[Lingtyp] ***UNCHECKED*** Re: NP + PP construction

Mark Donohue mhdonohue at gmail.com
Sun Sep 27 06:15:46 UTC 2020

Adding to Alex's post, really, any language that doesn't require a verb in
an equative clause is probably going to allow this.

Some other Austronesian (but non-Oceanic) examples

*No really obviously elided verb:*
Saya di kampung.
1SG  LOC village
'I'm in the village.'

*Tukang Besi*
Te ikami kua wunua-su?
'(Shall) we (go) to my house?'

*Possibly elided verb:*
Mau ke mana?
want ALL where
'Where (do) you want (to go)?'

*Tukang Besi*
Ke iaku na doe-'u!
'(Give) your money (to) me!'

And, of course, given the polysemy between 'be.at' verbs and locational

他们 在 房子里
tamen zai fangzi-li
3PL be.at/LOC house-inside
'They're in the house.'

compare with the same zai in:

tamen zai fangzi-li chi fan
3PL LOC? house-inside eat rice
'They're eating in the house.'

For clues about other languages to examine, a close approximation will be


It seems it's ~ half the languages of the world.


On Sun, 27 Sep 2020 at 15:26, Alex Francois <alex.francois.cnrs at gmail.com>

> dear Ian,
> > *I wonder if there has been any literature on the construction where
> there is no verb, but only an NP and a PP*
> Interesting question.
> In English, those constructions are particular:  they are arguably
> elliptical in some way, exclamative – or hortative – rather than
> declarative…
> Yet in many languages, including from the Oceanic (Austronesian) family, a
> construction {NP + PP} is simply the normal syntax for a declarative
> statement, where the PP is the predicate itself.
> Thus *Mwotlap* (Oceanic; Banks, Vanuatu) would have this:
>  (square brackets = limits of the predicate phrase)
> (1)  *Imam    mino   [mi   tēytēybē].*
>      father  my     with doctor
>         “My father is/was with the doctor.”
> (2)  *na-tan̄   nōnōm  [lelo   siok].*
>      Art-bag  your   inside  canoe
>         “Your bag is in the canoe.”
> Likewise, *Araki *(Oceanic; Santo, Vanuatu) says:
> (3)  *Sari   nene   [m̈ar̄a  m̈aji]*.
>      spear  this    for   fish
>         “This spear is for fish.”  (i.e. it's designed for fishing)
> *Teanu  *(Oceanic ; Temotu, Solomons) would have:
> (4)  *Datilu   [pe   Iura]*.
>      3dual    from  Vanuatu
>         “They were from Vanuatu.”
> These are all prepositional predicates, translated in English as *BE* +
> prep.  (is with, is in, is for, were from…)
> Their syntax is typical of languages of the "omnipredicative" type (cf.
> Launey 1994 about Nāhuatl),  languages where the predicate slot can be
> headed by various lexical classes  —  unlike European languages, where the
> predicative function in declarative statements is basically restricted to
> verbs.
> Those languages which, like European languages, restrict predicativity to
> the class of verbs, need a copula (like a verb BE) to turn non-predicative
> phrases into a predicate:  with > "I *was* with them";   happy > "she *is*
> happy";  rice > "this *is* rice";   home > "we *were* home".
> This operation (turning a non-pred phrase into a predicate) is arguably
> the main function of copulas (cf. Lemaréchal 1989, 1997);  this is the *raison
> d'être* of *être*.
> In omnipredicative languages, words like *with*, *happy, rice* and *home* would
> simply head the predicate, making the whole copula operation superfluous.
> This is why a typical property of omnipredicative languages is to lack a
> verb Be in the first place.
> NB:  in languages where the predicate is clause-initial, you will have the
> reverse order {*PP* NP}.  Example in Tahitian:
> (5)  *[Nō   tō'u  fenua]   teie  mā'a.*
>      from  my    country  this  food
>         “This food is from my country.”
> Here again, the preposition (*nō*) is the head of the predicate.
> Some references:
>    - *Launey*, Michel. 1994. *Une grammaire omniprédicative: Essai sur la
>    morphosyntaxe du nahuatl classique*. Sciences du Langage, Paris: CNRS.
>    - *Lemaréchal*, Alain. 1989. *Les parties du discours, Syntaxe et
>    sémantique*. Linguistique Nouvelle. Paris: Presses Universitaires de
>    France.
>    - —— 1997. *Zéro(s)*. Linguistique Nouvelle. Paris: Presses
>    universitaires de France.
>    - *François*, Alexandre. 2005. Diversité des prédicats non verbaux
>    dans quelques langues océaniennes. In Jacques François & Irmtraud Behr, *Les
>    constituants prédicatifs et la diversité des langues*. Mémoires de la
>    Société de Linguistique de Paris. Louvain: Peeters. 179-197.
>    - —— 2017. The economy of word classes in Hiw, Vanuatu: Grammatically
>    flexible, lexically rigid. In Eva van Lier (ed.), *Lexical Flexibility
>    in Oceanic Languages*. Special issue of *Studies in Language*. 41 (2):
>    294–357.
> __________
> I realise that these Oceanic constructions look perfectly parallel to your
> English examples [*Your legs off the table!*], and yet the syntactic
> similarity is only superficial.
> The contrast – whether syntactic, semantic or pragmatic – is worth
> exploring.
> best
> Alex
> ------------------------------
> Alex François
> LaTTiCe <http://www.lattice.cnrs.fr/en/alexandre-francois/> — CNRS–
> <http://www.cnrs.fr/index.html>ENS
> <https://www.ens.fr/laboratoire/lattice-langues-textes-traitements-informatiques-et-cognition-umr-8094>
> –Sorbonne nouvelle
> <http://www.univ-paris3.fr/lattice-langues-textes-traitements-informatiques-cognition-umr-8094-3458.kjsp>
> Australian National University
> <https://researchers.anu.edu.au/researchers/francois-a>
> Academia page <https://cnrs.academia.edu/AlexFran%C3%A7ois> – Personal
> homepage <http://alex.francois.online.fr/>
> ------------------------------
> On Fri, 25 Sep 2020 at 23:07, JOO, Ian [Student] <ian.joo at connect.polyu.hk>
> wrote:
>> Dear all,
>> I wonder if there has been any literature on the construction where there
>> is no verb, but only an NP and a PP, such as:
>> (1) Superman to the rescue!
>> (2) Your legs off the table!
>> Of course, not only in English, but in any language. I would appreciate
>> your help.
>> From Hong Kong,
>> Ian
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