come --> copula: first summary
sebastian_nordhoff at EVA.MPG.DE
Tue Dec 22 10:45:52 UTC 2009
my query on developments of the copula has triggered a lot more
responses than I had expected :-) I was interested in the use of words
related to the verb 'to come' in structures like (1), or similar structures
(1) Se=ppe naama asàdhaathang Cintha Sinthani.
1s=poss name copula Chintha Sinthani
`My name is Chintha Sinthani.'
The predicate in (1) is stative; it does not entail any change of state
(Actually, it is difficult to imagine how it could possibly be
interpreted as dynamic). Few other languages seem to have a verb related
to 'come' for this function. What many languages have is such a word for
predicates of change of state, like English /become/. There seems to be
a consensus that the grammaticalization path should be something like (2)
(2) come -> become -> be
The first part of this part is attested in the following languages:
* Rhaeto-Romance, some Italian dialects (Balthasar Bickel)
* German, English (Wolfgang Schulze, Paul Hopper)
* Yahgan (Tierra del Fuego, genetic isolate) (Jess Tauber)
* West-Flemish (Willy Vandeweghe )
The second (become->be), but without /become/ necessarily being derived
from /come/ is attested in the following languages.
* Udi (East Caucasian) (Wolfgang Schulze)
* Several dialects of Romani (Viktor Elsik)
If we put these two developments together, we end up with (2).
The step from come->be without intermediate attestation of BECOME:
* In Yholmo, a Tibeto-Burman language of Nepal, the copular 'ohng-' is
the word 'come', but this copular is only used 'in the sense of general
quality or existence' (Hari 2006, p. 38) (Lauren Gawne).
I also asked for other grammaticalizations of come. Responses are
* Italian has a passive auxiliary from 'come' (Siva Kalyan, Susanne
Michaelis, Anna Giacalone)
* The same is true for Ude (Wolfgang Schulze)
* Ku Waru (Chimbu-Waghi, Trans New Guinea) might use a come-verb for
existentials, although this is not sure (Lila San Roque). This is
discusssed in Rumsey (2002)
* Hinuq and to a limited extent Russian have an obligational
construction involving COME (Diana Forker)
* Finnish, Estonian, Swedish use (be)come as a future auxiliary (Hannu
The question about other copulas derived from motion verbs got the
* Spanish has suppletion/conflation of the preterit forms of the copula
/ser/ and the motion verb /ir/ (fui, fuiste, fue etc). Ljuba Veselinova
pointed out a paper by Matthew Juge on the development of this
* Archi has suppletion/conflation of COME and BE in the perfective
* Arab, French, German, and English, have varieties of COME and TURN for
BECOME (Moshe Daniel)
* I might add that Spanish also has quedarse 'to remain', volverse 'to
turn into' and ponerse 'to put oneself into' as verbs related to motion
which have acquired a meaning of 'become'
To put these responses in the context of Sri Lanka Malay: it seems
common for COME to acquire
mutative/ingressive/dynamic/change-of-state/resultative readings, which
can in turn develop into copulas. The funny thing about Sri Lanka Malay
is that the intermediate 'become'-state is not attested. Synchronically,
/asàdhaathang/ can mean 'having come to a place' or 'COPULA', but it
cannot mean 'to become'. For the latter concept /jaadi/ has to be used.
Thanks for all the answers
Rumsey, A. (2002). Men stand, women sit: on the grammaticalisation of
verbs in Papuan languages, its bodily basis and cultural correlates. In
(Ed.), The linguistics of sitting, standing and lying, pp. 179–211.
A. Giacalone Ramat , /On some grammaticalization patterns for
auxiliaries/, in J.C.Smith & Delia Bentley (eds), /Historical
Linguistics 1995/. /Vol.I: General issues and non-Germanic languages/.
Amsterdam, Benjamins, 2000, 125-154
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