Re: Nominal and Adjectival Predicates
- Hallo conlangers!
On Sunday 16 June 2013 08:31:31 R A Brown wrote:
> On 16/06/2013 00:07, James Kane wrote:
> > Hi all
> >> 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.
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
> > 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
> (OTOH I find nominative after a preposition weird -
> but that's another story).
Indeed. Prepositions governing the nominative are uncommon
in languages with case systems.
> But not all natlangs use nominative; classical Arabic uses
> its accusative.
So does my conlang Proto-Alpianic, which has shifted from an
active-stative to an accusative alignment in its prehistory
and retained some case marking quirks from its past.
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.
> 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.
In Old Albic, a fluid-S active-stative language, the subject
of a copular sentence is in the objective case, not the agentive
case, because it is not an agent. The complement, as for now,
is also in the objective case, though I am considering changing
this, but I have no idea which other case would fit better; in
a way, the objective case *is* the least marked case in Old
Albic (even if in animate nouns, it is formed with a suffix
added to the agentive), and I think the structure of copular
sentences will stand the way it is now.
> > 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:
> For other ways of expressing the complement:
Yes. The question whether the copula can be deleted does not
necessarily have a bearing on which case the predicate noun
appears in. (In IE, zero copulas seem to be a Balto-Slavic
... brought to you by the Weeping Elf
"Bêsel asa Éam, a Éam atha cvanthal a cvanth atha Éamal." - SiM 1:1
- 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
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
> > 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.