Lecture: From Pronouns to Copulas in Aramaic
This talk will explore the grammaticalization of first and second person pronouns into copulas in Aramaic, a branch of the Semitic language family. It will provide an account for the development of person-specific and bound copula forms (also known as “predicators”, “predicate markers”, “nonverbal agreement” etc.).
The Aramaic languages have copulas that grammaticalized from pronouns (pronominal copulas) like most other Semitic languages. In a seminar article Li & Thompson (1977) argued that third person pronouns grammaticalize into copulas via so-called topic-comment constructions of the type “Nöldeke – he was a Semitist”. However, many Aramaic languages also have copulas derived from first and second person pronouns. In this talk I will argue that the account by Li & Thompson is not applicable to such copulas and that they instead developed in simple nominal clauses as a kind of nonverbal indexing, similar to verbal indexes. This approach is based on the accessibility account by Ariel (2000). The talk presents the findings from my Master’s thesis in General Linguistics “Grammaticization of pronominal copulas in Aramaic”.
Ariel, Mira. 2000. The development of person agreement markers: from pronouns to higher accessibility markers. In Michael Barlow & Suzanne Kemmer (eds.), Usage-based Models of Language, 197–260. Stanford, Calif.: CSLI Publ.
Haspelmath, Martin. 2013. Argument indexing: a conceptual framework for the syntactic status of bound person forms. In Dik Bakker & Martin Haspelmath (eds.), Languages across boundaries, 209–238. Berlin & Boston: De Gruyter Mouton.
Li, Charles N. & Sandra A. Thompson. 1977. A mechanism for the development of copula morphemes. In Charles N. Li (ed.), Mechanisms of syntactic change, 419–444. Austin & London: University of Texas Press.
Pustet, Regina. 2005. Copulas: universals in the categorization of the lexicon (Oxford Studies in Typology and Linguistic Theory). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Stassen, Leon. 1997. Intransitive predication (Oxford Studies in Typology and Linguistic Theory). Oxford: Oxford University Press & Clarendon Press.
Maria Zielenbach studied General Linguistics at the University of Cologne. Her main research interests include language change (grammaticalization), typology and historical linguistics (Semitic Studies).