Chapter Nominal and Locational Predication

by Leon Stassen

1. Defining the values

This map shows the possible relationships between the encoding of nominal and locational predicates. In particular, the map shows for each language whether nominal predications (such as John is a tailor) and locational predications (such as John is in Paris) can or cannot be encoded by the same strategy. In the terminology of Stassen (1997), a language is called a share-language if the encoding strategy for locational predications is (or can be) used for nominal predications, and a split-language if the encoding strategies for the two constructions must be different.

An obvious example of a share-language is English. As the above example sentences demonstrate, this language can use the lexical item be  both as a nominal copula and as a locational support verb. In contrast to this, Mandarin is a split-language, as the copula and the locational verb are not the same.

(1) Mandarin (Li and Thompson 1977: 422; Li and Thompson 1981: 365)

a.

nei-ge

rén

shi

xuésheng

 

that-clf

person

cop

student

 

‘That man is a student.’

b.

Lısì

zái

hai-bian

 

Lisi

be.at

ocean-side

 

‘Lisi is by the ocean.’

Values of Map 119A. Nominal and Locational Predication
 ValueRepresentation
Split (i.e. different) encoding of nominal and locational predication 269
Shared (i.e. identical) encoding of nominal and locational predication 117
Total:386

2. Variation in split-languages

As was shown in example (1), Mandarin is a split-language by virtue of the difference between the lexical items involved in nominal and locational predication. This type of split encoding is rather common. Spanish, with its difference between the copula ser  and the locational verb estar, is another well-known case in point, as is Irish.

(2) Spanish (Max Kerkhof, p.c.)

a.

Julia

es

enfermera

 

Julia

cop.3sg.pres

nurse

 

‘Julia is a nurse.’

b.

Julia

está

en

Barcelona

 

Julia

be.3sg.pres

in

Barcelona

 

‘Julia is in Barcelona.’

(3) Irish (Greene 1966: 40, 43)

a.

is

múinteoir

é

 

cop

teacher

he

 

‘He is a teacher.’

b.

sa

tseomra

 

be.pres

he

in.the

room

 

‘He is in the room.’

However, this “lexical” form of split encoding is not the only way in which a language can achieve split-status. A second, also fairly frequent type of split encoding involves a contrast between a full supporting verb for locational predication and the absence of any overt linking item (a “zero copula”) for nominal predication. Examples of split languages in which this situation holds are Mokilese (Oceanic; Micronesia) and Waskia (Madang; Papua New Guinea).

(4) Mokilese (Harrison 1976: 142, 209)

a.

John

johnpadahk-men

 

John

teacher-indef

 

‘John is a teacher.’

b.

ih

mine

Hawaii

 

he

be

Hawaii

 

‘He is in Hawaii.’

(5) Waskia (Ross and Paol 1978: 11, 12)

a.

aga

bawa

taleng-duap

 

my

brother

police-man

 

‘My brother is a policeman.’

b.

kadi

mu

kawam

se

bage-so

 

man

art

house

in

stay-3sg.pres

 

‘The man is in the house.’

Finally, a third variant of split encoding is based on the difference between a full support verb for locative predicates and a verbal encoding for nominal predicates. Since there are not that many languages in which predicate nominals are treated as verbs anyway, it will be clear that this variant of split encoding will be less frequent than the other two. An example of this encoding option is the Philippine language Kapampangan: as is shown by sentences (6a-b), predicate nouns in this language have the same morphosyntactic properties as predicate verbs.

(6) Kapampangan (Mirikitani 1972: 137, 44, 72)

a.

tinerak

ya

ing

anak

ku

 

dance

3sg

art

child

my

 

‘My child danced.’

b.

mestro

ya

ing

lalaki

 

teacher

3sg

art

boy

 

‘The boy is a teacher.’

c.

ati

ya

ing

lalaki

king

eskwela

 

be

3sg

art

boy

at

school

 

‘The boy is in school.’

For the purposes of this map, the three possible forms which split encoding can take have been ignored. Thus, a language is rated as a member of type 1 if there is split encoding of any sort, regardless of whether this involves a lexical contrast, a zero-verb contrast, or a contrast between verbal and nonverbal encoding.

3. Variation in shared encoding

Parallel to split encoding, shared encoding of nominal and locational predication can be attested in three variants. Of these variants, the “lexical” form, which involves the use of the same lexical item for nominal copula and locational support verb, is by far the most frequent. In addition to English, some other examples of this variant are Miskito (Misumalpan; Nicaragua) and Luganda (Bantu; Uganda).

(7) Miskito (Anonymous 1985: 213; Conzemius 1929: 110)

a.

Giovanni

tuktan

sirpi

kum

sa

 

Giovanni

child

small

one

cop.3sg.pres

 

‘Giovanni is a small child.’

b.

aisi-kam

bara

sa

 

father-your

here

be.3sg.pres

 

‘Your father is here.’

(8) Luganda (Ashton et al. 1954: 434, 82)

a.

Mukasa

n-ange

tu-li

babazzi

 

Mukasa

and-1sg

1pl.pres-cop

carpenters

 

‘Mukasa and I are carpenters.’

b.

omugaati

gu-li

mu

kabada

 

loaf

3sg.pres-be

in

cupboard

 

‘The loaf is in the cupboard.’

The other two possible forms of shared encoding are rather uncommon. This is due to the fact that, for locational predication, the use of a full locational support item is the overwhelmingly preferred option (see Stassen 1997: 55-61). Thus, we only rarely find that a language has share-status on the basis of a zero-zero encoding. One such case is Pitjantjatjara (Pama-Nyungan; South Australia).

(9) Pitjantjatjara (Douglas 1959: 55, 81)

a.

wait

ngalyayala

 

man

doctor

 

‘The man is a doctor.’

b.

tjitji

kutjara

ngura-ka

 

child

two

camp-at

 

‘The two children are at camp.’

Finally, share-status for a language is also possible on the basis of a verbal encoding for both nominal and locational predicates. Since verbal encoding is definitely a minor typological option for both of these predicate types, it follows that a verbal-verbal shared encoding will be very uncommon as well. This variant can be illustrated by Korku (Munda; central India).

(10) Korku (Drake 1903: 149, 132, 80)

a.

ing

shene-ba

 

1sg

go-nonpst

 

‘I go/will go.’

b.

di

dhega

kad

ojha-ba

 

that

stone

heavy

load-nonpst

 

‘That stone is a heavy load.’

c.

di

ura-gen-ba

 

it

house-at-nonpst

 

‘It is at home.’

As was the case with split encoding, the variation among languages with share-status has been ignored for the purposes of this map.

4. Mixed encoding

In the above discussion, the split-share distinction has been defined as a binary parameter, in a yes/no fashion, and it will be represented as such on the map. It must be noted, however, that this binary definition is a simplification in some respects. For one thing, many languages have not just one encoding item for nominal predicates and locational predicates; commonly, copulas and locational support items come in sets, and these sets usually coincide only partially, if they coincide at all. This situation can be illustrated by Dutch. This language has a set of copular items (such as zijn  ‘to be’, worden  ‘to become’, lijken  ‘to appear’), as well as a set of locational verbs (such as zijn  ‘to be’, liggen  ‘to lie’, hangen  ‘to hang’, staan  ‘to stand’ and zitten  ‘to sit’). Now, the only overlap between these two sets are the items zijn  ‘to be’ and blijven  ‘to stay’, which can be used for both nominal and locational predication; all the other items are specialized for one or the other of the two predicational functions. Furthermore, since the use of zijn  in locational function is much more limited in Dutch than is the use of be  in that function in English, one may well ask whether Dutch should not be considered as a split-language rather than as a share-language.

A second factor which tends to blur the distinction between split-languages and share-languages is the phenomenon of copularization of the locational support verb. In some languages, the locational support verb has (or has attained) a limited possibility to act as the copula in nominal predication, in addition to the “real” copula that the language has. This leads to the possibility of a double encoding possibility for nominal predications. Examples are from Spanish and from Tamil (Dravidian; southern India).

(11) Spanish (Max Kerkhof, p.c.)

a.

Julia

es

enfermera

 

Julia

cop.3sg.pres

nurse

 

‘Julia is a nurse.’

b.

Julia

está

de

enfermera

(en Madrid)

 

Julia

be.3sg.pres

prep

nurse

(in Madrid)

 

‘Julia is a nurse (in Madrid).’

(12) Tamil (Asher 1982: 49, 50, 51)

a.

avaru

(oru)

daktar

 

he

(one)

doctor

 

‘He is a doctor.’

b.

ippo

oru

daktar-aa

taan

irukkaraaru

 

now

one

doctor-adv

emph

be.3sg.hon.pres

 

‘Now he is a doctor.’

c.

Raaman

tootta-ille

irukkaraan

 

Raaman

garden-in

be.3sg.m.pres

 

‘Raaman is in the garden.’

In the large majority of relevant cases, this double encoding of nominal predications is connected with a clear semantic difference, which can be described in terms of the notion of Time Stability (see Givón 1984) or Permanency (see Stassen 1997). For example, in the Spanish examples given above, it must be understood that the (a) sentence (which has a form of the “real” copula ser ) indicates permanent class membership, whereas the (b) sentence (which contains the “copularized” locational verb estar ) must be interpreted as stating that the class membership is only temporary. In this latter case, the sentence might well be translated as “Julia works/acts as a nurse in Madrid”.

In view of the possible indeterminacy created by the phenomena of partial overlap and copularization, the map has been constructed along the following guideline. A language will be called a share-language if at least one of its locational items can be used for copula function, unless this use is governed by conditions of Permanency. In all other circumstances, the language will be rated as a split-language. As a result, Dutch is rated as a share-language, while Spanish has been included among the split-languages.

5. Geographical distribution

As the frequency numbers given above demonstrate, shared encoding is definitely the less frequent option among the world’s languages. Nonetheless, there are a number of areas in which this encoding appears to be the rule. First, shared encoding is encountered in what might be called the Eurasian landmass, comprising Europe, central and northern Asia, the Middle East, Pakistan, and at least the northern part of India; notable exceptions here are some languages of the Caucasus and a number of languages on the western fringe of this mega-area (Celtic, Spanish). Secondly, shared encoding is prominent in Australia and New Guinea. Thirdly, we can note a concentration of shared encoding in an area which comprises the southern part of Middle America and the northern part of South America. Finally, shared encoding is found in parts of eastern Africa, mainly due to the progress of copularization in the Bantu languages. Apart from these areas, however, split encoding seems to have a firm foothold.