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Re: Nominal and Adjectival Predicates

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  • R A Brown
    ... [snip] ... Well, yes, there is. This has been debated before on this list. The complement of the copula (if a language uses a verb as copula) is not the
    Message 1 of 31 , Jun 15, 2013
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      On 16/06/2013 00:07, James Kane wrote:
      > Hi all
      [snip]
      >>
      >> For both of these constructions, it's simply
      >> verb-subject-direct.object
      >
      > Is there some inherent reason that this is a weird way
      > to do it?

      Well, yes, there is. This has been debated before on this
      list. The complement of the copula (if a language uses a
      verb as copula) is not the same as the direct object. In IE
      languages the direct object can _always_ become the subject
      of a passive verb, e.g.
      The cat chased the mouse --> The mouse was chased [by the cat].

      (A few, like English, can also promote the indirect object
      to become the subject of a passive; but that is unusual.)

      You cannot promote the predicate of the copula in the same, e.g.
      John is a teacher --> *A teacher is been [by John].

      The latter is simply not possible.

      > Looking around other natlangs, it seems most of them
      > leave the predicate-y part in the nominative, and so does
      > Esperanto, which I always found counter-intuitive as the
      > rest of the language is very strict in marking the
      > accusative.

      On the contrary, I find the Esperanto treatment exactly what
      I expect from the IE context in which the language was
      created (OTOH I find nominative after a preposition weird -
      but that's another story).


      But not all natlangs use nominative; classical Arabic uses
      its accusative. But that does not automatically make it a
      direct object. Just as IE languages with cases use the
      nominative for both the subject of a verb and the complement
      of the copula, so a language may use its accusative for both
      the direct object and the complement of a copula (or,
      indeed, some other case for the complement). There is,
      indeed, no reason why the complement cannot have its own
      distinctive case.

      > The explanation was always that they were equal, and
      > neither was doing anything to the other; but my natural
      > instinct (my L1 is English) is that, in something like
      > 'he is John', John comes after the verb and thus is a
      > direct object.

      Yes, but, as I observed above, you cannot promote John to
      the subject of an equivalent passive: *John is been by him!
      =============================================================

      On 16/06/2013 03:17, Rich Harrison wrote:
      > Probably going off on a tangent here, but does it help
      > to eliminate the copula?

      I don't think that is going off at a tangent. I think it is
      helpful to realize that the copula is _not_ necessarily a
      verb. That, in itself, should make one stop and realize
      that something other than SVO is going on here.

      For zero copula, see:
      http://wals.info/chapter/120

      For other ways of expressing the complement:
      http://wals.info/chapter/119

      --
      Ray
      ==================================
      http://www.carolandray.plus.com
      ==================================
      "language … began with half-musical unanalysed expressions
      for individual beings and events."
      [Otto Jespersen, Progress in Language, 1895]
    • Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets
      With this post, I finally do away with my backlog and am back on track :P . ... I just realised that it is exactly what Japanese does! Predicate constructions
      Message 31 of 31 , Jul 2, 2013
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        With this post, I finally do away with my backlog and am back on track :P .

        On 16 June 2013 15:43, Jörg Rhiemeier <joerg_rhiemeier@...> wrote:

        > Yes. A copula complement simply is not a direct object, and
        > this is the reason why IE languages (and many other languages)
        > do not put it in the accusative case. Instead, the complement
        > appears in the "base form", which in IE languages is the
        > nominative.
        >
        >
        I just realised that it is exactly what Japanese does! Predicate
        constructions in Japanese always confused me, but now I understand why!

        As a quick primer, in Japanese both the subject and the object of a verb
        are marked by a particle (_ga_ for the subject, and _o_ for the object.
        Both can be overwritten by the topic marker _wa_, though). However, nominal
        predicates (which in Japanese are mostly nouns and some adjectives) do not
        take either. Instead, they appear naked, and are only followed by the
        copula (which can be omitted, at least in women's familiar speech
        patterns). For instance, the simple sentence "Takuto is a man" becomes in
        Japanese: _Takuto wa otoko da_, with _da_ being the familiar copula (it
        becomes _desu_ in polite speech, or can be omitted).

        So basically that's what's happening here: the nominal predicate takes the
        base form, which in Japanese happens to be neither the subject nor the
        object form, but the stem alone.


        >
        > What regards Arabic, one can argue that the accusative is
        > actually the least marked case, and the nominative a marked
        > one. This pattern (often called "nominative-absolutive")
        > seems to be common in languages of the Afrasian family.
        >
        >
        I wonder whether something similar might be happening in Moten, which would
        explain why "to be" is treated as a normal transitive verb in that language
        (and thus takes predicates in the accusative case). It's true that the
        nominative is actually semantically marked in Moten (although it is
        morphologically the base form): when the subject of a transitive verb is in
        the nominative case, it indicates volition, i.e. that the subject does
        whatever is indicated by the verb willingly and on purpose. To mark
        non-volition, one has to put the subject in the instrumental. This is true
        even of "to be", which with a nominative subject indicates that the subject
        is willingly "being" something or someone.

        Things get a bit more complicated quite quickly though:
        - this pattern (which I call the "split nominative") only exists for
        transitive verbs. Intransitive verbs take a nominative subject whether
        there is volition or not involved.
        - this pattern only works well for animate concepts. For inanimates,
        volition is not an option, and according to the rule above that should mean
        that an inanimate subject of a transitive verb should always be in the
        instrumental. And indeed, in high registers of the language the only known
        native speaker of Moten does just that. But in more familiar registers, he
        tends to slip and use the nominative instead, even though there cannot be
        any volition involved. It's a syllable shorter after all, and as long as
        context makes clear that the subject is inanimate (it's a semantic feature
        in Moten, not a syntactic one), there's no confusion possible.

        I'm still not quite sure what to make of this pattern, but that's how Moten
        works. It looks a bit like this "nominative-absolutive" pattern, except
        with a split for volition, and with the nominative case being the least
        marked morphologically.


        > >
        > > Yes, but, as I observed above, you cannot promote John to
        > > the subject of an equivalent passive: *John is been by him!
        >
        > Indeed not!
        >
        >
        Moten has no passive voice, so this issue is moot here.

        On 17 June 2013 19:49, H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...> wrote:

        > Yeah, this is one of the neat things about Russian: in verbs of being
        > *not* in the present tense, the predicate is in the instrumental case:
        >
        > Я бы-л врач-ом.
        > 1SG.NOM be-PAST.SG.MASC doctor-INSTR
        > I was a doctor.
        >
        > The instrumental also occurs with verbs of becoming:
        >
        > Он ста-л врач-ом.
        > He.NOM become-PAST.SG.MASC doctor-INSTR
        > He became a doctor.
        >
        > It is ungrammatical to use the nominative or accusative in these cases.
        > It seems to me that the instrumental case here is being used in a
        > stative sense, or a transition into a state, as opposed to a mere simple
        > direct object.
        >
        >
        Japanese is similar here. The verb "to become" in Japanese (_naru_) is
        actually intransitive, and what you become takes the particle _ni_, which
        indicates various things like location (at), destination (to) but also the
        person to whom something is given (to). In Japanese you become *to*
        something, emphasising the process rather than the final state.
        --
        Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets.

        http://christophoronomicon.blogspot.com/
        http://www.christophoronomicon.nl/
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