Caroline Heycock on copular clauses

An introduction to copular clauses

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Professor of Syntax Caroline Heycock explains key concepts on copular clauses

In many sentences, the characteristic behaviour of a person or thing is expressed by a verb, like “lie” or “talk”

Alex lies.

Belinda talks a lot.

But in “copular” sentences, the copular verb “be” carries little meaning, instead the characteristic attributed to the individual can be expressed by another noun, like “liar” or “talker” or “problem”:

Alexi is a liar.

Belinda is a talker.

Chris is the problem.

These copular sentences look extremely simple. But in this video, Caroline argues that they can have some surprising features that can give us insights into how language works. The video draws on her recent work with Dr Jutte M Hartmann of the Institute for the German Language, Mannheim.

About Caroline Heycock

Caroline Heycock is a Professor in Linguistics and English Language at the University of Edinburgh. She specialises in theoretical syntax, with particular reference to Germanic languages like English, and also to Japanese.

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