Re: To be
On 24/06/2013 14:23, R A Brown wrote:
> Vulgar Latin, however, is a whole different beast :)
> - INTRANSITIVE VERB: "to be" plus perfect active
> participle, agreeing with the subject; e.g. *sum ventus
> = I have come (literally: I-am having-come; cf. Esperanto
> "mi estas venita", earlier English "I am come").
Actually _sum ventus_ would also mean "I am a wind." :)
This is obviously why a new perfect active participle forms
was created in VL. *venūtus, which survived in Italy and
Gaul, and venītus in the Iberian peninsular and Dacia.
"language … began with half-musical unanalysed expressions
for individual beings and events."
[Otto Jespersen, Progress in Language, 1895]
- 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.