|From:||R A Brown <ray@...>|
|Date:||Monday, March 19, 2007, 8:22|
Jason Monti wrote:
> Why is it that the copula takes two nominatives,
It doesn't necessarily - it depends what language you're talking about.
Many languages have no case system even with pronouns - and even
languages with case systems vary in what they do.
IIRC Classical Arabic uses the accusative.
> rather than a nominative and
> an accusative, even though it seems to me at least to be a bivalent verb?
Yes, but even in a non-ergative language not all bivalent verbs have
nominative and accusative (subject & direct objects). Latin has a whole
lot of bivalent verbs where the object is regarded as _indirect_ and
these verbs have nominative and dative; nor can the dative object become
the subject of a passive form. IIRC German also has some verbs that
behave like this.
Latin also has bivalent verbs that have nominative and genitive, and
others that have nominative and ablative.
> While I know that prescriptively, in answer to the question, "Who is Jason?" I
> should technically answer "It is I",
Well, that depends who is making the prescription.
> but in reality, most of us (at least, speakers
> of American English) would answer, "It's me" instead.
Not only American English - it's universal.
But the nominative~accusative business is not so straightforward in
modern spoken English. For example nobody, I think, would say *"She was
talking about I", but always: "She was talking about me". Yet very many
people (and IME the majority nowadays) do say "She was talking about you
and I". The I~me distinction is not the simple ol'
nominative~accusative or subject~object distinction.
> In Japanese, that which is, doesn't really take a case, and the subject still
> takes a nominative (ga) or topicalizer (wa): "watashi desu (It is I)"; "Hataraite
> iru hito wa kare desu (The one who is working is he)".
And French says neither *"C'est je" (nominative) nor *"Ce m'est"
(accusative) - it uses a special _disjunctive_ form of the pronoun
> So the question is why is it that the copula is considered to be intransitive? I
> can see why the existential "be" is intransitive ("there he is!") but why would
> the copula be intransitive? It seems awfully transitive to me.
Hardly - the second argument never has the semantic role of patient. It
could never be considered a direct object surely? You couldn't even in
in English make the second argument the subject of a passive, as you can
with a transitive verb, cf.
I knew him ~ He was known but me.
It is me ~ *I am been by it
Logically, I suppose, the second argument of verbs like 'to be' or 'to
seem' would, in a language with a case system, have their own
The reason why some languages like Esperanto & Latin have the predicate
of "to be" in the nominative is fairly clear if the predicate is an
Marcus est parvus
Marko estas malgranda
Mark is small.
The adjective 'parvus' or 'malgranda' is describing Mark, therefore one
would expect it to be in the same case as Mark. It would IMO be
illogical if those languages had:
*Marcus est parvum _or_ *Marko estas malgrandan
> Are there any
> langauges that treat the copula as a transitive verb?
Which would mean the copula has a passive form - I suspect there are none.
> Of course, this hinges on the language even having a copula in the first place,
> obligatory or not.
Indeed - many get by without one, at least in the present tense.