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Re: Copula

From:David J. Peterson <dedalvs@...>
Date:Monday, March 19, 2007, 3:58
Jason wrote:
Why is it that the copula takes two nominatives, rather than a
nominative and
an accusative, even though it seems to me at least to be a bivalent

While I know that prescriptively, in answer to the question, "Who is
Jason?" I
should technically answer "It is I", but in reality, most of us (at
least, speakers
of American English) would answer, "It's me" instead.

That partly answers your own question, doesn't it?  In Engish,
the copula doesn't always take the nominative--you've given us
an example in "It's me".  There is no technically this or that: if
you're a native English speaker, it is how you say it.

I think the notion with the copula is that if the two things are
equivalent (e.g., if the two can be flipped around without changing
the meaning), then they should have the same case, e.g, "I am
Sam", "Sam am I" (or should that be "Sam is I"?).  In English, there
is certainly pressure to think of "be" as an ordinary verb, because
you can't just flip the two NP's around all the time:

That man is a teacher.
?A teacher is that man.

That type of error is certainly different from this one:

I see him.
*Me see he.

But given the fact that we rarely put pronouns after "to be", it
would seem natural that there would be some confusion about
what form they should take when we do have to.

In the one (?) conlang I have that does have a copula, the two
NP's are treated very differently--as is an adjectival predicate.

za sexa vestit (mek).
/that man-NOM. writer-INS. (be)/
"That man's a writer."

za sexa gMri (mek).
/that man-NOM. strong-ADV. (be)/
"That man is strong."

Both "strong" and "writer" (the man's profession) are treated as
kind of adverbial modifiers--that is, things that modify his existence,
not define it.  The kind of default adverbial marker for nouns i
the instrumental; for adjectives, the adverbial.  For sentences
where you really meant that the two were equivalent (e.g., Superman
is Clark Kent, or vice versa), you'd probably use the same strategy,
but an explanation would be necessary.  To convey it properly,
you'd probably use a different verb (e.g., "the same as".  I think
it's /l2Zel/...).

"sunly eleSkarez ygralleryf ydZZixelje je ox2mejze."
"No eternal reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn."

-Jim Morrison