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This page pertains to UD version 2.

Clauses with Predication of Object Concepts and Equational Clauses

Prototypical predication is predication of action concepts, where the predicate is a verb. Here we consider one type of nonprototypical predication, namely predication of an object (entity) concept. One entity (typically, but not necessarily, denoted by a definite nominal) is predicated to belong to a category of entities (typically denoted by an indefinite noun). Example: Ivan is a dancer.

This construction is similar but not necessarily identical to equational clauses where two definite nominals are said to refer to the same entity. Example: Ivan is the winner of this dancing competition.

The exact UD analysis of the construction depends on the strategy used by the language to express it. What the analyses have in common is that the category being predicated (e.g., dancer) is the root of the clause, while the entity said to belong to that category is attached to it as the subject. Equational constructions are analyzed analogously but see below on how to decide which nominal is the subject.

Zero Strategy

In some languages, the subject and the categorial predicate are simply juxtaposed. “Zero” refers to the absence of any verbal inflection and any linking morpheme between the subject and the predicate.

Waskia [wsk] (Ross and Natu Paol 1978:10; Stassen 1997:144; Croft 2022:299)

Aga/PRON bawa/NOUN taleng-duap/NOUN ./PUNCT \n My brother policeman .
nmod(bawa, Aga)
nmod(brother, My)
nsubj(taleng-duap, bawa)
nsubj(policeman, brother)
punct(taleng-duap, .-4)
punct(policeman, .-9)

Russian [ru]

Иван/PROPN танцор/NOUN ./PUNCT \n Ivan tancor . \n Ivan dancer .
nsubj(танцор, Иван)
nsubj(tancor, Ivan-5)
nsubj(dancer, Ivan-9)
punct(танцор, .-3)
punct(tancor, .-7)
punct(dancer, .-11)

The same strategy may be used in equational constructions. The main difference is that, due to the symmetrical nature of these constructions, it may not be clear which of the nominals should be the predicate and which one is the subject (one can say either Ivan is the winner or The winner is Ivan). Language-specific documentation should say whether there are any criteria to make this distinction consistently; if no such criteria are available, the first nominal should be subject and the second one is predicate.

Maltese [mt] (Borg 1987/88:63; Stassen 1997:211; Croft 2022:298)

Pietru/PROPN l-/DET eżaminatur/NOUN ./PUNCT \n Pietru the examiner .
nsubj(eżaminatur, Pietru-1)
nsubj(examiner, Pietru-6)
det(eżaminatur, l-)
det(examiner, the)
punct(eżaminatur, .-4)
punct(examiner, .-9)

Nonverbal Copula Strategy

Some languages use a word or morpheme that signals the predication and/or links the subject to the predicate. This linking element may be a special verb (see Verbal Copula below) or it may lack verbal inflection. In the latter case we call it ‘nonverbal copula’. In good many languages a personal or demonstrative pronoun is used for this purpose and then it keeps the UPOS tag that it uses in other functions (that is, PRON or DET). Otherwise it is tagged AUX. Its relation to the predicate is cop.

Maltese [mt] optionally uses a personal pronoun as copula (Borg 1987/88:63; Stassen 1997:211; Croft 2022:298):

Pietru/PROPN hu/PRON l-/DET eżaminatur/NOUN ./PUNCT \n Pietru he the examiner .
nsubj(eżaminatur, Pietru-1)
nsubj(examiner, Pietru-7)
cop(eżaminatur, hu)
cop(examiner, he)
det(eżaminatur, l-)
det(examiner, the)
punct(eżaminatur, .-5)
punct(examiner, .-11)

Polish [pl] uses a demonstrative pronoun instead:

Moja/DET miesięczna/ADJ pensja/NOUN to/DET czterysta/NUM peso/NOUN ./PUNCT \n My monthly salary that four-hundred pesos .
det(pensja, Moja)
det(salary, My)
amod(pensja, miesięczna)
amod(salary, monthly)
nsubj(peso, pensja)
nsubj(pesos, salary)
cop(peso, to)
cop(pesos, that)
nummod(peso, czterysta)
nummod(pesos, four-hundred)
punct(peso, .-7)
punct(pesos, .-15)

Russian [ru] can also use a demonstrative pronoun instead of the zero strategy:

Отмена/NOUN недействующих/ADJ функций/NOUN –/PUNCT это/DET формальный/ADJ акт/NOUN ./PUNCT \n Otmena nedejstvujuščix funkcij – èto formal'nyj akt . \n Canceling inactive functions – that formal act .
nmod(Отмена, функций)
nmod(Otmena, funkcij)
nmod(Canceling, functions)
amod(функций, недействующих)
amod(funkcij, nedejstvujuščix)
amod(functions, inactive)
punct(Отмена, –-4)
punct(Otmena, –-13)
punct(Canceling, –-22)
nsubj(акт, Отмена)
nsubj(akt, Otmena)
nsubj(act, Canceling)
cop(акт, это)
cop(akt, èto)
cop(act, that)
amod(акт, формальный)
amod(akt, formal'nyj)
amod(act, formal)
punct(акт, .-8)
punct(akt, .-17)
punct(act, .-26)

Awtuw [kmn] (Osborne 1974:60; Stassen 1997:144; Croft 2022:295) uses a nonverbal copula that originates in a focus marker rather than a pronoun:

Wan/PRON po/AUX rumeyæn/NOUN ./PUNCT \n I FOC human-being .
nsubj(rumeyæn, Wan)
nsubj(human-being, I)
cop(rumeyæn, po)
cop(human-being, FOC)
punct(rumeyæn, .-4)
punct(human-being, .-9)

Verbal Copula Strategy

In many languages the copula has verb-like inflection and behavior (it may be even used as a main verb in other contexts). In UD we treat such copulas as auxiliaries whose function is to provide verbal features (e.g., Tense) to the nominal predicate. They are tagged AUX and attached to the nominal predicate as cop.

English [en]

Ivan/PROPN is/AUX a/DET dancer/NOUN ./PUNCT
nsubj(dancer, Ivan)
cop(dancer, is)
det(dancer, a)
punct(dancer, .)

Russian [ru] uses the zero strategy (or a nonverbal copula) in the present indicative, but it uses a verbal copula in other tenses and moods. It also marks the nominal predicate with the instrumental case, while the subject stays in the nominative and the copula agrees with it in Number and Gender.

Иван/PROPN был/AUX танцором/NOUN ./PUNCT \n Ivan byl tancorom . \n Ivan was dancer .
nsubj(танцором, Иван)
nsubj(tancorom, Ivan-6)
nsubj(dancer, Ivan-11)
cop(танцором, был)
cop(tancorom, byl)
cop(dancer, was)
punct(танцором, .-4)
punct(tancorom, .-9)
punct(dancer, .-14)

Chinese [zh] uses a copula for object predication but not for property predication (Li and Thompson 1981:148,143; Croft 2022:300). Note that it is not clear that the copula is verbal, as there is no verb-specific inflection in Chinese. The UD analysis is the same for verbal and nonpronominal nonverbal copulas—the only way to search for verbal copulas is to look for morphological features such as VerbForm, Mood, Tense or Aspect.

她/PRON 是/AUX 一/NUM 名/NOUN 護士/NOUN 。/PUNCT \n Tā shì yī míng hùshì . \n She be one CLF nurse .
nsubj(護士, 她)
nsubj(hùshì, Tā)
nsubj(nurse, She)
cop(護士, 是)
cop(hùshì, shì)
cop(nurse, be)
nummod(護士, 一)
nummod(hùshì, yī)
nummod(nurse, one)
clf(一, 名)
clf(yī, míng)
clf(one, CLF)
punct(護士, 。)
punct(hùshì, .-13)
punct(nurse, .-20)

Multiple Copular Verbs?

By default the guidelines assume that at most one lemma can serve as copula in a language; but there are exceptions.

Some languages that have verbal copulas also have other verbs where “being X” is part of the predication, but it is accompanied by some other bit of meaning, for example dynamic (“to become X”, “to stop being X”) or relativizing (“to resemble X”, “to be considered X”). Some grammatical descriptions regard some of these verbs as copulas but UD does not. Instead, UD analyzes them as instances of secondary predication where the verb heads the main clause and the nominal predicate is attached as its open complement (xcomp). Note that an additional nsubj relation between the nominal predicate and a nominal in the main clause can be added in the enhanced UD representation.

English [en] secondary predication: basic representation on the left, enhanced representation on the right.

1 Ivan _ PROPN _ _ 2 nsubj _ _ 2 became _ VERB _ _ 0 root _ _ 3 a _ DET _ _ 4 det _ _ 4 dancer _ NOUN _ _ 2 xcomp _ _ 5 . _ PUNCT _ _ 2 punct _ _
# visual-style 4 1 nsubj color:blue 1 Ivan _ PROPN _ _ 2 nsubj 4:nsubj _ 2 became _ VERB _ _ 0 root _ _ 3 a _ DET _ _ 4 det _ _ 4 dancer _ NOUN _ _ 2 xcomp _ _ 5 . _ PUNCT _ _ 2 punct _ _
1 The _ DET _ _ 2 det _ _ 2 president _ NOUN _ _ 3 nsubj _ _ 3 appointed _ VERB _ _ 0 root _ _ 4 him _ PRON _ _ 3 obj _ _ 5 a _ DET _ _ 6 det _ _ 6 general _ NOUN _ _ 3 xcomp _ _ 7 . _ PUNCT _ _ 3 punct _ _
# visual-style 6 4 nsubj color:blue 1 The _ DET _ _ 2 det _ _ 2 president _ NOUN _ _ 3 nsubj _ _ 3 appointed _ VERB _ _ 0 root _ _ 4 him _ PRON _ _ 3 obj 6:nsubj _ 5 a _ DET _ _ 6 det _ _ 6 general _ NOUN _ _ 3 xcomp _ _ 7 . _ PUNCT _ _ 3 punct _ _

Nevertheless, there are situations where a language should exceptionally be allowed more than one verbal copula. Typically there is some kind of deficient paradigm where one stem has only past tense forms and the other only present tense; or one has affirmative and the other negative forms; or one is in default imperfective aspect while the other is iterative. Depending on the language-specific lemmatization rules, the forms may or may not be grouped under one lemma. If each of them has its own lemma, both/all such lemmas can be registered as copulas.

The boundaries here are somewhat blurry and must be specified at the language-specific level (while maximizing parallelism at least between closely related languages). For example, one could claim that the difference between English to be and to become is aspectual and they qualify to be two deficient parts of one verbal paradigm; but as English verbs do not normally have such an opposition in their paradigms, it would be misguided to pretend that to become is just an aspect-marked form of the copula to be. On the other hand, the same could be said about the opposition between ser and estar in Spanish (and their cognates in other Romance languages): the former is used for permanent, the latter for temporary state. Nevertheless, the UD guidelines explicitly say that both these verbs are allowed as copulas, as both of them mean just “to be” and it would not be practical to arbitrarily pick one of them as THE copula.

Verbal Strategy

Finally, some languages will treat the object predicate as a verb rather than a noun, and apply verbal inflection to it. As a consequence, the predicate will be analyzed in UD as a VERB and the construction will be unrecognizable from normal predication of action concepts. (Note that the MISC column can optionally carry information about the verb being derived from a noun, but this is neither required nor regulated by the UD guidelines.)

Classical Nahuatl [nci] “I am a doctor” (Croft 2022:294; compare to Ni-chōca “I am crying”):

Ni-tīcitl/VERB ./PUNCT \n 1SG-doctor .
punct(Ni-tīcitl, .-2)
punct(1SG-doctor, .-5)

Language-specific word segmentation may play a role in distinguishing the verbal strategy from verbal copulas. In Turkish [tr], the surface representation looks either like the zero strategy (in present tense) or like the verbal strategy (when past-tense suffix -DI is attached to the nominal predicate). But as of UD v2, the suffix is analyzed as a form of encliticized copula i and is treated as a separate syntactic word. Consequently, the sentence is analyzed as using the verbal copula strategy.

Necla/PROPN öğretmen/NOUN =di/AUX ./PUNCT \n Necla teacher was .
nsubj(öğretmen, Necla-1)
nsubj(teacher, Necla-6)
cop(öğretmen, =di)
cop(teacher, was)
punct(öğretmen, .-4)
punct(teacher, .-9)


Each of the following should have its own page in the documentation.