Copular Clauses

Specification, predication and equation

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This book is concerned with a class of copular clauses known as specificational clauses, and its relation to other kinds of copular structures, predicational and equative clauses in particular. Based on evidence from Danish and English, I argue that specificational clauses involve the same core predication structure as predicational clauses — one which combines a referential and a predicative expression to form a minimal predicational unit — but differ in how the predicational core is realized syntactically. Predicational copular clauses represent the canonical realization, where the referential expression is aligned with the most prominent syntactic position, the subject position. Specificational clauses involve an unusual alignment of the predicative expression with subject position. I suggest that this unusual alignment is grounded in information structure: the alignment of the less referential DP with the subject position serves a discourse connective function by letting material that is relatively familiar in the discourse appear before material that is relatively unfamiliar in the discourse. Equative clauses are argued to be fundamentally different.

Subjects: Generative linguistics; Theoretical linguistics; Syntax; Semantics; Germanic linguistics

  • Affiliations: 1: University of California, Berkeley

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