Linguistics Copula
by
Barbara Citko
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 July 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0196

Introduction

Copulas and copular clauses are interesting for a variety of reasons: morphological, syntactic, semantic, historical, pragmatic, and sociolinguistic ones. It is thus not surprising that they have inspired (and continue to inspire) a lot of research and have been at the core of quite a few debates in linguistic literature. This introduction outlines the core questions surrounding copulas and copula constructions. Perhaps the most fundamental one concerns the taxonomy of copula elements: how many copula elements do we need to posit? The question arises both for languages with one copula and multiple copulas. In the former case, it simply becomes a question about the ambiguity of this single copula. Related to this question is the question concerning types of copular clauses and the relationship between them. For example, is the copula used in predicational copular clauses (e.g., Mary is smart/a student/at home) the same as the copula used in specificational (e.g., The best student is Mary), identity (e.g., Dr. Jekyll is Mr. Hyde), or existential clauses (e.g., There is a book on the table). We might also wonder about other types of copular clauses, such as identificational copular clauses (e.g., That man is John) or various types of clefts constructions. Another important question concerns the structure of copular constructions. If there are different types of copulas or different types copular constructions, the question is whether these different types involve distinct structures, are related via movement, or involve different copulas. This relates to the semantic contribution of the copula itself; some sources treat it as a grammatical formative or linker, while others endow it with more semantic prowess and derive the differences between different copular sentences from the ambiguity of the copula itself. The existence of languages and dialects with multiple copulas (verbal copulas, so-called pronominal copulas or zero copulas) adds plausibility to the latter view. For these types, the factors that determine the choice between the various forms of the copula are also a fruitful venue for research.

General Overviews

The citations in this section consist mostly of books and volumes of collected papers on copulas and copular clauses and, in some cases, small clauses (a somewhat wider empirical domain). While they differ in focus, they provide a good starting point for the investigation of the issues discussed in the Introduction. Comorovski and Von Heusinger 2007 and Mikkelsen 2011 focus on the semantic interpretation of copulas and copular constructions. Den Dikken 2005 provides a wide coverage of the issues involving both the syntax and semantics of copular clauses, including a thorough discussion of clefts. Mikkelsen 2005 and Moro 2007 focus on types of copular clauses, and ways of reducing the taxonomy. They also add a crosslinguistic perspective, by discussing data from Danish and Italian, respectively. Pereltsvaig 2007 and Bondaruk 2013 focus on Slavic languages (Russian and Polish, respectively), whereas Pustet 2003 and Stassen 2004 add a wider typological perspective.

  • Bondaruk, Anna. 2013. Copular clauses in English and Polish: Structure, derivation and interpretation. Lublin, Poland: Wydawnictwo KUL.

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    A constrastive study of different types of copular sentences in English and Polish.

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    • Comorovski, Ileana, and Klaus Von Heusinger, eds. 2007. Existence: Semantics and syntax. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

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      A collection of papers on copular clauses, the interpretation of be, existential sentences and the interpretation of noun phrases. The papers in Part I (The Interpretation of the Copula) and Part II (Existential Sentences across Languages) are particularly relevant to the issues surrounding copular clauses.

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      • Den Dikken, Marcel. 2005. Specificational copular sentences and pseudoclefts. In The Blackwell companion to syntax. Edited by Martin Everaert and Henk van Riemsdijk, 292–409. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

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        A very thorough overview of the properties of and the existing research on specificational copular sentences and pseudoclefts. Even though the main focus is on specificational sentences, this chapter also offers a very informative overview of different types of copular sentences.

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        • Mikkelsen, Line. 2005. Copular clauses: Specification, predication and equation. Philadelphia: Benjamins.

          DOI: 10.1075/la.85Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          This book argues for an inversion approach to specificational copular clauses, focusing on Danish and English but, in doing so, also provides a very lucid overview of the types or copular clauses, the relationship between them, and the factors responsible for inversion around the copula.

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          • Mikkelsen, Line. 2011. Copular clauses. In Semantics: An international handbook of natural language meaning. Edited by Klaus von Heusinger, Claudia Maienborn and Paul Portner. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

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            An overview article, valuable especially for its treatment of the semantic issues surrounding copulas and copula constructions. It focuses on types of copular clauses, different views on the interpretation of the English copula be, and the major approaches to the so-called connectivity effects.

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            • Moro, Andrea. 2007. Copular Sentences. In The Blackwell companion to syntax. Vol. 2. Edited by Martin Everaert and Henk van Riemsdijk, 1–23. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

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              A handbook-style article, providing an overview of copular sentences and focusing both on the properties that distinguish them from noncopular sentences and those that distinguish different types of copular sentences from each other.

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              • Pereltsvaig, Asya. 2007. Copular sentences in Russian: A theory of intra-clausal relations. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

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                An in-depth study of copular clauses in Russian, focusing on case distinctions, null copula use, and the differences between nominative and instrumental predicates.

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                • Pustet, Regina. 2003. Copulas: Universals in the categorization of the lexicon. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

                  DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199258505.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                  A very informative typological study, focusing on types of copulas and grammaticalization (copularization) patterns. It offers a wealth of crosslinguistic data on copulas in general.

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                  • Stassen, Leon. 2004. The nominal strategy. By Leon Stassen, 62–120. Intransitive predication. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                    Even though the primary focus more generally on intransitive predication, chapter 3 offers crosslinguistic insights on the types of copulas and the factors that might determine the choice of a particular copula in languages that allow more than one.

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                    Taxonomy of Copular Clauses

                    The classic work on the taxonomy of copular clauses is Higgins’s dissertation, published in a book form in 1979, which motivated a split between specificational, predicational, identificational, and identity copular sentences. Some citations in this section, such as Adger and Ramchand 2003 and Heycock and Kroch 1999 reduce Higgins’s typology to fewer types. Others (e.g., Declerck 1988) refine it even further. Many of the citations in other sections, especially in “Inversion around the Copula,” “Structure of Copular Clauses,” and “One or Two ‘Be’ Controversy,” also make specific claims about the taxonomy of copular clauses.

                    • Adger, David, and Gillian Ramchand. 2003. Predication and equation. Linguistic Inquiry 34:325–359.

                      DOI: 10.1162/002438903322247515Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                      Drawing on data from Scottish Gaelic, this article argues against a deep structural distinction between predicational and equative copular clauses, reducing the differences between these two types to the presence or absence of an event variable.

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                      • Declerck, Renaat. 1988. Studies on copular sentences, clefts and pseudo-clefts. Leuven, Belgium: Leuven Univ. Press.

                        DOI: 10.1515/9783110869330Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                        An empirically rich investigation of semantic types of copular sentences, refining the classic Higgins typology by suggesting finer-grained distinctions.

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                        • Heycock, Caroline, and Anthony Kroch. 1999. Pseudocleft connectedness: Implications for the LF interface level. Linguistic Inquiry 30:365–398.

                          DOI: 10.1162/002438999554110Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                          Based on data involving so-called connectivity effects (discussed in more detail in the section Connectivity Effects), this paper argues for distinguishing equative from predicational copular sentences.

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                          • Higgins, Francis Roger. 1979. The pseudo-cleft construction in English. New York: Garland.

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                            A very influential work, which established a dinstinction between distinct types of copular constructions. Most subsequent research builds on Higgins’s classification.

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                            Reducing the Taxonomy: Inversion around the Copula

                            The sources in this section also deal with the taxonomy of copular sentences but reduce Higgins’s four-way distinction into fewer types by means of deriving some types from the other by means of a specific mechanim, inversion around the copula. All of them argue that at least some of Higgins’s four types involve such inversion. Den Dikken 2006, Guéron 2003, Heggie 1988, Mikkelsen 2005, Moro 1997, and Moro 2000 reduce the distinction between speficational and predicational clauses to inversion around the copula and treat specificational clauses as inverted predicational clauses. Den Dikken 2006 makes a more general case for treating all predication relationships as being mediated by a functional element, which can trigger inversion. Matushansky 2000, Partee 1999, and Pereltsvaig 2007 discuss inversion in Russian (where instrumental/nominative distinction can provide an important diagnostic). Moro 1997 and Moro 2000 add a wealth of data from Italian, involving differences in extraction and agreement between inverted and noninverted clauses, and Mikkelsen 2005 argues for inversion based on Danish data.

                            • Den Dikken, Marcel. 2006. Relators and linkers: The syntax of predication, predicate inversion, and copulas. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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                              A general study of predication (both within a clausal and a nominal domain), arguing that the relationship between the subject and the predicate is always mediated by a functional element.

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                              • Guéron, Jacqueline. 2003. On the asymmetry of the specificational copula sentence. In Asymmetry in grammar. Edited by Anna Maria Di Sciullo, 145–163. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

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                                This paper also argues for the inversion analysis for specificational copular clauses but links the inversion to the properties of, which can be “augmented” with a locative feature.

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                                • Heggie, Lorie. 1988. The syntax of copular structures. PhD diss., Univ. of Southern California.

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                                  This dissertation provides an explicit mechanism for inversion around the copula in specificational sentences, arguing that the raised predicate moves to the specifier of CP. This departs from many of other proposals cited in this section, which take this position to be the specifier of TP.

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                                  • Heycock, Caroline.1994. The internal structure of small clauses: New evidence from inversion. Proceedings of North East Linguistic Society 25:223–238.

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                                    This paper argues that inversion is not limited to the copula be, extending the inversion analysis to complements of become, seem, and remain.

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                                    • Matushansky, Ora. 2000. The instrument of inversion. Instrumental case in the Russian copula. In Proceedings of the 19th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics. Edited by Roger Billerey and Brook Lillehaugen, 288–301. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla.

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                                      This paper justifies the existence of two types of small clauses, based on the differences between instrumental and nominative predicates in Russian.

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                                      • Mikkelsen, Line. 2005. Copular clauses: Specification, predication and equation. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

                                        DOI: 10.1075/la.85Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                        Focusing primarily on Danish and English, this book argues for inversion in specificational clauses. However, it also argues that equative clauses constitute a distinct class, and it eliminates the class of identificational clauses as a distinct class, assimilating some of them to specificational clauses and others to equative ones.

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                                        • Moro, Andrea. 1997. The raising of predicates: Predicative noun phrases and the theory of clause structure. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                          In addition to an analysis of extraction asymmetries between predicational and specificational sentences (canonical and inverse ones in Moro’s terminology), this book extends the same inversion analysis to existential sentences and unaccusatives.

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                                          • Moro, Andrea. 2000. Dynamic antisymmetry. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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                                            Building on his previous work on inversion, Moro provides a rationale for why either the predicate or the subject has to raise in copular clauses. The reason involves a more general concept of symmetry breaking. The crucial claim is that copular constructions are symmetric, which causes them to be unlinearizable if neither the subject nor the predicate moves.

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                                            • Partee, Barbara H. 1999. Copula inversion puzzles in English and Russian. In Formal approaches to Slavic linguistics: The Seattle meeting. Edited by Katarzyna Dziwirek, Herbert Coats, and Cynthia Vakareliyska, 361–395. Ann Arbor: Michigan Slavic Publications.

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                                              This article provides new insights into inversion around the copula in English, drawing on data from Russian, where the evidence for inversion is more straightforward, given the option to mark the subject and the predicate with distinct cases.

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                                              • Pereltsvaig, Asya. 2007. Copular sentences in Russian: A theory of intra-clausal relations. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

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                                                An in-depth study of copular clauses in Russian, focusing on case distinctions, null copula use, the differences between nominative and instrumental predicates.

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                                                • Verheugd-Daatzelaar, Els. 1990. Subject arguments and predicate nominals: A study of French copular sentences with two NPs. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

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                                                  This dissertation offers a wealth of data from French, arguing for a two-way distinction in the realm of copular constructions coupled with inversion.

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                                                  Structure of Copular Clauses

                                                  Since one popular view is to treat the copula as an element taking a small clause as its complement, some of the citations in this section focus on the internal structure of small clauses themselves, a slightly wider issue. The question then becomes: what is the relationship between the subject and the predicate in a small clause construction. Furthermore, is this relationship mediated by a functional element (and if so, what kind of a functional element). This is related to the question of whether the subject and the predicate stand in a symmetric or asymmetric relationship with respect to each other. Bowers 1993 and Bowers 2001 posit a structure in which small clauses are headed by a functional element, which the author dubs a Predicational (Pred) head. Bailyn and Rubin 1991 and Bailyn and Citko 1999 provide evidence from Slavic languages in favor of this head, and Eide and Afarli 1999 provide similar evidence from Norwegian. Den Dikken 2006 also posits the existence of a functional head in copular constructions; crucially, though, the author does not take this head to be the Pred head. Tanaka and Yokogoshi 2010 argue, based on diachronic evidence, that small clauses in English changed from being headed by a predicate to being headed by a functional element.

                                                  • Bailyn, John. F., and Barbara Citko. 1999. Case and agreement in Slavic predicates. In Formal approaches to Slavic linguistics #7: The Seattle meeting 1998. Edited by Katarzyna Dziwirek, Herbert S. Coates, and Cynthia Vakareliyska, 17–39. Ann Arbor: Michigan Slavic Publications.

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                                                    This paper builds on previous work linking the assignment of instrumental case to the presence of Pred head, extending it to Polish and discussing contexts in which predicates do not bear instrumental case.

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                                                    • Bailyn, John, and Edward J. Rubin. 1991. The Unification of Instrumental Case Assignment in Russian. Cornell Working Papers in Linguistics 9:99–126.

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                                                      This paper establishes a connection between the functional head Pred and the licensing of instrumental case.

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                                                      • Bowers, John. 1993. The Syntax of Predication. Linguistic Inquiry 24:591–656.

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                                                        This article proposes a unified theory of predication (both primary and secondary, verbal and nonverbal) in which there is a Pred head mediating the relationship between the subject and the predicate.

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                                                        • Bowers, John. 2001. Predication. In The handbook of contemporary syntactic theory. Edited by Mark Baltin and Chris Collins, 299–333. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

                                                          DOI: 10.1002/9780470756416Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                          This is a handbook-style overview of predication structures, proposing a general uniform structure for all instances of predication.

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                                                          • Den Dikken, Marcel. 2006. Relators and linkers. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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                                                            This monograph puts small clauses in the context of a more general theory of predication. Its discussion of inversion (both in clausal and nominal domains) is particularly illuminating.

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                                                            • Eide, Kristin M., and Tor A. Afarli. 1999. The syntactic disguises of the predication operator. Studia Linguistica 53:155–181.

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                                                              Focusing on Norwegian, this paper extends Bowers’s theory of predication and argues that the Norwegian particle som can also serve as the predication operator/head. It also shows that the predication head can be lexicalized by certain prepositions and the copula element itself.

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                                                              • Hazout, Ilan. 2010. Verbless sentences and clause structure. Linguistic Inquiry 41:471–485.

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                                                                This paper argues against treating null copula constructions as reduced clauses, based on the differences between other types of small clauses and root copula-less constructions in Hebrew.

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                                                                • Heycock, Caroline, and Anthony Kroch. 1999. Pseudocleft Connectedness: Implications for the LF interface level. Linguistic Inquiry 30:365–398.

                                                                  DOI: 10.1162/002438999554110Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                  This paper, even though its primary focus is on so-called connectedness effects (see the section Connectivity Effects), provides an explicit argument for a structural distinction between equative and predicational clauses.

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                                                                  • Tanaka, Tomoyuki, and Azusa Yokogoshi. 2010. The rise of a functional category in small clauses. Studia Linguistica 64:239–270.

                                                                    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9582.2010.01173.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                    This article discusses diachronic change in the syntax of small clauses. Even though its focus is on secondary small clauses, it does have implications for the analysis of copular constructions on the assumption that these also involve small clauses.

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                                                                    Case and Copular Clauses

                                                                    Given the requirement that noun phrases require case (which may or may not be realized overtly), the question examined by the sources cited here is how predicate nominals get case. Do they get a specially designated predicative case, do they get a default case, or do they agree in case with other (nonpredicate) noun phrases in the same case domain? Many of the sources in this section focus on Slavic languages, whose predicate nominals exhibit an interesting and well-documented case alternation: the alternation between predicates assigned a designated predicative case and those exhibiting case concord (agreeing with the noun phrases they are predicated of). Bailyn 2001 and Harves 2002 focus on Russian; Bailyn and Citko 1999 and Przepiórkowski 2001 add a Polish perspective. Maling and Sprouse 1995 and Matushansky 2008 discuss the more theoretical aspects of case assignment to predicates.

                                                                    • Bailyn, John. 2001. The syntax of Slavic predicate case. ZAS Working Papers in Linguistics 22:1–23.

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                                                                      This paper examines case patterns on predicative nouns and adjectives, focusing on the distinction between instrumental case and so-called agreeing case (typically nominative or accusative) in Russian.

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                                                                      • Bailyn, John, and Barbara Citko. 1999. Case and agreement in Slavic predicates. In Formal approaches to Slavic linguistics: The Seattle meeting. Edited by Katarzyna Dziwirek, Herbert Coats and Cynthia Vakareliyska, 17–39. Ann Arbor: Michigan Slavic Publications.

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                                                                        This paper contrasts case assignment in Polish and Russian predicates.

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                                                                        • Harves, Stephanie. 2002. Where have all the phases gone? (Non-)defective categories and case alternations in Russian. In Formal approaches to Slavic linguistics: The second Ann Arbor meeting. Edited by Jindrich Toman, 97–118. Ann Arbor: Michigan Slavic Publications.

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                                                                          This paper puts the alternation between Russian instrumental and nominative predicates in a broader context and analogizes it to another well-studied alternation, the alternation between accusative and genitive objects in negative sentences.

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                                                                          • Maling, Joan, and Rex A. Sprouse. 1995. Structural case, specifier-head relations, and the case of predicate NPs. In Studies in comparative Germanic syntax. Edited by Hubert Haider, S. Olsen, and Sten Vikner, 167–186. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer.

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                                                                            This paper focusses on case assignment to predicate nominals in Germanic languages, arguing that in some of them the copula verb itself assigns case to its complement, and in others a higher functional head does.

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                                                                            • Matushansky, Ora. 2008. A case study of predication. In Studies in formal Slavic linguistics. Contributions from formal description of Slavic languages 6.5. Edited by Franz Marušič and Rok Žaucer, 213–239. Frankfurt: Lang.

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                                                                              This paper provides a very informative overview of predicative case patterns from a crosslinguistic perspective.

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                                                                              • Przepiórkowski, Adam. 2001. Case and agreement in Polish predicates. In Formal approaches to Slavic linguistics: The Bloomington meeting. Edited by Steven Franks, Tracy Holloway King, and Michael Yadroff. Ann Arbor: Michigan Slavic Publications.

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                                                                                This paper is a response to Bailyn and Citko 1999, refining some of their empirical generalizations and proposing a different theory of case assignment in predicative positions, couched in Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar terms.

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                                                                                Copula Origins and Grammaticalization Patterns

                                                                                The citations in this section focus on the origins of copula elements and the common grammaticalization patterns. The common sources for copulas are examined by the works cited here are verbs, pronouns, prepositions, and focus and topic particles. Aarts 1992 and Emonds 1984 draw parallels between the English particle as and other, perhaps more canonical copula elements. Other sources cited in this section, such as Cook 1999, Frajzyngier 1986, and Green 2004 provide in-depth case studies of copulas in a single language (or language group) and discuss the origins of copulas in these languages (e.g., from prepositions, determiners, certain light verbs, focus particles). Li and Thompson 1977, Van Gelderen 2011, and Lohndal 2009 focus on the mechanisms behind various grammaticalization patterns and provide a theoretical framework for the grammaticalization of copula elements.

                                                                                • Aarts, Bas. 1992. Small clauses in English. The nonverbal types. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

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                                                                                  This monograph provides a very careful and empirically rich analysis of various types of small clauses (of which copular constructions are only a small subset).

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                                                                                  • Cook, Kenneth William. 1999. Hawaiian he, ‘o, and i: Copular verbs, prepositions, or determiners? Oceanic Linguistics 38:43–65.

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                                                                                    This paper examines the use of three copula-like elements in Hawaiian, arguing against previous treatments of these elements as prepositions.

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                                                                                    • Dixon, R. M. W. 2002. Copula clauses in Australian languages: A typological perspective. Anthropological Linguistics 44:1–36.

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                                                                                      A study of copular clauses in Australian languages, pointing out a tendency in these language to grammaticalize stance verbs like “sit,” stand,” and “go” as copulas.

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                                                                                      • Emonds, Joseph. 1984. The prepositional copula as. Linguistic Analysis 13:127–144.

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                                                                                        This paper establishes a parallelism between as in predicative constructions and copula elements.

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                                                                                        • Frajzyngier, Zygmunt. 1986. From preposition to copula. In Proceedings of the Twelfth Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society. Edited by Vassiliki Nikiforidou, 371–386. Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Linguistics Society.

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                                                                                          This paper documents a case of grammaticalization of a copula element from a preposition in Chadic languages.

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                                                                                          • Gelderen, Elly van. 2011. The pronominal copula cycle. In The linguistic cycle: Language change and the linguistic faculty. By Elly van Gelderen, 128–144. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

                                                                                            DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199756056.003.0004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                            This chapter discusses a number of cases, from a wide range of languages, of third person pronouns and demonstrative pronouns getting reanalyzed as copula elements. It also provides an interesting account of why these two types of pronouns typically give rise to copula elements.

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                                                                                            • Green, Melanie. 2004. “Predication, equation and information structure: Evidence from Hausa copular sentences.” Unpublished manuscript. Sussex, UK: Univ. of Sussex.

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                                                                                              This manuscript examines predicative and equative/specificational copular sentences in Hausa, which all contain a focus marker but differ in the position of the noun phrases (or adjective phrases) with respect to this focus marker, and links the differences in position to the differences in information structure.

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                                                                                              • Li, Charles N. and Sandra A. Thompson. 1977. A Mechanism for the development of copula morphemes. In Mechanisms of syntactic change. Edited by Charles N. Li, 419–444. Austin: Univ. of Texas Press.

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                                                                                                This article provides an explicit mechanism by which pronouns get reanalyzed as copulas, discussing the case of the Mandarin Chinese pronoun shi becoming a copula and extending the analysis to other languages (Arabic andHebrew).

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                                                                                                • Lohndal, Terje. 2009. The copula cycle. In Cyclical change. Edited by Elly van Gelderen, 209–242. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1075/la.146Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                  This paper discusses cases of copula elements further developing into affixes.

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                                                                                                  Types of Copulas

                                                                                                  The idea that there might be more than a single copula type is implicit in the discussion in some of the other sections (especially in Taxonomy of Copular Clauses, Copula Origins and Grammaticalization Patterns, and One or Two “Be” Controversy). The subsections here examine types of copulas in more detail, focusing on pronominal copulas, zero copulas, and different types of verbal copulas.

                                                                                                  Pronominal Copulas

                                                                                                  One of the common sources for copula elements are pronouns: personal pronouns and demonstrative pronouns. The citations in this section focus not so much on the diachronic change from pronouns to copulas but on the synchronic properties of pronominal copulas and the differences between pronominal copulas and other types of copulas. Many sources cited in this section discuss languages that allow other types of copulas (in addition to pronominal copulas). Błaszczak and Geist 2001, Citko 2008, Geist 2007, and Rutkowski 2006 focus on Russian and Polish. Polish allows both a verbal and a pronominal copula; Russian, in addition to these two, allows a null copula. Other languages exhibiting similar patterns included in this section are Hebrew (Doron 1983; Greenberg 2002; Rapoport 1987) and Arabic (Eid 1983). DeGraff 1992 is a case study of the pronominal copula in Haitian Creole.

                                                                                                  • Błaszczak, Joanna, and Ljudmila Geist. 2001. Zur rolle des pronomen to/ėto in spezifizierenden kopulakonstruktionen im Polnischen und Russischen. In Current Issues in Formal Slavic Linguistics. Linguistik International 5. Edited by G. Zybatow, U. Junghanns, G. Mehlhorn, and L. Szucsich, 247–257. Frankfurt: Lang.

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                                                                                                    This paper examines the distribution of pronominal copulas in Polish and Russian and the effect these copulas have on interpretation.

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                                                                                                    • Citko, Barbara. 2008. Small clauses reconsidered: Not so small and not all alike. Lingua 118:261–295.

                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1016/j.lingua.2007.05.009Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                      This article points out that the so-called pronominal copula can sometimes co-occur with the verbal copula in Polish. It argues for an account in which there are two types of asymmetric small clauses.

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                                                                                                      • DeGraff, Michel. 1992. The syntax of predication in Haitian. In Proceedings of the 22nd Meeting of the North-Eastern Linguistics Society. Amherst: Graduate Linguistic Student Publications, Univ. of Massachusetts.

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                                                                                                        This paper discusses the distribution of the pronominal copula se in Haitian Creole.

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                                                                                                        • Doron, Edit. 1983. Verbless predicates in Hebrew. PhD diss., Univ. of Texas at Austin.

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                                                                                                          This dissertation focusses on copular and existential sentences in Hebrew. It provides a comprehensive description of the distribution of the different types of pronominal copulas (as well as the null copula) in Hebrew, analyzing the pronominal copula as an agreement clitic.

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                                                                                                          • Eid, Mushira. 1983. The copula function of pronouns. Lingua 59:197–207.

                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1016/0024-3841(83)90063-3Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                            Focusing on Egyptian Arabic, this paper argues that pronominal copulas act as disambiguation device to force the clausal (as opposed to a phrasal) interpretation of the construction.

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                                                                                                            • Geist, Ljudmila. 2007. Predication and equation in copular sentences: Russian vs. English. In Existence: Semantics and syntax. Edited by Ileana Comorovski and Klaus von Heusinger, 79–105. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

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                                                                                                              Geist notes interesting differences in the distribution of the Russian pronominal copula eto in specificational and equative sentences.

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                                                                                                              • Greenberg, Yael. 2002. The manifestation of genericity in the tense aspect system of Hebrew nominal sentences. In Themes in Arabic and Hebrew syntax. Edited by Jamal Ohalla and Ur Shlonsky, 267–298. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer.

                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1007/978-94-010-0351-3Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                Greenberg argues against a common view that correlates the use of the pronominal copula with the identity (as opposed to predicational) interpretation and correlates it instead with a generic (as opposed to an episodic) interpretation.

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                                                                                                                • Rapoport, Tova. 1987. Copular, nominal, and small clauses: A study of Israeli Hebrew. PhD diss., Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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                                                                                                                  Rapoport argues for a thematic as well as a structural distinction between equative and predicational copular clauses. She argues that in equative clauses, the relationship between the two nominals is mediated by a functional head, and that predicational clauses can be bare small clauses.

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                                                                                                                  • Rutkowski, Paweł. 2006. From demonstratives to copulas: A crosslinguistic perspective and the case of Polish. Journal of Universal Language 7:147–175.

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                                                                                                                    Rutkowski puts the distribution and development of the pronominal copula to in Polish in a broader crosslinguistic perspective. However, he treats this element not as a copula but as a pronominal subject occupying the standard subject position, and the apparent subject as a left dislocated element.

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                                                                                                                    Copula in African American Vernacular English

                                                                                                                    Most sources in this section focus on copula omission in African American Vernacular English (AAVE). Its properties, in particular the relationship between copula omission in AAVE and copula contraction in other varieties of English, have received a lot of attention in the linguistic literature ever since Labov 1969, a seminal paper on the topic. An important question here is whether the absence of the copula is the result of deletion, and, if so, whether this deletion is a syntactic or a phonological process. Bender 2000, for example, argues in favor of a syntactic approach. Others (Holm 1984; McWhorter 1995; Rickford 1998; Sharma and Rickford 2009; Weldon 2003) put the patterns of the zero copula in AAVE in a broader context of the debate concerning the origin of AAVE, and the relationship between AAVE and creole languages.

                                                                                                                    • Bender, Emily. 2000. Syntactic variation and linguistic competence: The case of AAVE copula absence. PhD diss., Stanford University.

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                                                                                                                      Bender argues that AAVE copula omission is due to a syntactic not a phonological variation and provides an account of it couched within Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar terms.

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                                                                                                                      • Green, Lisa J. 2011. System of tense–aspect marking 1: non-past and habitual. In Language and the African American child: Mastering the system. By Lisa J. Green, 36–72. Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                        This chapter discusses be copula and be auxiliary (especially when it is used in a habitual contexts).

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                                                                                                                        • Holm, John. 1984. Variability of the copula in black English and its Creole kin. American Speech 59:291–309.

                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.2307/454782Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                          This paper notes similar constraints on copula deletion in Jamaican English and Gullah. It also discusses the use of different copulas with different types of nonverbal predicates.

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                                                                                                                          • Labov, William. 1969. Contraction, deletion, and inherent variability of the English copula. Language 45:715–762.

                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.2307/412333Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                            This is a classic study of copula deletion, establishing a parallelism in the constraints on deletion and contraction.

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                                                                                                                            • McWhorter, John. 1995. Looking into the Void: Zero copula in the Creole mesolect. American Speech 70:339–360.

                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.2307/455616Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                              This paper discusses the development and distribution of null copulas in Caribbean Creoles, and argues in favor of the Creolist Origin Hypothesis for AAVE.

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                                                                                                                              • Rickford, John. 1998. The Creole origins of African American vernacular English: Evidence from copula absence. In African American English. Edited by Salikoko S. Mufwene, John R. Rickford, Guy Bailey, and John Baugh, 154–200. London: Routledge.

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                                                                                                                                A very detailed comparison of the patterns of copula deletion in AAVE and creole varieties and white American English, including evidence from historical narratives and diaspora recordings.

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                                                                                                                                • Sharma, Devyani, and John R. Rickford. 2009. AAVE/Creole copula absence: A critique of the imperfect learning hypothesis. Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages 24:53–90.

                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1075/jpcl.24.1.03shaSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                  This paper contrasts copula omission in AAVE and creole languages and the copula omission in second language acquisition, showing that copula omission in the second language data does not resemble the AAVE and creole patterns.

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                                                                                                                                  • Weldon, Tracey L. 2003. Copula variability in Gullah. Language Variation and Change 15:37–72.

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                                                                                                                                    Weldon provides a detailed analysis of copula variability in Gullah, pointing out similarities between Gullah and AAVE copula use and offering support for the creolist hypothesis of AAVE origin.

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                                                                                                                                    Ser versus Estar

                                                                                                                                    The citations in this section focus on the well-documented distinction between the copulas ser and estar in Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese. Most sources in this section focus on Spanish (cf. Camacho 2012; Hengeveld 1986; Luján 1981; Maienborn 2005; Zagona 2013), as the vast bulk of the research on ser versus estar is on Spanish. Schmitt 1996, however, adds a crosslinguistic perspective by discussing a parallel distinction in Brazilian Portuguese. The sources cited here represent varying points of view on this distinction, which has been correlated with both syntactic and semantic factors. Some sources correlate it with the distinction between individual and stage level interpretation, Camacho 2012 and Hengeveld 1986 attribute the distinction to aspect. Zagona 2013 shows that neither of these two approaches captures accurately the complete distribution of ser versus estar.

                                                                                                                                    • Camacho, Jose. 2012. Ser and estar: The individual/stage-level distinction and aspectual predication. In The Handbook of Spanish linguistics. Edited by José Ignacio Hualde, Antxon Olarrea, and Erin O‘Rourke, 453–476. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1002/9781118228098Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                      A handbook-style chapter reviewing two major lines of thought on the nature of the ser/estar distinction: stage versus individual level one versus aspect-based one. It points out some challenges that the stage level/individual level view faces and argues in favor of an aspect-based alternative.

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                                                                                                                                      • Hengeveld, Kees. 1986. Copular verbs in a functional grammar of Spanish. Linguistics 24:393–420.

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                                                                                                                                        A study of the ser/estar distinction from a functional grammar perspective, attributing the distinction to aspectual factors.

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                                                                                                                                        • Luján, Marta. 1981. The Spanish copulas as aspectual indicators. Lingua 54:165–210.

                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1016/0024-3841(81)90068-1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                          This paper argues in favor of a perfective/imperfective distinction between ser and estar.

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                                                                                                                                          • Maienborn, Claudia. 2005. A discourse-based account of Spanish ser/estar. Linguistics 43:155–180.

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                                                                                                                                            A discourse-based account of the Spanish copula forms ser and estar, arguing against reducing the distinction to stage level/predicate level distinction. Maienborn argues instead that ser and estar have the same lexical semantics but estar differs from ser only in presupposing a relation to a specific discourse situation.

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                                                                                                                                            • Schmitt, Cristina. 1996. Aspect and the syntax of noun phrases. PhD diss., Univ. of Maryland.

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                                                                                                                                              Chapter 6 argues in favor of an aspectual approach to the ser/estar distinction, focusing on the data from Brazilian Portuguese.

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                                                                                                                                              • Zagona, Karen. 2013. Ser and estar: Phrase structure and aspect. Cahiers Chronos 25:303–328.

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                                                                                                                                                Zagona refines the classic understanding of the ser/estar distinction by arguing that PP and AspectP complements of estar involve a formal feature. This explains the exceptions and can account for the distribution of estar as both an auxiliary and copula verb.

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                                                                                                                                                Acquisition of Copulas and Copular Clauses

                                                                                                                                                Given the various types of copula clauses and the various types of copula elements, it is only natural to wonder about the acquisition of copula elements and the question of whether different types of copulas get acquired at different rates. The citations in this section address these questions both from a first and second language acquisition perspective. Children acquiring English go through a stage in which they omit the copula. Becker 2000, Becker 2004, and Schütze 2004 show that copula omissions in child English is quite principled and sensitive to factors like finiteness of the copula or the syntactic category of the predicate. Geeslin 2002 adds a crosslinguistic perspective, by focusing on the acquisition of the distinction between ser and estar by second-language learners of Spanish.

                                                                                                                                                • Becker, Misha Karen. 2000. The development of the copula in child English: The Lightness of Be. PhD diss., Univ. of California at Los Angeles.

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                                                                                                                                                  This dissertation examines copula omission in Child English. Its core empirical finding is that copula omission is more frequent with adjectival and locative predicates than nominal ones. It attributes this difference to independent semantic differences between nominal and non-nominal predicates.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Becker, Misha Karen. 2004. Copula omission is a grammatical reflex. Language Acquisition 12:157–167.

                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1207/s15327817la1202_2Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                    This paper contrast two accounts of copula omission in child English, arguing against accounts that attribute copula deletion in child English to processing difficulties.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Geeslin, Kimberly L. 2002. Semantic transparency as a predictor of copula choice in second language acquisition. Linguistics 40:439–468.

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                                                                                                                                                      This article focusses on the acquisition of the ser/estar copula distinction by second-language learners. It also points out some interesting innovative uses of these two copulas.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Schütze, Carson T. 2004. Why nonfinite be is not omitted while finite be is. In Proceedings of the 28th Boston University Conference on Language Development. Edited by Alejna Brugos, 506–521. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla.

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                                                                                                                                                        This paper focusses on be omission in child English. It points out a contrast in the omission of finite and nonfinite be, arguing that this contrast supports the Tense Omission Hypothesis over the Semantic Vacuity Hypothesis.

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                                                                                                                                                        One or Two Be Controversy

                                                                                                                                                        The citations in this section address the long-standing controversy regarding the semantic distinction (or the lack thereof) between the so-called be of predication and be of identity. On one view, the lexicon contains two distinct lexical entries for be, and it just happens to be the case that in some languages the two are homophonous. Such two-be approach is favored by Carnie 1997 and Zaring 1996, based on evidence from languages that distinguish the two morphologically: Irish and Welsh, respectively. An alternative view is to assume that there is only one be (be of predication or a semantically vacuous be), and that the differences between predicational and identity (or specificational) copular sentences are due to independent semantic or syntactic factors. This is the approach taken in Adger and Ramchand 2003, Partee 1986, and Rothstein 1999. The question of what the interpretation of the copula be is related to the question of what the interpretation of the noun phrases flanking the copula is. The latter question is the main focus of Doron 1988.

                                                                                                                                                        • Adger, David, and Gillian Ramchand. 2003. Predication and equation. Linguistic Inquiry 34:325–359.

                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1162/002438903322247515Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                          Drawing on data from Scottish Gaelic, this paper links the distinctions between different types of copulas in this language not to the contrast between be of identity and be of predication but to the presence or absence of an event variable.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Carnie, Andrew. 1997. Two types of non-verbal predication in modern Irish. Canadian Journal of Linguistics 42:57–74.

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                                                                                                                                                            This paper argues in favor of a two-be approach, based on data from Irish.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Doron, Edit. 1988. The semantics of predicate nominals. Linguistics 26:281–301.

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                                                                                                                                                              This paper develops new diagnostics to distinguish predicative from referential nominals.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Heycock, Caroline and Anthony Kroch. 1999. Pseudocleft connectedness: Implications for the LF interface level. Linguistic Inquiry 30:365–398.

                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1162/002438999554110Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                Even though Heycock and Kroch’s main argument is for a structural distinction between two types of copular clauses (predicational vs. equative clauses) and for deriving connectivity effects in pseudoclefts from the equative structure, they also argue quite explicitly against two-be approaches.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Partee, Barbara H. 1986. Ambiguous pseudoclefts with unambiguous be. In Proceedings of NELS 16. Edited by S. Berman, J. Choe, and J. McDonough, 354–366. Amherst: Graduate Linguistic Student Publications, Univ. of Massachusetts.

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                                                                                                                                                                  Partee argues for a single be in the lexicon, be of predication, which can be used in both equative clauses and predicational clauses due to type shifting.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Rothstein, Susan. 1999. Fine-Grained Structure In The Eventuality Domain: The semantics of predicative adjective phrases and “be.” Natural Language Semantics 7:347–420.

                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1023/A:1008397810024Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                    This paper argues in favor of a one-be approach, focusing on the semantics of copular be in be + AP environments.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Zaring, Laurie. 1996. Two “be” or not two “be”: Identity, predication and the Welsh copula. Linguistics and Philosophy 19:103–114.

                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1007/BF00635835Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                      Zaring argues in favor of the two-be approach, based on the existence of distinct copula elements instantiating distinct interpretations in Welsh. However, she also argues that the differences between Welsh and English copula sentences can be attributed to English being a one-be language.

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                                                                                                                                                                      Connectivity Effects

                                                                                                                                                                      The term connectivity refers to the fact that the pre-copular element (or part of it) can behave as if it were in a post-copula position. For example, in “What every student keeps in a locker is his or her laptop,” the quantifier can bind the variable without c-commanding it. The two are “connected,” and the fundamental question that all the sources in this section ask is how to derive such connectivity effects; more specifically, whether connectivity can be (or should be) derived in the syntax or semantics. Most of the sources this focus on specificational copular sentences; however, Sharvit 2011 argues that predicational sentences can also sometimes exhibit connectivity. Den Dikken, et al. 2000; Heycock and Kroch 1999; and Ross 1972 argue for a syntactic approach to connectivity; for Den Dikken, et al. 2000 and Ross 1972, connectivity is the result of a question/answer structure combined with ellipsis, whereas for Heycock and Kroch 1999, it follows from an equative structure, combined with a post-syntactic interpretative mechanism. Cecchetto 2000, Heller 2002, Jacobson 1994, and Sharvit 1999, on the other hand, argue in favor a semantic approach. For them, there is no ellipsis or reconstruction involved, and c-command is not necessary for connectivity effects to arise.

                                                                                                                                                                      • Cecchetto, Carlo. 2000. Connectivity and anti-connectivity in pseudoclefts. In Proceedings of North Eastern Linguistic Society 30. Edited by M. Hirotani, A. Coetzee, N. Hall, and J. -Y. Kim, 137–151. Amherst: Graduate Linguistic Student Publications, University of Massachusetts.

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                                                                                                                                                                        This paper examines contexts in which connectivity effects break down and shows that they remain mysterious for a syntactic approach, but follow straightforwardly from a semantic approach.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Den Dikken, Marcel, André Meinunger, and Chris Wilder. 2000. Pseudoclefts and ellipsis. Studia Linguistica 54:41–89.

                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1111/1467-9582.00050Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                          This paper points out that not all connectivity effects should be treated alike, more specifically, that negative polarity licensing and case connectivity is different from the kind of connectivity involving in binding.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Heller, Daphna. 2002. On the relation of connectivity and specificational pseudoclefts. Natural Language Semantics 10:243–284.

                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1023/A:1022152007523Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                            This paper focusses on Hebrew pseudoclefts, showing that different types of pseudoclefts exhibit different types of connectivity effects.

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Heycock, Caroline, and Anthony Kroch. 1999. Pseudocleft connectedness: Implications for the LF interface level. Linguistic Inquiry 30:365–398.

                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1162/002438999554110Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                              This paper argues that pseudoclefts are equatives are related and derives so-called connectivity effects from the equative interpretation and structure.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Jacobson, Pauline. 1994. Binding connectivity in copular sentences. In Proceedings of the 4th Conference on Semantics and Linguistic Theory. Edited by Mandy Harvey. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ.

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                                                                                                                                                                                This is an influential paper developing a semantic approach to connectivity. It argues that connectivity effects can be accounted for without positing abstract (empty) structure (resulting from ellipsis), or abstract levels involving reconstruction.

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                                                                                                                                                                                • Mikkelsen, Line. 2011. Copular clauses. In Semantics: An international handbook of natural language meaning. Edited by Klaus von Heusinger, Claudia Maienborn, and Paul Portner. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 1805–1829.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  An overview article, valuable especially for its treatment of the semantic issues surrounding copulas and copular constructions. Section 4 provides a very informative overview of the existing approaches (syntactic and semantic alike) to connectivity effects.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Ross, John Robert. 1972. Act. In Semantics of natural language. Edited by D. Davidson and G. Harman, 70–126. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Reidel.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    This paper is an influential early syntactic treatment of connectivity. It treats specificational sentences as question–answer pairs, in which the part preceding the copula is the question and the part following the copula is an answer to this question.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • Schlenker, Philippe. 2003. Clausal equations (A note on the connectivity problem). Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 21:157–214.

                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1023/A:1021843427276Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                      This is a very careful argument for an approach to connectivity that combines Ross’s insight about the structure of pseudoclefts (which is to view them as question–answer pairs) with the semantics of identity and questions.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • Sharvit, Yael. 1999. Connnectivity in specificational Sentences. Natural Language Semantics 7:299–341.

                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1023/A:1008390623435Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                        This paper presents a very detailed semantic approach to various types of connectivity as well as a clear argument for why a semantic approach is necessary. It also includes a very informative critical review of alternative approaches to connectivity.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • Sharvit, Yael. 2011. Revisiting connectivity in copular sentences. In Proceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT) 19. Edited by E. Cormany, S. Ito, and D. Lutz, 427–445. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          This paper extends the semantic approach to connectivity to explain why sometimes connectivity emerge in predicational pseudoclefts.

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