Volume 36, Issue 2
  • ISSN 0176-4225
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9714
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The languages of the Dene (aka Athapaskan) family in North America almost universally employ two copular verbs. In several languages of this family, copular forms are also employed as verbal auxiliaries: forms of one copula mark clausal focus while forms of the other mark TAM (tense/aspect/mode) categories. With reference to two Dene languages in particular, Tłı̨chǫ Yatıì and Tsúùt’ínà, I explain this difference by positing distinct grammaticalization paths and motivations for each copula: both focus and TAM markers originate in a uniclausal reanalysis of biclausal constructions, the former from constructions where the matrix clause asserts the truth of the embedded clause, and the latter from those where the matrix clause supplies extra TAM information to the embedded clause. Both grammaticalizations involve an upward reanalysis of copulas as functional heads.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): copula; Dene; focus; grammaticalization; temporal
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