally end with “s” or “e” and are usually preceded by words such as “baie” (meaning “much”) or “sommige” (meaning “some”) for both masculine and feminine.
5.1 Compound noun with plural forms:
For example noun + noun – usually the last noun takes the plural
5.2 Adjective + noun:
The last noun usually takes the plural ending, such as “vinnige proes-proes” (meaning “quick sneeze”) where the plural form is “proes-proesse”.
5.3 Adjective + adjective:
Usually the first adjective takes the plural ending, such as “mooi gekleedes” (meaning “beautifully dressed”).
5.4 Foreign words:
- “garage” would be “garages” in the plural form “chill” would be “chills”
Section Two - Punctuation
Afrikaans has almost the same rules for punctuation that apply in English. Afrikaans always has no space before and one space after the following punctuation marks – : ; ! ? ... (:). An English-speaker would recognise almost all punctuation marks in Afrikaans.
1. Full stops: Full stops are not used at the end of headings, titles, subtitles, bullet points, addresses, dates, no. of pages, e.g. “The Lord of the Rings, page 13”. Only commas will be used to separate the title from the page number. Full stops are only used at the end of sentences or after certain abbreviations.
2. Speech marks: With speech marks, the “ ... ” form is usually accepted as in English. As in English, Afrikaans usually always has to have closing and re-opening speech marks around a phrase, like “he said” when it is embedded within dialogue.
Different speech marks:
3. Apostrophe: The apostrophe usually appears on lower case characters. Unlike
English, the apostrophe will appear in words that
usually end on vowels and will be used to indicate
certain plural forms, for example, “foto’s” (meaning
“photos”), “ma’s” (meaning “mothers”), “pa’s”
(meaning “fathers”). The apostrophe will appear
after the vowel, which has the emphasis on it,
such as in “ma’s”.
4. Colons, semi-colons and ellipsis: These forms are used in the exact same way as in English.
5. Brackets: Brackets are used within a sentence or after a sentence. The first letter doesn't have upper case.
6. Capitalisation: Similar to English in its use of capitals at the beginning of sentences and for proper names, but Afrikaans doesn't use capitals as often as English.
Section Three - Measurements and Abbreviations
1. Measurements: The metric system is usually used except for computer monitors (inches), inner diameter of pipes/tubes, nautical miles, size of computer disks.
All measurements are the same as in English, except the “el” (meaning “yard”), which is an “historic” form that is not used any more and differs from the English measurement.
Numbers / Digits: For numbers the use is the same as in English, such as the use of the dot as in 4.5 cm, but for 4-digit numbers there’s usually a space as the thousands separator, such as 4 000 / 50 000. Afrikaans hardly ever uses the decimal comma, but in some old documents you might find this still.
Time: For time, the same applies as in English, for example 10:30 v.m. / n.m., except that Afrikaans will have a double colon or “h” between the hour / minute (10:30 / 10h30) and we only distinguish between “v.m.” meaning “voormiddag” (“am”) and “n.m.” meaning “namiddag” (“pm”). Midnight would be 00:00 or 24:00.
Date: The following would apply –
Spaces: Always a space between figure and measurement abbreviation,
such as “5 cm” / “5 kg”.
Currency symbols: Usually one space left after the currency, such as “£ 230” / “US $ 90” / “Euro 45”.
The 3-letter code “GBP” would normally not be used in Afrikaans, rather the symbol, but if used, it would appear before the currency, such as “GBP 230”.
- N/a = n.v.t. (nie van toepassing)
- BTW (Afrikaans) = VAT (English)
Section Four – Hyphenation
1. Hyphens and joint words: Afrikaans, unlike English, uses many hyphenated forms (joint words) because of all the compound words. For example in proper nouns: “Suid-Afrika” (translated as “South Africa”), in official names with a “description” or noun followed by the name: “Toyotaprojek” (translated as “Toyota project”).
If a word is too long and might be difficult to read, a hyphen is often used to “separate” the word and make it easier to read, although it still remains one concept, such as: “Kredietkaartonttrekkings-rekening” (translated as “Credit cards transfer account”).
If repetition of words occurs, hyphens are often used, such as: “nou-nou” (meaning “in a moment”), “dag-en-dag” (meaning “day and day”).
If there’s a cluster of vowels in a word, such as “môre-oggend” (meaning “tomorrow morning”), “na-aan” (meaning “close to”) or “ge-eet” / “geëet” (meaning “ate”), as hyphen is usually used to avoid ambiguity and for easyreading.
If a commonly used expression occurs, the phrase is often hyphenated, such as “traak-my-nieagtig” (meaning “happy-go-lucky”).
When words are split over lines, the word is usually broken down by syllabic structure, such as “onophoudelik” (“uninterrupted”) will be broken down as “on-op-houde-lik” if some of these parts appear at the end of a sentence.
2. Prefixes / suffixes: Usually no hyphens are used when prefixes or suffixes occur. For example: “prehistories” (“prehistoric”) and “postmodernisme” (“postmodernism”). The word “e-pos” (“e-mail”) has a hyphen because “e” refers to “electronic” and is basically an abbreviated form of the word (there are other examples, such as “e-bank” (“electronic bank/ing”).
3. Non-hyphens: In Afrikaans many words are written as one word (or can be separated through means of a hyphen), such as “kredietkaart” / “krediet-kaart” (meaning “credit card”) and it is not incorrect to use a hyphen but they should preferably be written as one word. There are no other important exceptions.
4. Dashes: Afrikaans uses the ‘N’ dash (“aandagstreep”) in sentences to separate two thoughts or ideas, such as: “Dis George – die man met die mooi oë” (translated as “This is George – the man with the beautiful eyes”. This dash is often used in the place of a double colon (:).
Section Five – Miscellaneous Peculiarities
1. Tone marks: These are mainly used only to distinguish between the meanings of various words. There are no other rules for tone marks.
2. Spelling: Certain place names, however, have a different spelling in Afrikaans. Examples of these include:
3. Surnames: Surnames are usually written after the first name/s. If otherwise used (such as in legal documents / statements), the surname will be written first, followed by a comma and then the first name/s. For example: Visser, Karen. The surnames are always written in upper case in Afrikaans, at the beginning of a sentence or within the sentence.
4. Stylistic forms: In Afrikaans all stylistic forms are the same as in English, such as bold, italics and underline. There’s no specific rule for these stylistic forms either, and they can sometimes be used quite “creatively”.
Section Six – Geographic Distribution
Afrikaans is mainly spoken in South Africa only, where it is one of the ten official languages.
All of the official languages are used every day in a legal, financial, media, written and spoken context throughout South Africa. In our Government, for example, based in Cape Town, South Africa, we have an official Hansard department (Language / Linguistics department) for all 11 official languages spoken and written in South Africa, with professional translators and proofreaders employed.
For any official documents for the Western Cape Government, the 3 basic languages to provide information will be Afrikaans, English and Xhosa. Theyare the most widely spoken and used. The second largest group of languages that are spoken the most contains Zulu, North Sotho (Sepedi) and South Sotho (Sesotho). The last group (small) group of languages that are notspoken as often as the other 2 groups include the remaining languages, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Swazi and Ndebele.
Some of the words in Afrikaans are descended from Latin or Greek. Somewords are just “borrowed” from different languages (especially Dutch). Wordsinclude “garage”, which originally came from the French language.
Language Family: Germanic
Section Seven – Character Set
[ ] = Alt key codes