This chapter is about the presence or absence of a copula in clauses with predicative noun phrases with class-inclusion function (based on Stassen 2005d). Thus we study how a situation like ‘Mary is a singer.’ is expressed in the APiCS languages. In class-inclusion constructions, the predicative noun phrase (‘a singer’) is indefinite and non-referential. We disregard predicative noun phrases with identification function as in ‘My sister is the woman next to the singer.’, where the predicative noun phrase is definite and referential. Moreover, we restrict our comparison to stative situations, i.e. we leave aside situations like ‘Mary became a singer.’.
A copula is defined as any overt element that occurs in such clauses apart from the subject and the predicative noun phrase and that does not normally occur in verbal clauses. The copula need not be a verb. Thus, resumptive pronouns, as in Hebrew David hu student. [David he student] ‘David is a student.’, are also considered as copulas. However, the Seychelles Creole predicate marker i, as in David i letidyan. [David pm student] ‘David is a student.’, is not a copula because it also occurs in verbal clauses (David i vini ‘David comes’). Discourse or focus markers can also function as copulas in the definition proposed here (see ex. 5 from Belizean Creole). In Belizean Creole, the particle da, which Escure (2013) analyzes as a focus particle, is still classified as a copula within the APiCS comparison. Thus our definition of copula as a cross-linguistic comparative concept does not have to coincide with language-particular definitions of copula (compare also our definition of adjective as a cross-linguistic comparative concept contrasting with language-specific definitions in Chapter 3, Order of adjective and noun).
For this chapter, only present-tense clauses are taken into account, because where copula use is variable, it most often depends on tense: In the present tense, no copula is used, while in other tenses, a copula must be used (e.g. in Russian and Arabic).
In this feature we distinguish three values:
33 APiCS languages have an invariant copula, i.e. the copula always occurs (value 1).
In Guyanais the copula sa is used if no TAM markers are present, which means that it is obligatory in the present tense:
In Belizean Creole, predicative noun phrases have to occur with the copula da (see 5a), which also functions as a focus particle or topicalizer (see 5b):
In 22 APiCS languages, a copula is never used (value 2). The following APiCS languages show this value, for example:
Since we disregard tense forms other than the present tense, languages which show copulas in non-present tenses (like Russian and Arabic) also fall into this type. This is the case in Zamboanga Chabacano, where in present contexts there is no copula with predicative noun phrases (see ex. 8a), whereas in past contexts a copula (estaba, see ex. 8b) is required:
Finally, in 21 APiCS languages the use of a copula is variable: It occurs under certain conditions (other than tense, as pointed out earlier), but not under others (value 3). Examples of languages which show optional copulas not conditioned by grammatical factors, i.e. in free variation, are Bahamian Creole and Singlish:
Other languages with a variable copula have grammatical conditioning factors for the presence or absence of a copula with predicative noun phrases. One prominent condition is negation. For example, in Vincentian Creole, affirmative sentences (cf. 10a) show a copula, whereas negated sentences (cf. 10b) lack a copula (a being the copula and not the indefinite article).
Another condition for the occurrence of a copula is main clause vs. (specific) subordinate clauses. In Principense the copula sa is excluded from most contexts, main clauses included (see 11a). But in certain subordinate clauses, e.g. in relative clauses and some complement clauses, the presence of the copula is obligatory (see 11b).
All three values are quite evenly distributed over the APiCS languages. There seem to be some geographical patterns. Copula languages (languages showing value 1 or value 3) are concentrated in the Americas, the Atlantic region, in Africa, and in northern India. Languages in which a copula cannot occur are mainly found in the Indian Ocean, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Australia and the Pacific. Interestingly, the two French-based languages, Martinican and Guadeloupean Creole (see ex. 7), are the only creoles in the Caribbean which have no copula.
If one compares the APiCS data with the corresponding WALS data, one finds first that the West African substrates of the Atlantic creoles have obligatory copulas, so that it is not surprising that the Atlantic creoles have them too. More interesting languages are those where the substrate languages diverge from the European lexifier, and where the contact languages follow the substrates in allowing zero-copulas, as is the case in Sri Lanka Portuguese, Tok Pisin, and Kriol.
One often cited claim in the literature is that pidgins as very simplified languages do not show any copula in such constructions (Ferguson 1971: 141ff). And this is indeed the case for some of the APiCS languages: Eskimo Pidgin, Pidgin Chinese Russian, Fanakalo (see ex. 6) and Pidgin Hawaiian. But there are also pidgins with a copula: Yimas-Arafundi Pidgin, Pidgin Hindustani and Chinese Pidgin English, the latter showing optional copulas (see also Baker 1995: 8 on the role of the copula in pidgins and creoles). As for Yimas-Arafundi Pidgin, at least Yimas, one of the contributing languages, also shows a copula construction.