This chapter is about the presence or absence of a copula in clauses with predicative adjectives. We ask how a situation such as ‘Mary is old.’ is expressed. Note that “adjective” is defined purely semantically: a word that denotes a property, such as ‘red’, ‘big’, ‘old’, ‘bad’. The issue whether such words "are really verbs” or belong to a separate word class “adjective” is left aside for the purposes of this feature (see also Chapter 3, Order of adjective and noun).
As in Chapter 73 (Predicative noun phrases), a copula is defined as any overt element that occurs in such clauses apart from the subject and the predicative adjective and that does not normally occur in clauses with action verbs.
Similarly, as in the preceding chapter, only present-tense clauses are taken into account. Moreover, we only look at stative predicative adjectives, so we do not consider inchoative situations like ‘Peter got angry.’ (cf. Chapter 52 on aspect markers and inchoative meaning).
In this feature we distinguish three values:
In 14 APiCS languages, predicative adjectives must occur with a copula (value 1):
In some languages there are two different copulas. The choice for one or the other depends on whether the property assigned to the subject is conceived of as a permanent or a transitory state. This is the case, for example, in Diu Indo-Portuguese (Cardoso 2013) and in some varieties of Cape Verdean Creole (Baptista 2013 and Lang 2013). These creoles seem to continue the similar distinction between permanent and transitory states that is also found in their European base language Portuguese. But not all Portuguese-based APiCS languages show two copulas that make this kind of distinction. Other APiCS languages mark this distinction by different means (see e.g. Pichi and Ghanaian Pidgin English under value 3).
In the majority of APiCS languages (34 languages), the copula cannot occur in predicative adjective clauses (value 2). Such languages are often described as expressing property words by stative verbs rather than by adjectives. This is the case in most Caribbean languages, languages of the Indian Ocean, Asia and in the Pacific.
There are 28 APiCS languages which may or may not have a copula in predicative adjective phrases (value 3). For many languages, the contributors mention that the variation does not seem to be conditioned by grammatical factors. This is for instance the case in Gullah (ex. 9), Angolar, Nigerian Pidgin, Sango, Singlish, and the mixed language Gurindji Kriol. The variation may be governed stylistically or socially.
But in some languages there are grammatical, semantic, or lexical conditioning factors for the presence or absence of a copula. In Ghanaian Pidgin English, time stable adjectives occur without a copula (ex. 10a), whereas transitory states like ‘sick’ require the locative copula de (ex. 10b).
In Pichi (Yakpo 2013) and Nengee (Migge 2013), similar factors seem to condition the use of the copula.
In Sranan, the copula is only used with a small class of adjectives (see ex. 11b), most of which are loanwords from Dutch, such as enthoesiast ‘enthusiastic’, bezig ‘busy’, ernstig ‘serious’, vrij ‘free’, moi ‘nice’ (Winford 1997: 283). All other adjectives occur without a copula (see ex. 11a).
In Principense, in most syntactic contexts no copula occurs (ex. 12a). But in certain types of subordinate clauses (complement clauses and desiderative clauses headed by pa, see ex. 12b), a copula is used with predicative adjectives (similar syntactic restrictions also hold for predicative noun phrases in Principense, see Chapter 73):
In Santome the pattern with the copula is dominant (see 13a). The copula may be absent if the adjective shows a special intonation pattern (high pitch and vowel lengthening, but not indicated in 13b):
Interestingly, eight out of 14 APiCS languages with invariant copula use (value 1) are Ibero-Romance-based languages: Palenquero, Papiamentu (both being the only invariant-copula languages of the Americas), the three Cape Verdean Creole varieties, Diu Indo-Portuguese, Korlai, and Batavia Creole. Only one French-based language, Reunion Creole, requires a copula, and there is no English-based APiCS language where the predicative adjective must occur with the copula.
The languages with value 2, where the copula cannot occur, are not restricted lexifier-wise or area-wise. The most striking picture is presented by the Caribbean, where the overwhelming majority of English- and French-based languages show no copula in predicative adjective constructions (with the exception of Palenquero and Papiamentu noted above). This is in sharp contrast to the geographical pattern in predicative noun phrase constructions (see the previous Chapter 73), where many of these Caribbean (and other Atlantic) creole languages have an obligatory copula.
Yimas-Arafundi Pidgin (see ex. 3) is the only pidgin in APiCS which shows a copula in predicative adjectives (as in Chapter 73 with predicative noun phrases). All other pidgins, even those which have a copula in predicative noun phrases (Pidgin Hindustani and Chinese Pidgin English), do not have a copula in this feature.
Variation in the treatment of property words is also dealt with in (Stassen's 2005f) WALS chapter, but the three types he distinguishes are somewhat different. He looks at verbal/nonverbal encoding (with mixed as a third option). Verbal encoding roughly corresponds to "no copula", nonverbal encoding to "invariant copula", and mixed to "variable copula" in the present chapter. West African languages, which are the substrate languages for most Atlantic creoles, overwhelmingly show verbal encoding or mixed encoding. Many of the Atlantic creoles seem to mirror these substrate patterns (see also Boretzky 1983: 159ff). The same holds for Indonesia, the Philippines, Melanesia and Polynesia. Most APiCS languages with substrates and adstrates in these parts of the world also lack copulas in predicative adjectives.