[Lingtyp] copula as focus marker

Denis CREISSELS denis.creissels at univ-lyon2.fr
Sun Mar 12 21:00:31 UTC 2023

Dear Christian,


You’ll find some data and references in the article attached to this message.





De : Lingtyp [mailto:lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org] De la part de Christian Lehmann
Envoyé : dimanche 12 mars 2023 21:27
Objet : [Lingtyp] copula as focus marker


Dear colleagues,

the literature available to me adduces a Caribbean Spanish example of what I am looking for:

Juan compró fue un libro.
John bought was a book
'A book is what John bought.' 

The copula here separates the topical portion of the clause from the comment portion, including importantly the focus (to which this portion reduces in the example). Different sources of such a construction are conceivable, for instance a pseudo-cleft:

Lo que Juan compró fue un libro.
it that John bought was a book
'What John bought was a book.' 

What concerns me at the moment, however, is the bare copula in the function of a focus marker. I am sure I have seen or heard sentences like the following in Portuguese:

O João comprou foi um livro.

or with neutralization of tense and, thus, reduction to the default form of the copula:

O João comprou é um livro.

However, I cannot seem to find evidence for this, neither primary data nor linguistic treatments of it. Could you please help me out? Both references to the linguistic literature and examples, preferably from Portuguese, but also from any other language (I do have data from Mandarin!) would be welcome.

Thanks in advance,



Prof. em. Dr. Christian Lehmann
Rudolfstr. 4
99092 Erfurt




christianw_lehmann at arcor.de




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