Volume 47, Issue 3
  • ISSN 0378-4177
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9978
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Van der Auwera & Vossen (2017) identify an intriguing shift from a copula to a negative marker in the Tibeto-Burman Kiranti group, and discuss it as a possible example of Jespersen’s Cycle. This paper traces a fuller history of the copula , and presents an account of its association with negation, which is attested in several other Tibeto-Burman languages besides Kiranti. In most Tibeto-Burman languages the equational copula is “optional”, occurring in affirmative sentences only with a contrastive or emphatic sense. For this reason copulas often develop into sentence-final stance markers. Since negation is morphologically marked on verbs, a negated equational sentence requires an overt copula which can be negated. This paper presents data showing how this association of the presence of a copula with negation has resulted in the negative sense becoming associated with and, in a few cases, becoming the direct meaning of the erstwhile copula.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): copula; grammaticalization; negation; Sino-Tibetan; Tibeto-Burman; Trans-Himalayan
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