Talk:Indo-European copula

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Angr, I didn't want to discuss in the text notes, so I'll answer your question here. The source I have to hand right now is Calvert Watkins, American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots (2nd edition) page 23. He does say "probably", so there is scope for a pros-and-cons discussion if you want to write one. --Doric Loon 22:03, 24 May 2005 (UTC)

I don't have an opinion about it, nor am I aware of a controversy surrounding it. It just bothered me that it said "recent scholarship" without an attribution. Maybe we should follow Watkins's lead and say "This is probably the origin..." instead of "Recent scholarship sees this as the origin..." which IMHO is screaming out for a source. --Angr/comhrá 22:14, 24 May 2005 (UTC)
OK, do it. --Doric Loon 22:25, 24 May 2005 (UTC)
Ringe mentions that the copula was commonly unaccented in Pre-Proto-Germanic, and so this would explain how the voiced Verner alternants appear in several languages. This is supported by the fact that PIE *h₁ésmi "I am" appears in Germanic as *immi. This could only have occurred as a result of the assimilation of -zm- to -mm-, which did not affect -sm-. CodeCat (talk) 11:58, 10 May 2011 (UTC)


Should Tocharian be added for completeness' sake? Apparently, Tocharian seems unique in that there are no attested form for the *h1es-root. 惑乱 Wakuran (talk) 10:22, 26 April 2009 (UTC)

Hmm, might be somewhat more complicated than that. [1] 惑乱 Wakuran (talk) 15:38, 1 June 2011 (UTC)
That's a very long page. What exactly are you looking at there? All I saw was same vague discussion of suppletion of the h1es-root in other languages, but I didn't look very closely. —Angr (talk) 15:52, 1 June 2011 (UTC)
"49.4. A nas- B nes- 'be'" and "49.5. The Copula". 惑乱 Wakuran (talk) 20:05, 1 June 2011 (UTC)

Gaelic Copulae[edit]

I would like to challenge the line

"While some grammar books still distinguish the substantive verb from the copula, some treat the substantive forms as assertive forms of the copula;[5] since the verb is in any case suppletive, this is a matter of perspective."

from the section on Celtic languages. I have never seen a source on Irish grammar treat the copula as a form of the verb bí. Often, sentences formed using the copula don't even follow the same sentence structure as would a verb. I fear the contributor has made a mistake and that the reference refers only to Scottish Gaelic. Does anyone have access to the referenced book; Colin Mark, Gaelic Verbs systemised and simplified, Savage (London & Edinburgh) 1986, p21ff.? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:41, 24 June 2011 (UTC)


Is it possible fore (fuo, fui, futurum) is another descendant of bʰuH in Latin? --Nikcro32 (talk) 10:30, 29 October 2012 (UTC)

Yes, of course it is. Angr (talk) 22:32, 29 October 2012 (UTC)

The resulting paradigms[edit]

Edits removing forms obsolete in modern languages seem to be a recurring theme. My interpretation of the table is that it is not documenting how people speak now (if it was then e.g. Sanskrit would be out of place) but that it is documenting how the various forms have evolved in different IE languages; as such an inclusive approach makes the most sense. Ewx (talk) 09:01, 10 January 2013 (UTC)

The forms I removed from Dutch are not obsolete, but they are not cognates to the 2nd person singular forms as they derive historically from the plural form. Dutch zijt is not cognate to German bist but rather seid. bent isn't cognate to anything at all; it's a modern analogical formation produced by the rule that 2nd person = 1st person + t. The original 2nd person singular du with ending -s(t) fell out of use in Middle Dutch and is no longer understood or even ever heard of. Unlike English thou which still lives on lingeringly in the minds of speakers, Dutch du has no connotations of archaicness, it is no longer recognised as Dutch and hasn't been used in Dutch since the middle ages. CodeCat (talk) 13:41, 10 January 2013 (UTC)

Slavic languages[edit]

Why do Proto-Slavic and Old Churc Slavonic have nine different verb forms instead of six? Do they utilize a dual, such as Gothic and Old Norse? 惑乱 Wakuran (talk) 15:43, 11 March 2013 (UTC)

Yes, Proto-Slavic and its early descendants still had dual forms. Slovene still uses them too, that's why they're listed there. The Gothic (and Proto-Germanic) also had a dual, but not in the 3rd person so there are only 8 forms. CodeCat (talk) 17:03, 11 March 2013 (UTC)
I found it a bit unclear. Maybe it could be clarified in the section. 惑乱 Wakuran (talk) 17:59, 11 March 2013 (UTC)
I see now that Old Norse didn't seem to use dual forms, after all. I believe it had dual pronouns, so that could be what confused me. 惑乱 Wakuran (talk) 18:01, 11 March 2013 (UTC)

User:Mstoofan's recent edits[edit]

[2] and perhaps more that have been made since then. A lot of it is just extra rambling in a style that doesn't fit the topic of the article very well. The section "Philosophical Outcomes" is completely off-topic and reads more like a blog than an encyclopedic article. I'm tempted to revert the whole thing rather than try to figure out what is salvageable, as I don't know anything about Persian. But maybe someone else can do better? CodeCat (talk) 20:40, 20 April 2014 (UTC)

I removed the following paragraph from the "general features" section, where it was obviously out of place. "General features" is supposed to let the reader find a first orientation in all the issues without getting bogged down in one language. I would have moved this to the section on Persian, but it already has an introduction and I'm not sure - not knowing anything about Persian - how those should be merged. So I put it here and hope that if anyone thinks any important information has been lost, they will write it into the Persian section in a way that makes sense.

An exception is Persian differentiation between ast (is) as a copula and hast (exists) as an existential "be". It is of course,a singular case in Persian: one can just say “Hast.” and it is a complete sentence (denoting “s/he it exists”). The implicit pronoun in hast can become explicit by using a 3rd person singular pronoun or a noun, e.g. “kodā hast” (God exists). But if this paradigm is applied to the copula ast (is) it cannot produce a complete or well-formed sentence. So, an expression like *“Ast” (It is.) does not make any sense in Persian; it is also an ill-formed sentence (i.e. grammatically quite wrong) to say *“kodā ast” (God is.), which sounds like an unfinished sentence denoting: "God + ..." (You may ask: “God plus WHAT?”). A complete sentence, using copula, would be rather like “A+B” or “A ast B” (A is B) where ast is just a copula. Thus, a well-formed Modern Persian sentence, using ast, would be rather like: “Khodā bad nīst [ni+ast]” (God is not bad), which of course makes no existential claim. In short, if by “God is” you mean “God exists” you can translate it into Persian as “kodā hast”; but if you say “God is great” its Persian translation would abruptly lose its existential sense and turn into a simple predicate using copula: “kodā bozorg ast”. Nevertheless, Persian hast> hastan (to exist) can be only treated as a semi-verb: it has neither a past nor a future tense, and as explained below, is to be conjugated with the aid of copulas derived from verb 'to be'.[1]

What strikes me here is that English also has the verb to exist, but nobody would see it as a real complication in the explanation of the copula. So this paragraph is only relevant if both words really are used in copula-like situations. But that's not something I can judge. --Doric Loon (talk) 14:52, 7 May 2014 (UTC)

Philosophical Outcomes[edit]

This small nugget had been correctly removed by an editor User:SQGibbon I put here for more curious readers. This is a useful and interesting piece.

Philosophical Outcomes
As pointed out by a Persian linguist:[2] the differentiation between ‘is’, as a copula (=ast,) and existential ‘is’ (=hast= exists) in Persian (where ast ≠ hast) is a crucial step— with potential consequences— which if applied correctly might create an exceptional opportunity for deconstruction of many confused philosophical concepts relating to ontology and reality: It appears that a large section of our world-views are based on such linguistic outcomes. In fact, many fallacies have been created by equating copula with existential be. For instance, Descartes's Cogito (I think, therefore I am) when translated into Persian, turns into a weird claim: mi-andīš-am pas hast-am (I+thinking → I+existence) which proves nothing as we are using a copula (am) to attribute existence to the pronoun. Also, the famous Persian philosopher of Middle Ages, Avicenna, who was writing in Arabic (a language which has neither copula nor existential ‘be’) had to transfer such terms as ast and hast from his mother tongue into Arabic, in order to seek a bridge over the impassible chasm between hastī (existence) and astī (is-ness)— a feat which he apparently succeeded but just after he assigned to both irreconcilable concepts a common Arabic name wujud ('finding' > 'existence') with different attributes! (See Being in Islamic philosophy)
In fact, taking copula's function as just a relationship (viz. connecting A to B), astī (is-ness) has no existential core, even though it appears to ascribe or describe a link between separate entities such as A, B, C, .... Our physical world is indeed such a Copula: an is-ness, deprived of any indivisible entity. That is why when we ask "what IS A?" the answer is a chain of never-ending ast (is)es: "B is W", "W is X", "X is Y" ... and so on and so forth. In contrast, existence, like the word hast in Persian, has neither past, nor future, nor is it connecting anything to anything. It is further a singular lexeme (hast = it exists) (Viz. it has no ending, although in other cases other than 3rd Person singular, it has been arbitrarily conjugated with the aid of copulas). As though hast (exists) is the linguistic description of a single metaphysical continuum which is indivisible. Once, Greek philosophers thought atom (=indivisible) was such an existential entity. However, the analysis of 'hast' (exists) in Persian appears to be a singularity which rather approaches Parmenides' definition of existence. With no separate points to be connected, hastī (existence) turns into a metaphysical continuum in which no movement is possible: In fact, as an ontological continuum, hastī (existence) is paradoxically both INDIVISIBLE and DIVISIBLE AD INFINITUM, since it has no multiple points. To put it more simply: in a metaphysical continuum there is no separation between points; as if all points A, B, C ... are just incorporated into a single dimensionless (geometric) point called "Hast" [N.B. "Hast" is a complete sentence in Persian denoting 'It exists.']. It is a single point that has devoured everything! (similar to the fancy point El Aleph in Jorge Luis Borges' short story!). One could immediately see from this linguistic perspective that Zeno, who found contradiction in attributing existence to our world, was right after all— provided that our mundane world was indeed such a metaphysical continuum (as hastī = ontological is-ness= ‘existence’ ). However, our world is a universe of astī (is-ness). Therefore, the concept of continuum is a misleading metaphysical heritage when used in modern physics and it should rather be replaced with dis-continuum or quantized space-time.

  1. ^ Toofan, M. Zabān ast yā hast?. (Language: is or exists?) Ketāb-e Tehran, 2000
  2. ^ Cite error: The named reference ReferenceB was invoked but never defined (see the help page).