1 Introduction

Many languages exhibit more than one verb corresponding to English be. Usually, the copular verbs in such systems are not interchangeable. A famous case of this sort comes from Spanish, which has two copular verbs ser and estar, with apparently different meanings. While many predicates are able to occur only with ser or only with estar, a number of adjectives allow both options, in which case a sharp semantic distinction arises:

    1. (1)
    1. Spanish
    1.  
    1. a.
    1. Juan
    2. Juan
    1. es
    2. isser
    1. feliz.
    2. happy
    1. ‘Juan is happy.’ (i.e., he is a happy person by disposition)
    1.  
    1. b.
    1. Juan
    2. Juan
    1. está
    2. isestar
    1. feliz.
    2. happy
    1. ‘Juan is happy.’ (i.e., he is in a happy mood)

The meaning difference here is often characterized in terms of the distinction (due to Carlson 1977; see also Milsark 1974; 1977) between individual level predicates and stage level predicates, although this characterization is not without its problems1 (see Roy 2013 for an alternative). Whatever the nature of the distinction, it is not represented in the copula system of English.

One approach to this cross-linguistic variation is to assume that ser and estar are entirely distinct lexical entries with different syntactic and/or semantic properties. Variation in the number and nature of BE verbs across languages would then be an irreducible lexical fact.

An alternative approach would take ser and estar to be conditioned allomorphs of the same meaningless copular verb, with the choice being conditioned by nearby material (silent in Spanish) which gives rise to the interpretive contrast (assuming a Late Insertion approach to morphological exponence, along the lines of Distributed Morphology–Halle & Marantz 1993 et seq.). This conditioned allomorphy would have to be assumed to be suppletive in nature, since the various forms of ser and estar are not plausibly reducible to a single underlying phonological form. Hence, I will refer to this alternative strategy for dealing with complex copula systems as the suppletive allomorphy approach.

Various instantiations of the suppletive allomorphy approach have been put forward in the literature, many of them focused on the copula system of Spanish (see especially Fábregas 2012 for a summary of the literature on ser and estar). Many of these take estar to be the “special” allomorph, with ser as the elsewhere case. The extra material associated with estar is often taken to be locative in nature. For instance, there are a number of proposals that estar is ser plus an incorporated preposition (Longa, Lorenzo & Rigau 1998; Uriagereka 2001; Martín 2009; Fábregas 2014; Gallego & Uriagereka 2016). Related are Brucart’s (2010) proposal that estar is ser plus a Coincidence feature, and Zagona’s (2012) proposal that estar is the realization of ser when it bears a [uP] feature.2 Camacho (2012) argues instead that estar is like ser, but with an additional unvalued aspectual feature. Roy (2013) takes a different tack, proposing that estar is the elsewhere case, with ser being the allomorph chosen only when the copula takes an NP complement. Moving beyond Spanish, Welch (2012) analyzes the two-copula system of Tłı̨chǫ Yatıì as a case of allomorphy conditioned by the presence or absence of little-v introducing an external argument.

One might wonder, however, whether this approach can be distinguished from the first approach mentioned above, which eschews Late Insertion, and instead postulates entirely distinct lexical entries for each of the copulas in a system like that of Spanish. I will call this option the non-suppletive approach.

This paper has three main goals. The first is to offer a version of the suppletive allomorphy approach which also brings existential sentences and possession sentences into the picture. Although such sentences are clearly cross-linguistically related to predicative copular constructions (Lyons 1968; Clark 1978; Freeze 1992; Kayne 1993; many others), most of the literature cited above does not seek to unify all of these domains.3 The second goal is to point out that such an account makes three typological predictions about the cross-linguistic morphological profile we should expect to see in complex copula systems. I will show that we do in fact find the predicted morphological profile when we look across languages when it comes to two of those predictions. A third prediction, concerning possible and impossible syncretisms, shows promising signs of being correct, but cannot be tested in full given the current state of typological knowledge. I will therefore lay out the predictions of the approach in this domain as an invitation to future research. The third and final goal is to compare this suppletive allomorphy approach to the non-suppletive approach to complex copula systems. While the non-suppletive approach can achieve descriptively adequate accounts of some copula systems, I will show that it fails to derive the successful typological predictions of my own approach, and also runs into problems in analyzing individual languages in certain cases. All of these problems stem from a core difference between the two approaches: the suppletive allomorphy approach assigns a key analytical role to Late Insertion, whereas the non-suppletive approach does not.

The paper is structured as follows. Section 2 outlines the three cross-linguistic predictions of the suppletive allomorphy approach to complex copula systems. Section 3 lays out my background assumptions about the structure of the thematic domain. Sections 4–6 examine each of the predictions outlined in Section 2, one by one. Section 7 compares the suppletive allomorphy approach to the non-suppletive approach, showing that only the suppletive allomorphy approach succeeds in accounting for the facts of interest. Section 8 is a brief conclusion.

2 Three predictions

All instantiations of the suppletive allomorphy approach to complex copula systems will make versions of the following predictions:

(2) Predictions of the suppletive allomorphy approach to complex copula systems
  a. Decomposition
    Any syntactically present material which is silent in one language might be spelled out in another. Hence, it ought to be possible to find languages with overt morphemes corresponding to whatever syntactic heads are held responsible for conditioning copular allomorphy.
  b. Possible and impossible syncretisms
    Across languages, complex copula systems will show commonalities in which subtypes of predication can be marked identically, and which ones never are–this is because allomorphy must be conditioned by coherent sets of features (Halle & Marantz 1993; Halle 1997).
  c. Impoverishment
    We expect to find complex copula systems in which the distinctions between copulas are collapsed in certain marked environments, with the collapse being in favor of an allomorph that can be shown on independent grounds to be the default realization. This follows from the existence of Impoverishment (Bonet 1991 et seq.).

Naturally, the details of the predictions made will vary with the details of the syntax proposed for different types of copula construction. After discussing the structure of the thematic domain in Section 3, I therefore bring together recent work on predicative copula constructions, existential constructions, and predicative possession to propose a specific syntax for the thematic domain of such constructions in Section 4. In the same section, I show that this syntax is indeed supported by cross-linguistic decompositional evidence: certain functional heads which must be assumed to be silent in familiar languages turn out to be overt in others. Having motivated this syntax, I proceed in Section 5 to a discussion of what a Late Insertion approach to spelling out this structure predicts about possible and impossible syncretisms. The Impoverishment prediction is discussed in Section 6.

3 Voice, v, and the structure of the thematic domain

This paper adopts the view of the thematic domain that has emerged from work following Kratzer (1996) and Marantz (1997; 2001) – see especially Pylkkänen (2002/2008); Schäfer (2008); Marantz (2009; 2013); Bruening (2010; 2013); Harley (2010; 2013; 2014); Irwin (2012); Wood (2014; 2015); Alexiadou, Anagnostopoulou & Schäfer (2015); Kastner (2016); Myler (2016); amongst many others (see also Ramchand 2008 for a related approach). The exposition here is an abbreviated and slightly adapted version of Myler (2016: 18–31, 42–45), which itself is partly adapted from Wood (2015: 12–18). According to this approach, verb phrases have the structure represented schematically in (3).

(3) Basic verb phrase structure
 

As can be seen, the core of the thematic domain is a vP. The head “v” comes in a variety of semantico-syntactic flavors discussed in more detail below; in the general case it will introduce a state or event variable. In sentences containing a contentful lexical verb, v has an acategorial root adjoined to it. The v head may additionally take a complement (YP in the structure in (3)). The vP thus formed is typically embedded under a head which may introduce an external argument. Following Kratzer (1996) and the other works cited above, I will refer to this argument-introducing head as Voice. This yields the structure in (4) for the thematic domain of a transitive sentence like John ate the cake. Here and throughout, the notation {D} on a functional head signifies the need for a specifier of category D and {} represents the absence of such a requirement. The symbol ϕ represents a phi-probe. Voice comes in variants requiring a specifier, and a variant not requiring a specifier. When Voice requires a specifier, it may additionally bear a phi-probe with which it licenses a DP in its complement domain (this DP may be YP or be contained in YP), in which case we say that the configuration is transitive.4

(4) John ate the cake.
 

An unergative verb phrase, on the other hand, would look as in (5) – note the presence of a specifier requirement ({D}), and the absence of a phi-probe.5 Example (6) illustrates one subtype of unaccusative structure in the present theory (on PredP, see section 4.1 below). For discussion of other types of unaccusative, such as anticausatives, see Cuervo (2003); Schäfer (2008); Irwin (2012); Alexiadou, Anagnostopoulou & Schäfer (2015); Wood (2015) for a variety of approaches formulated within this general framework.6

(5) John danced.
 
(6) John came to the pub.
 

Returning to the schematic structure in (3), notice that the acategorial root is not a necessary part of the structure. It is possible for v to head vP without a contentful root adjoined to it, in which case the verb we see will contribute at most event structure. Constructions of this sort are well-known in the literature on argument structure, where they are conventionally referred to as light verb constructions.

(7) Definition of a light-verb construction
  A light-verb construction is one that contains a v but no root.

I assume, following Wood (2015) and Myler (2016), that there are two syntactically distinct types of v: substantive v, and meaningless copula v (the latter will henceforth be referred to as vBE). Substantive v may introduce a state variable or an event variable, and also has a causative variant (Wood 2015: 28). vBE, on the other hand, is a meaningless piece of syntactic scaffolding which exists only to help link non-verbal predicates to clausal functional projections.7 For the purposes of this paper, I will follow Myler (2016: 42) in taking vBE to denote a type-neutral identity function.

(8) Copula vBE8
  ⟦vBE⟧ ⇔ λx.x

We now turn away from our discussion of the variants of v to address the variants of Voice. Since Kratzer (1996), it has been assumed that the interpretation of Voice is determined by reference to the meaning of vP. Specifically, Kratzer proposed that Voice introduces an Agent thematic role if its complement denotes an event, and that it introduces a Holder thematic role if its complement denotes a state (compare the discussion on page 121 and on page 123 in Kratzer 1996). In addition to this, a number of authors have identified circumstances under which Voice introduces a DP in its specifier but semantically introduces no role at all. This “Expletive” version of Voice has been identified in various types of anticausative in Alexiadou, Anagnostopoulou & Schäfer (2015), in various types of HAVE and BE sentence by Myler (2016), in German marked anticausatives by Schäfer (2008), and in various argument structure alternations in Icelandic by Wood (2014; 2015). These authors differ somewhat with respect to the exact denotation they assign to Expletive Voice; here I will follow Myler (2016) in taking it to be a type-neutral identity function. Putting all of this together, the full set of rules for interpreting the Voice head is given in (9).

(9) Rules for the interpretation of Voice (cf. Wood 2015: 30; Myler 2016: 43)
  a. ⟦Voice⟧ ⇔ λxe.λes.Agent (x,e) / ____(agentive, dynamic event)
  b. ⟦Voice⟧ ⇔ λxe.λes.Holder (x,e) / ____(stative eventuality)
  c. ⟦Voice⟧ ⇔ λx.x / ____(elsewhere)

With this general background on the structure of the thematic domain in place, we are now in a position to introduce the structure of copula sentences, and the cross-linguistic decompositional evidence for it. This is the topic of the next section.

4 The decomposition prediction and the syntax of copular sentences

This section begins in 4.1 by setting out the structures for predicative copular constructions, and the evidence for the decomposition adopted. Section 4.2 turns to HAVE constructions, arguing that HAVE is the transitive form of BE, in agreement with Hoekstra (1994); Belvin (1996); Ritter & Rosen (1997); Jung (2011); Myler (2016). Arguments are presented for preferring this approach over the standard P-incorporation approach associated with Freeze (1992); Kayne (1993); Harley (1995; 2002); Den Dikken (1997; 1998; 1999); and many others. Section 4.3 discusses existential constructions. In section 4.4, a comparison of the copula systems of French, English, and Spanish is used to illustrate the consequences of the approach. Section 4.5 provides a local summary.

4.1 Predicative copular constructions

My syntactic assumptions concerning the structure of copular predication will be taken from Bowers (1993); Adger & Ramchand (2003); Baker (2003); Citko (2008); Dalmi (2013); Roy (2013); Balusu (2014). These authors defend a unified syntax for predication, according to which a meaningless copular verb embeds a small clause. Small clauses for these authors are universally headed by a Pred head, which projects the subject of predication in its specifier,9 and takes the “true” predicate (which may be an AP, an NP, or a PP) as its complement. A schematic representation this structure is given in (10).10

(10) Schematic structure for the thematic domain in copular sentences
 

Adger & Ramchand (2003); Markman (2008); Balusu (2014) have argued for the existence of two semantically distinct Pred heads which distinguish individual level and stage level predication–call them Predindiv and Predstage. Balusu, following Kratzer’s (1995) conception of the individual level/stage level distinction, proposes that what I call Predstage introduces a Davidsonian eventuality variable, whereas what I call Predindiv does not:11

(11) Stage level Pred (adapted from Balusu 2014)
  ⟦Predstage⟧ ⇔ λPe,t.λxe.λes.holds(P,e) & Holder(x,e)
(12) Individual level Pred (adapted from Balusu 2014)
  ⟦Predindiv⟧ ⇔ λPe,t.P

Of course, Kratzer’s conception of this distinction has been questioned. For example, Maienborn (2005a; 2005b; 2007) demonstrates that both individual level and stage level copular sentences systematically fail diagnostics for the presence of a Davidsonian eventuality variable. Maienborn instead proposes that stage level predication introduces a pragmatic relation with some existing discourse situation, and that this relation is absent with individual level predication (see Higginbotham & Ramchand 1996; Richardson 2001; 2007; Arche 2006; Dalmi 2013; 2015; Roy 2013 for a range of other alternatives).

Luckily, there is no need to try to settle this controversy here. All that is required for current purposes is that Predindiv and Predstage have distinct denotations, in accordance with whatever the proper semantic characterization of the individual level/stage level distinction turns out to be (if Roy 2013’s approach is ultimately to be preferred, then all we would need to say is that Predstage introduces a presupposition that the main predicate is Dense in the sense defined by Roy).12 The structures of ser and estar sentences will then be geometrically identical, differing only in the type of Pred head, as shown below. Pred therefore plays the same role as the P head in the proposals of Longa, Lorenzo & Rigau (1998); Uriagereka (2001); Martín (2009); Fábregas (2014); Gallego & Uriagereka (2016). However, I leave open whether Pred incorporates into vBE, as on these earlier proposals. The assumption of incorporation may not be strictly necessary, depending on one’s theory of allomorphy. For the purposes of this paper, I assume that the heads Pred and Voice, as well as adjacent inflectional heads like T, are close enough to condition allomorphy of vBE simultaneously. Taking it that Pred-vBE-Voice-T constitutes a span, this seems compatible with what is known about locality conditions on allomorphy more generally (see Merchant 2015).

    1. (13)
    1. Juan
    2. Juan
    1. es
    2. isser
    1. feliz.
    2. happy
    1. ‘Juan is happy.’ (i.e., he is a happy person by disposition)
    1. (14)
    1. Juan
    2. Juan
    1. está
    2. isestar
    1. feliz.
    2. happy
    1. ‘Juan is happy.’ (i.e., he is in a happy mood)

The distribution of ser vs. estar is then accounted for by the following schematic Vocabulary Insertion rules:13

(15) vBE ⇔ ser / ____Predindiv
(16) vBE ⇔ estar / ____Predstage

An anonymous reviewer challenges the idea that it is desirable to analyze estar as an allomorph of vBE, suggesting that it is instead a posture verb (as indeed its Latin etymon stare ‘to stand’ was). However, it can be shown that estar is a true copula verb in the synchronic grammar. The most clear-cut test for this distinction consists of the ability to occur as the nonfinite complement of a perception verb. Posture verbs allow this, but copulas do not (see Carlson 1977: 125–126; Maienborn 2005a).14

(17)   I saw her standing there.
(18) *I saw her being there.

Turning to Spanish, we find that estar patterns like a copula in this respect.

    1. (19)
    1. Spanish
    1.  
    1. a.
    1.   La
    2.   her
    1. vi
    2. I.saw
    1. sentada
    2. sat
    1. en
    2. in
    1. su
    2. her
    1. oficina.
    2. office
    1.    ‘I saw her sitting in her office.’
    1.  
    1. b.
    1. *La
    2.   her
    1. vi
    2. I.saw
    1. {estada/estando/estar}
    2. been/being/bestage
    1. en
    2. in
    1. su
    2. her
    1. oficina.
    2. office
    1.    ‘*I saw her being in her office.’

Since estar is indeed a copula, it is plausible from the present perspective to analyze it as an allomorph of vBE, as above. As evidence for the decomposition underwriting the present approach to this allomorphy, consider the following evidence from Telugu, presented by Balusu (2014).

    1. (20)
    1. Telugu
    1.  
    1. a.
    1. Naaku
    2. I.DAT
    1. koopam-gaa
    2. anger-Predstage
    1. undi.
    2. be
    1. ‘I am angry.’ (i.e., I am in an angry mood.)
    1.  
    1. b.
    1. Naaku
    2. I.DAT
    1. koopam
    2. anger
    1. undi.
    2. be
    1. ‘I am angry.’ (i.e., I am an angry person by disposition.)

Balusu argues that -gaa is an overt exponent of Predstage, and that Predindiv is silent in Telugu. This is overt morphological evidence for the two flavors of Pred head proposed here, and constitutes strong independent evidence for the syntax assigned to Spanish copular sentences in (13) and (14).15

To sum up this subsection, we have motivated a decompositional syntax and semantics for predicative copular sentences that recognizes two syntactically and semantically distinct Pred heads. The difference between these Pred heads accounts for the individual level and stage level distinction at the level of the semantics, as well as allowing for the statement of Vocabulary Insertion rules which yield a suppletive allomorphy approach to the predicative copula system of Spanish. The next section focuses on possession sentences, arguing that HAVE is an allomorph of vBE also.

4.2 HAVE constructions

Even more so than with complex copular systems of the ser vs. estar type, there is a long tradition of taking HAVE to be vBE plus something else. Proposals differ along two main lines with respect to what the ‘something else’ is. What we might call the standard approach is that HAVE is a form of vBE with an incorporated adpositional element, as in Freeze (1992); Kayne (1993); Harley (1995; 2002); Den Dikken (1997; 1998; 1999); and numerous others.16 An alternative account argues that HAVE is the transitive form of vBE. This view has been implemented in a variety of ways in Hoekstra (1994); Belvin (1996); Ritter & Rosen (1997); Jung (2011); Myler (2016). In this paper I will adopt the position that the second tradition is correct, and specifically that HAVE is vBE in the environment of a transitive Voice head, following Myler (2016) (recall that a voice head is transitive on the present approach iff it has a specifier and bears a phi probe). This yields (21) as the schematic structure for a HAVE sentence. Vocabulary Insertion rules for HAVE as compared to BE can then be formulated as shown in (22) and (23).

(21) Schematic structure for aHAVEsentence
 
(22) vBEHAVE / Voice{D},ϕ____
(23) vBEBE

While a full defense of this position cannot be undertaken for space reasons, let us examine some of the arguments provided in its favor by Myler (2016: Chapter 5). The various versions of the standard approach have in common the idea that HAVE is underlyingly an unaccusative verb: it is simply a form of BE with an incorporated adposition, and with movement of the possessor from below BE into the subject position. Kayne’s (1993) version of this analysis is schematized in slightly adapted form in (24).17 Note that D/P in this structure represents a prepositional determiner, an element analogous to a prepositional complementizer which Kayne proposes incorporates into BE to yield HAVE.

(24) John has a book (à la Kayne 1993)
 

There are numerous problems for this approach (the following discussion borrows liberally from Myler 2016: Chapter 5). One is that it will not extend straightforwardly to cases of HAVE which clearly do take an external argument, such as causative HAVE and light verb HAVE (see also Harley 1997; 1998), as shown in the Spanish examples below (and their English translations).

    1. (25)
    1. Spanish
    1.  
    1. a.
    1. Juan
    2. Juan
    1. tiene
    2. has
    1. preocupada
    2. worried
    1. a
    2. to
    1. su
    2. his
    1. mama.
    2. mother
    1. ‘Juan has his mother worried.’
    1.  
    1. b.
    1. Juan
    2. Juan
    1. tuvo
    2. had
    1. un
    2. a
    1. infarto.
    2. heart.attack
    1. ‘Juan had a heart attack.’

A second problem is that analyses like (24), in giving HAVE an underlyingly existential syntax, predict definiteness effects in HAVE sentences to match up with those found in existential sentences in all instances. While definiteness effects are attested in some subtypes of HAVE sentences (see Myler 2016: 329–336 for an account of these compatible with the assumptions of this article), this strong prediction turns out to be false. To take two examples among many, compare locative HAVE and temporary possession HAVE with existential sentences in English (Myler 2016: 329, his (33) and (34); see Myler 2016: Chapter 4 for an account of such sentences compatible with the present approach).

(26) a.   Does that tree have my hat in it?
  b. *Is there my hat in that tree?
(27) a.   Does John have the keys?
  b. *Are there the keys with John?

Myler (2016: 336–343) also gives a number of arguments against the prediction of (24) that HAVE should pattern like an unaccusative verb (on HAVE’s failure to undergo passive, see below). I thus conclude that structures like (24) are incorrect, and that the proper analysis of HAVE sentences assigns them a structure like (21).

Before proceeding, a word is in order concerning how structures like (21) are interpreted semantically. Practically all approaches to possession sentences, including the tradition associated with Freeze (1992) and Kayne (1993), are united in assuming that the possession relation does not come from HAVE/BE itself, but rather from lower in the structure.18 On many accounts, the possession relation originates inside the possessee DP itself. Instantiations of this approach are found in Szabolcsi (1981; 1994); Freeze (1992: 590, although Freeze does not extend this idea to possession sentences in all languages); Kayne (1993); Ritter & Rosen (1997); Den Dikken (1997; 1998; 1999); Partee (1999); Beavers, Ponvert & Wechsler (2009); Sæbø (2009); Myler (2016); amongst others. The idea is that possessed DPs denote a possession relation, rather than a simple individual or predicate. This relation may be inherent to the noun root itself, as in relational nouns like sister, or it may be introduced by a Poss head in the case of alienably possessed common nouns like car (Barker 1995 et seq.).19

For HAVE sentences in languages like English, there are three main approaches to how the possessor role in this relation comes to be assigned to the subject of HAVE. One is that the possessor raises from inside the possessed DP into the subject position – this is the approach found in the Freeze/Kayne tradition, which we have argued against above. A second approach, advanced by Ritter & Rosen (1997), assumes that HAVE’s subject is generated outside of the possessed DP, but binds a pronoun inside it. This approach is compatible with the structure I have been arguing for in (21). Another possibility, also compatible with (21), is that the possessee DP contains no syntactic representation of the possessor at all. Since (by hypothesis) that possessee DP is relational, the absence of a possessor inside it implies that the whole DP will denote a relation. Given the fact that vBE is meaningless, this relation is passed up the tree to the subject of HAVE. Versions of this approach are found in Partee (1999); Beavers, Ponvert & Wechsler (2009); Sæbø (2009); Myler (2016). An illustration of such a derivation for the thematic domain of the sentence John has a book is given in (28), taken from Myler (2016: 60).

    1. (28)

The nP book denotes a simple predicate of individuals. The head Poss, adapted from Barker (1995), introduces a possession relation. However, since no possessor is merged in spec-PossP, this relation comes to be the denotation of the whole DP. The copula vBE merges with this DP, giving rise to a vP which inherits the relational denotation (because vBE denotes a type-neutral identity function). Voice{D},ϕ combines with this vP. Because the vP denotes a relation rather than a predicate of events or a predicate of states, the Expletive alloseme of Voice is chosen (recall the rules for the interpretation of Voice in (9)). The DP John, introduced in spec-VoiceP, then goes in as the possessor argument introduced by Poss. Because the possessor role is introduced low in the structure but not saturated immediately, Myler (2016) refers to this situation and others like it as Delayed Gratification.20

The approach embodied in (28) entails that there is no possessor syntactically present inside the possessed DP, whereas Ritter & Rosen’s (1997) approach entails that there is one (in the form of a null pronoun bound by the subject of HAVE). Myler (2016: 261–262) presents an argument for preferring the former approach over the latter. Santiago del Estero Quechua, a language to which we return in Section 5, exhibits obligatory agreement in possessed noun phrases: possessees must agree with the possessor for person and number.

    1. (29)
    1. Possessor agreement in Santiago del Estero Quechua.
    1.  
    1. a.
    1. Juan-pa
    2. Juan-GEN
    1. pana-*(n)
    2. sister-3POSS
    1. ‘Juan’s sister’
    1.  
    1. b.
    1. Juan-pa
    2. Juan-GEN
    1. auto-*(n)
    2. auto-3POSS
    1. ‘Juan’s car’

It also happens that Santiago del Estero Quechua is a HAVE language. If HAVE sentences involved a null pronominal inside the possessee being bound by the subject of HAVE, the prediction would be that agreement on the possessee should be obligatory in HAVE sentences just as it is in (29). The Delayed Gratification approach predicts that there should be no such agreement, since no possessor is inside the possessed DP on that approach, and there is therefore nothing there to trigger the agreement. The latter prediction turns out to be correct.

    1. (30)
    1. No agreement needed on the possessee in Santiago del Estero QuechuaHAVEsentences
    1.  
    1. a.
    1. Juan
    2. Juan
    1. pana-ta
    2. sister-ACC
    1. api-n.
    2. have-3SUBJ
    1. ‘Juan has a sister.’
    1.  
    1. b.
    1. Juan
    2. Juan
    1. auto-ta
    2. car-ACC
    1. api-n.
    2. have-3SUBJ
    1. ‘Juan has a car.’

As Myler (2016: 337–338) also shows, the Delayed Gratification account also provides an alternative explanation for a fact that has historically been taken to support the idea that HAVE is underlyingly unaccusative; namely, that it does not passivize on its possessive uses.21

(31) *{A car/a sister} was had by John.

The proposal is that (31) is ruled out on semantic grounds. Bruening (2013: 23) proposes that the passive morpheme (which merges with a VoiceP which has an open variable for an external argument, before such an argument gets a chance to merge with it) has the denotation shown in (32).

(32) ⟦Pass⟧ ⇔ λfe,stes.∃xe.f(x,e)

This is of the right type for most transitive VoicePs, which will denote a function from an individual to a function from eventualities to truth values, but it will be unable to take the relational denotation of Voice’ in (28). Attempting to passivize a possessive HAVE sentence therefore leads to a fatal type mismatch.

Let us conclude this subsection by examining the consequences of the present approach to HAVE for cross-linguistic variation. As is well known, many languages lack a transitive HAVE verb altogether (around 74% of the world’s languages are like this, according to Stassen’s 2013 map titled “Predicative Possession” on the web version of the World Atlas of Language Structures). On the present theory, one reason for which languages may lack HAVE is that they forbid vBE from being selected by transitive Voice{D},ϕ (as a simple matter of c-selection), in which case they will allow no configuration like (21) or (28) to be built. Such languages instead construct their possession sentences around various kinds of intransitive copular and existential predication, leading to BE.22 Another logical possibility is that a language might permit the syntactic configuration in (21) and (28), but simply lack a special allomorph for vBE for that context. This situation appears to be attested in Akan (Kwa), Indo-Portuguese creoles (see also Krajinović 2016), and Iatmul (Papuan–Sepik), to judge by Creissels (2016: 24), who shows that these languages display a transitive morphosyntactic configuration in possession sentences, and yet spell out the verb in such structures using a form of BE.

With respect to the Decomposition Prediction, the approach argued for here leads us to expect languages in which possession sentences have a transitive case frame, and the verb is vBE plus a transitivity marker of some kind. This prediction is correct, as exemplified in (33) and (34) (these examples are cited by Myler 2016: 61, his (91) and (92)).

    1. (33)
    1. HAVE as BE + transitivity in Qiang (LaPolla and Huang 2003: 98)
    1. Khumtsi
    2. Khumtsi
    1. tutş-ɣʒə-zi
    2. younger.brother-four-class
    1. ʒi-ʒ.
    2. beexist-CAUS
    1. ‘Khumtsi has four younger brothers.’
    1. (34)
    1. HAVE as BE + transitivity in Huallaga Quechua (Weber 1989: 164, his (582))
    1. Mana
    2. Not
    1. papa-ta
    2. potato-ACC
    1. ka-chi-:-na-chu.
    2. be-CAUS-1SUBJ-now-NEG
    1. ‘I don’t have any potatoes now.’

This subsection has presented a syntax for possessive HAVE constructions which assigns them a transitive structure. The verb HAVE, in languages that have it, is an allomorph of vBE chosen in the presence of a transitive Voice head. Syntactic and morphological evidence in favor this view of HAVE, and against the standard approach under which HAVE is vBE plus a preposition in an unaccusative existential structure, has also been presented. In the next subsection, I extend the approach to existential sentences, beginning by laying out my assumptions about their syntax and semantics. In the course of this discussion, a third Pred head will be introduced.

4.3 Existential constructions

In languages with existential constructions containing a visible verb, the verb in question is sometimes distinct from the verb used in possession sentences and the one used in predicative copular constructions (see below on Spanish). On the other hand, there are many languages where the existential verb is HAVE or an otherwise-occurring BE verb. These facts taken together suggest that we should take existentials also to involve vBE, along with some other elements which in certain languages induce suppletive allomorphy of vBE.

First, some terminology is needed. Existential sentences in English can be divided into four visible elements, as follows.

(35) [There]expletive [is]copula [a book]pivot [on the table]coda.

The terms “expletive” and “copula” will be familiar from traditional descriptions of existentials. The terms pivot and coda are taken from Francez (2007; 2009; 2010). The pivot is a DP which corresponds to the entity whose existence is being asserted. The coda is an optional phrase, often but not necessarily a PP, which usually follows the pivot in English.

Overt expletives and copulas are not present in the existential sentences of all languages. Nevertheless, pace Francez (2007: 8–13), I will assume that languages that do not manifest these categories overtly still represent them in the syntactic structure. This is in accordance with the Uniformity Principle of Chomsky (2001: 1, his (1)).

(36) Uniformity Principle
  In the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary, assume languages to be uniform, with variety restricted to easily detectable properties of utterances.

An important controversy in the literature on existentials concerns the relationship between the pivot and the coda. One tradition takes the coda to be predicated of the pivot, making existential sentences with PP codas identical to predicate locative structures with respect to the core predication (see Chomsky 1981; Safir 1982; Freeze 1992 for various implementations). In other words, this tradition would assign (37) and (38) the same predicative structure.

(37) There is a book on the table.
(38) A book is on the table.

As many authors have noted, however, this position cannot be maintained. Whereas PP codas are optional, the PP of predicate locative structures is usually obligatory. Hartmann & Milićević (2008: 1, their (1) and (2)) demonstrate this for Serbian using the following contrast, which can be replicated in a number of other languages. (Note that Serbian uses a form of HAVE as its existential copula; I return to such languages presently.)

    1. (39)
    1. Serbian
    1.  
    1. a.
    1. Ima
    2. Has
    1. nekih
    2. some
    1. studenata
    2. students.GEN
    1. (ovde)
    2. here
    1. koji
    2. who
    1. hoće
    2. want
    1. samo
    2. just
    1. diplomu.
    2. certificate
    1. ‘There are some students (here) who just want the certificate.’
    1.  
    1. b.
    1. Neki
    2. Some
    1. studenti
    2. students.NOM
    1. su
    2. are
    1. *(ovde)
    2.   here
    1. koji
    2. who
    1. hoće
    2. want
    1. samo
    2. just
    1. diplomu.
    2. certificate
    1. ‘Some students are *(here) who just want the certificate.’

While it seems certain that codas are not merged as the complement of Pred, as the PPs of predicate locatives are, the question of where codas actually are is still a vexed one. One possibility, that codas are always NP modifiers internal to the pivot, is ruled out by certain relativization facts pointed out by Keenan (1987: 302), cited in Francez (2007: 23–24). Whereas PP modifiers of NP must surface next to NP in relative clauses, codas cannot surface next to the pivot in the same structures (examples adapted from Francez 2007: 24, his (43) and (44)):

(40) a.   John painted [DP the shelves in my living room] purple.
  b.   [DP The shelves in my living room that John pained purple] are an eyesore.
  c. *[DP The shelves that John painted ____ in my living room purple] are an eyesore.
(41) a.   There were shelves in my living room.
  b. *The shelves in my living room that there were disappeared.
  c.   The shelves that there were ____ in my living room disappeared.

For the remainder of this paper, I will adopt the idea that the coda is an adjunct to vP in existential sentences (Francez 2007; 2009; 2010; Hartmann & Milićević 2008; many others), and that it is optionally included to specify the content of a locative element discussed below (see Hoekstra & Mulder 1990; Williams 1994; Moro 1997; amongst others, for related ideas; whether this locative element is to be identified with the expletive there is a matter I will return to). However, not much hinges on this decision. All that matters for the remaining discussion is that codas are not the predicate of the existential construction.

Since the coda is not the predicate in existential constructions, the question arises of what the predicate is in such structures. I will follow Williams (1994; 2006); Hazout (2004); Francez (2007; 2009; 2010); Irwin (2016: 23–24) in assuming that the pivot is the predicate. The pivot’s semantic denotation is a simple property (McNally 1998; McCloskey 2014; Irwin 2016). Following Irwin (2016), I will assume that the pivot is selected by a third variant of Pred, Predexist. Semantically, Predexist takes the pivot as its first argument, and asserts that the pivot is INSTANTIATED (in the sense of McNally 1998) at a particular location,23 represented syntactically as LOC. The identity of the location introduced by LOC may be determined contextually, or by the coda if there is one. The denotations for Predexist and for LOC, as proposed by Irwin (2016: 28), are given in (42) and (43). Putting these assumptions together yields the schematic structure we see in (44).

(42) ⟦Predexist⟧ ⇔ λPe,t.λLOCe,t.[INST(λxe.[P(x)&LOC(x)])]
(43) ⟦LOC⟧ ⇔ λy.[is-HERE(y)]
(44) There is a book on the table.
 

I leave open the mechanism by which a coda like on the table comes to be coreferent with the HERE introduced by the denotation of LOC.

The status of “expletive” there in English is not my main concern here, but a couple of possibilities are compatible with the general picture above. Following Deal (2009), it could be that there is introduced in spec-VoiceP (this is compatible with my approach so long as Voice does not bear a phi probe, and is thus not transitive). LOC would then be silent in English. Alternatively, it could be that there is an overt realization of LOC. Identifying there with LOC in this way would then make the approach identical with Williams (1994); see also Hazout (2004); Williams (2006).24

To see how this syntax can account for how existentials fit into various types of copula system, the next section compares French, English, and Spanish.

4.4 Comparison of French, English, and Spanish

Beginning with French and English, these languages are similar in having a transitive verb HAVE in possession sentences, and in lacking anything equivalent to the ser vs. estar distinction.

    1. (45)
    1. French
    1.  
    1. a.
    1. Jean
    2. Jean
    1. a
    2. has
    1. {deux
    2. two
    1. sœurs/une
    2. sisters/a
    1. voiture
    2. car
    1. rouge/de
    2. red/of
    1. la
    2. the
    1. toux}.
    2. cough
    1. ‘Jean has two sisters/a red car/a cough.’
    1.  
    1. b.
    1. Jean
    2. John
    1. est
    2. is
    1. content.
    2. happy
    1. ‘John is happy.’ (ambiguous between i-level and s-level)

This suggests their Vocabulary Items for vBE are identical in format:

(46) vBE ⇔ {avoir/have} / Voice{D},ϕ____
(47) vBE ⇔ {être/be}

One way in which French and most25 English famously differ is in existential sentences: French displays HAVE, where most English uses BE.

    1. (48)
    1. French
    1. Il
    2. it
    1. y
    2. there
    1. a
    2. has
    1. des
    2. of.the
    1. personnes
    2. people
    1. heureuses
    2. happy
    1. dans
    2. in
    1. le
    2. the
    1. monde.
    2. world
    1. ‘There are happy people in the world.’

Rather than calling for a revision of (46) and (47), I propose that this difference is syntactic in nature. French existentials are transitive in the sense that they contain Voice{D},ϕ introducing expletive il in its specifier (since il is an expletive, the structure must be interpreted using the Expletive alloseme of Voice from (9)). I take y to be a manifestation of LOC, as proposed by Longa, Lorenzo & Rigau (1998: 129). This gives rise to the configuration in (49) for example (48).

(49) French existential structure
 

English existentials, on the other hand, are intransitive – their Voice head bears no phi features of its own (cf. the many proposals in which there plays a key role in mediating phi agreement with the pivot, including Deal 2009), and perhaps no specifier either depending on the position of there. Even though (46) and (47) are the same in both languages, vBE is therefore realized differently in existential sentences in French vs. English.26

Turning now to Spanish, we have already discussed the ser and estar distinction in predicative copula constructions in Section 4.1. Moving on to possession sentences and existential sentences, we find it uses a verb tener in possession sentences, and a verb haber (itself once a possession verb) in existentials.

    1. (50)
    1. Spanish
    1.  
    1. a.
    1. Juan
    2. Juan
    1. tiene
    2. has
    1. {dos
    2. two
    1. hermanas/un
    2. sisters/a
    1. carro
    2. red
    1. rojo/tos}.
    2. car/cough
    1. ‘Juan has two sisters/a red car/a cough.’
    1.  
    1. b.
    1. Hay
    2. exist
    1. personas
    2. people
    1. felices
    2. happy
    1. en
    2. in
    1. el
    2. the
    1. mundo.
    2. world
    1. ‘There are happy people in the world.’

In many varieties of Spanish, including standard variants, haber does not agree with its associate. Suppose then that Spanish is like French in having an it-like expletive in the specifier of Voice{D},ϕ, so that Spanish existentials are syntactically identical to French existentials (with the difference that the expletive and LOC are silent in Spanish).27 This means that haber is still a HAVE verb in the technical sense in modern Spanish (i.e., it is a form taken by vBE in the environment of the transitive Voice head); the question is what accounts for the distinct distributions of the tener and haber allomorphs. I suggest that haber additionally requires the presence of Predexist, as well as Voice{D},ϕ. The complete set of allomorphs for vBE in Spanish would then be as follows:

(51) vBE ⇔ haber / Voice{D},ϕ___Predexist
(52) vBE ⇔ ser / ___Predindiv
(53) vBE ⇔ estar / ___Predstage
(54) vBE ⇔ tener / Voice{D},ϕ___

4.5 Local summary

This section has brought together existing literature to propose distinct syntactic structures for predicative copular constructions, HAVE constructions, and existential constructions.28 Each of these constructions involve the same vBE; they vary in the other elements in the structure surrounding vBE. Direct morphological evidence for this syntax has been presented, meaning that the Decomposition Prediction discussed in Section 2 is confirmed.

For the convenience of the reader, the full inventory of Vocabulary Insertion rules and denotations implicated in this analysis to this point is repeated here (this time with citations removed to avoid visual clutter):

(55) Vocabulary Insertion: Spanish
  a. vBE ⇔ haber / Voice{D},ϕ___Predexist
  b. vBE ⇔ ser / ___Predindiv
  c. vBE ⇔ estar / ___Predstage
  d. vBE ⇔ tener / Voice{D},ϕ___
(56) Vocabulary Insertion: French/English
  a. vBE ⇔ {avoir/have} / Voice{D},ϕ___
  b. vBE ⇔ {être/be}
(57) Denotations
  a. vBE⟧ ⇔ λx.x
  b. ⟦Voice⟧ ⇔ λxe.λes.Agent(x,e) / ___(agentive, dynamic event)
  c. ⟦Voice⟧ ⇔ λxe.λes.Holder (x,e) / ___(stative eventuality)
  d. ⟦Voice⟧ ⇔ λx.x / ___(elsewhere)
  e. ⟦Predstage⟧ ⇔ λPe,t.λxe.λes.holds(P,e) & Holder(x,e)
  f. ⟦Predindiv⟧ ⇔ λPe,t.P
  g. ⟦Predexist⟧ ⇔ λPe,t.λLOCe,t.[INST(λxe.[P(x)&LOC(x)])]
  h. ⟦LOC⟧ ⇔ λy.[is-HERE(y)]
  i. ⟦Pass⟧ ⇔ λfe,st.λes.∃xe.f(x,e)

The other two predictions mentioned in Section 2 are the topic of Sections 5 and 6. In Section 5, I discuss what the present system predicts about what kinds of syncretisms amongst individual level, stage level, existential, and possession sentences we can expect to see, and which should be unattested (that is, the possible and impossible syncretisms prediction). Section 6 is devoted to the impoverishment prediction.

5 Prolegomenon to a test of the possible and impossible syncretism prediction

If the suppletive allomorphy approach is on the right track, then it follows that languages with simpler copula systems are exhibiting syncretism. For instance, English be neutralizes a three-way distinction between vBE in the environment of Predindiv, vBE in the environment of Predstage, and vBE in the environment of Predexist–that is, it exhibits syncretism amongst these different environments. The more complex copula system of Spanish, on the other hand, does not exhibit syncretism for these distinct contexts. In realizational approaches to morphology, including Distributed Morphology, syncretism between two elements is only possible when they have at least one feature in common. This is because realization rules in such theories (including the Vocabulary Insertion Rules of Distributed Morphology) are formulated in terms of sets of features. It follows that any theory of the bundles of syntactic features or the hierarchical syntactic structure associated with a particular domain automatically makes strong and testable predictions about possible and impossible syncretisms in that domain (see Caha 2009; Pescarini 2010; Radkevich 2010; Pantcheva 2011; Bobaljik 2012; Smith et al. 2016; many others for applications of this reasoning to various domains).

The decompositional system sketched in the previous section makes such predictions for the domain of vBE. These are laid out in detail in the online appendix, although many are discussed below. At this stage, it is not possible to test the predictions fully, because existing typological surveys of copulas are often not oriented towards syncretism per se (Clark 1978; Stassen 1997; Pustet 2003; Koch 2012). An imperfect test can be done using Clark’s (1978) survey of what she calls locationals in 30 languages, but in any case a broader survey needs to be conducted before solid conclusions can be drawn. For now, I will spell out which gaps in the typological record are predicted to be genuine gaps by the present approach, and which systems are predicted to be attested in a broader sample. I will note however that nothing contradicting my claims emerges from Pustet (2003), Stassen (1997), or Creissels (2016), which are somewhat larger typological samples than Clark (1978). My only reason for not directly discussing these larger surveys here is that their discussions of the data are not organized in such a way as to facilitate a discussion of syncretisms.29

Clark (1978) is a typological survey based around a core survey of thirty languages, with data occasionally brought in from a few languages beyond her core sample.30 Clark divides what she calls locationals into four types:

(58) Locationals in the typology of Clark (1978)
  a. There is a book on the table. (Existential construction)
  b. The book is on the table. (Locative construction)
  c. Tom has a book. (Possessive1 construction)
  d. The book is Tom’s. (Possessive2 construction)

The structure of Clark’s survey makes it imperfect as a test for the present approach in two ways. The first is that, while her use of the term Existential agrees with the usage in this paper so far, some of her other subtypes map only imperfectly onto the subdivisions I am concerned with. In particular, Clark does not use the categories “individual level” and “stage level”.31 Clark’s survey can still serve as a testing ground, however. The Locative construction can be used as a proxy (albeit an imperfect one) for stage level predication. Similarly, the Possessive2 construction can be used as a proxy for individual level predication.32 Indeed, Spanish uses estar in the translation of (58b), and ser in the translation of (58d).

    1. (59)
    1. El
    2. the
    1. libro
    2. book
    1. está
    2. isestar
    1. en
    2. on
    1. la
    2. the
    1. mesa.
    2. table
    1. ‘The book is on the table.’
    1. (60)
    1. El
    2. The
    1. libro
    2. book
    1. es
    2. esser
    1. de
    2. of
    1. Tom.
    2. Tom
    1. ‘The book is Tom’s.’

The second issue with employing Clark’s survey as a testbed has to do with what Clark refers to as Possessive1 in (58c). While Clark means to include in this category HAVE sentences in languages like English and their translational equivalents in BE languages, it turns out that her sample doesn’t include all types of BE-based possession construction that are now known to exist. Her sample does include Possessive1 constructions based around existential BE, such as those found in Russian (Jung 2011) and Hungarian (Szabolcsi 1981).33

    1. (61)
    1. Russian
    1. U
    2. at
    1. menja
    2. me.GEN
    1. est’
    2. beexist.3SUBJ
    1. kniga.
    2. book
    1. ‘I have a book.’
    1. (62)
    1. Hungarian
    1. Nekem
    2. I.DAT
    1. van
    2. beexist.3SUBJ
    1. könyvem.
    2. book.1POSS.NOM
    1. ‘I have a book.’

By a sheer accident of the sample, however, certain other BE-based possession constructions are not instantiated at all in Clark’s survey. Amongst these are what Stassen (2009) calls the WITH-Possessive subtype, exemplified by the Icelandic example in (63) (see also Irie 1997; Levinson 2011; Myler, E.F. Sigurðsson & Wood 2014; Myler 2016: Chapter 7), and the Predicativization subtype (the latter involving converting the possessee into a noun, adjective, or verb, which then serves as the predicate of the construction; see also Nevins & Myler 2014; Myler 2016: Chapter 6), exemplified for English in (64).

    1. (63)
    1. Icelandic
    1. Ég
    2. I
    1. er
    2. am
    1. með
    2. with
    1. bók.
    2. book
    1. ‘I have a book.’
(64) I am brown-eyed.

My approach makes clear predictions about how constructions like (63) and (64) should pattern in terms of syncretism. Since such sentences will be analyzed as predicative copular constructions (following Levinson 2011; Myler, E. F. Sigurðsson & Wood 2014; Nevins & Myler 2014; under revision; Myler 2016: Chapters 6, 7), in terms of the present proposal either Predindiv and Predstage should be able to merge in either construction. This means that such possession constructions should be compatible with both individual-level and stage-level copulas in languages where these are distinguished. While this prediction cannot be tested using Clark’s survey, what can be gleaned from other typological surveys seems to indicate that it is borne out (see Stassen 2009; Creissels 2016; Myler 2016: Chapters 6, 7).

Most relevant to the present concerns are Clark’s generalizations concerning how different languages partition the domain of locationals (Clark 1978: 105–109). These generalizations are summarized by Myler (2016: 74–75) as follows; note that (65f) is not included in the same list in Myler (2016), but is referred to obliquely in a footnote:34

(65) Clark (1978): Copula systems and Locationals
  a. Some languages use a single BE verb for all four of locative, existential, possessive1, and possessive2.
  b. Where possessive1 and possessive2 use a different verb, possessive1 patterns with existentials, and possessive2 patterns with locatives and other predicative copular constructions.
  c. Existentials and locatives sometimes share a BE verb to the exclusion of copula constructions with a nominal predicate.
  d. Existentials and possessive2 are never marked with the same BE verb to the exclusion of the others.
  e. Locatives and possessive1 are never marked with the same BE verb to the exclusion of the others.
  f. Possessive1 and possessive2 are never marked with the same BE verb to the exclusion of the others.35

Languages of the sort under (65a) include Finnish, as shown in the following data.36

    1. (66)
    1. Finnish Locationals
    1.  
    1. a.
    1. Pöydällä
    2. Table.AD
    1. on
    2. is
    1. kirja.
    2. book
    1. (Existential Construction)
    2.  
    1. ‘There is a book on the table.’
    1.  
    1. b.
    1. Kirja
    2. Book
    1. on
    2. is
    1. pöydällä.
    2. table.AD
    1. (Locative Construction)
    2.  
    1. ‘The book is on the table.’
    1.  
    1. c.
    1. Tomilla
    2. Tom.AD
    1. on
    2. is
    1. kirja.
    2. book
    1. (Possessive1 Construction)
    2.  
    1. ‘Tom has a book.’
    1.  
    1. d.
    1. Kirja
    2. Book
    1. on
    2. is
    1. Tomin.
    2. Tom.GEN
    1. (Possessive2 Construction)
    2.  
    1. ‘The book is Tom’s.’

Such languages will have a single Vocabulary Item capable of realizing vBE, without a specified conditioning environment:

(67) vBE ⇔ olla

There are two subtypes of language that meet the description under (65b). One subtype corresponds to languages with a transitive possessive verb HAVE which use the same verb in existential constructions – French, already analyzed in Section 4.4, is an example of such a language. The other subtype consists of languages with no transitive HAVE verb, but with a split between existential and predicative copula forms of BE. Cochabamba Quechua (on which see see Lastra 1968; Bills et al. 1969; Albó 1970; van de Kerke 1996), spoken in Cochabamba, Bolivia, exhibits such a system (at least in the present tense; we return in Section 6 to what happens in other tenses).

    1. (68)
    1. Cochabamba Quechua Locationals
    1.  
    1. a.
    1. Mesa-pi
    2. Table-on
    1. libru
    2. book
    1. tiya-n.
    2. beexist-3SUBJ
    1. (Existential Construction)
    2.  
    1. ‘There is a book on the table.’
    1.  
    1. b.
    1. Libru-s
    2. book-PL
    1. mesa-pi
    2. table-on
    1. ka-n-ku.
    2. be-3SUBJ-PL
    1. (Locative Construction)
    2.  
    1. ‘The books are on the table.’
    1.  
    1. c.
    1. Tom-pata
    2. Tom-GEN
    1. libru-n
    2. book-3POSS
    1. tiya-n.
    2. beexist-3SUBJ
    1. (Possessive1 Construction)
    2.  
    1. ‘Tom has a book.’
    1.  
    1. d.
    1. Libru-s
    2. book-PL
    1. Tom-pata
    2. Tom-GEN
    1. ka-n-ku.
    2. be-3SUBJ-PL
    1. (Possessive2 Construction)
    2.  
    1. ‘The books are Tom’s.’

Since the Possessive1 construction in a language of this type is just a subtype of existential construction (as Myler 2016: Chapter 3 shows for Cochabamba Quechua), the distribution of allomorphs here can be captured as follows:

(69) vBE ⇔ tiya- / ___Predexist
(70) vBE ⇔ ka-

Clark (1978) also documents languages in which predicate locatives and existential constructions share a copula which is different from the copula used with nominal predicates (the (65c) type). Santiago del Estero Quechua, a Quechua language spoken in the north of Argentina (not discussed by Clark; for descriptive studies see Bravo 1956; Alderetes 2001; Nardi 2002; Prezioso & Torres 2006; Albarracín 2011), displays such a system. Maria Kouneli points out to me (pers. comm.) that Nandi, a variety of Kalenjin, has the same system (see Creider & Creider 1989). The Santiago del Estero Quechua system is displayed in (71).

    1. (71)
    1. Santiago del Estero Quechua Locationals
    1.  
    1. a.
    1. Mesa-pi
    2. Table-on
    1. libru
    2. book
    1. tiya-n.
    2. beexist-3SUBJ
    1. (Existential Construction)
    2.  
    1. ‘There is a book on the table.’
    1.  
    1. b.
    1. Libru
    2. Book
    1. mesa-pi
    2. table-on
    1. tiya-n.
    2. beestar-3SUBJ
    1. (Locative Construction)
    2.  
    1. ‘The book is on the table.’
    1.  
    1. c.
    1. Tom
    2. Tom
    1. libru-ta
    2. book-ACC
    1. api-n.
    2. have-3SUBJ
    1. (Possessive1 Construction)
    2.  
    1. ‘Tom has a book.’
    1.  
    1. d.
    1. Libru
    2. Book
    1. Tom-pa
    2. Tom-GEN
    1. ka-n.
    2. beser-3SUBJ
    1. (Possessive2 Construction)
    2.  
    1. ‘The book is Tom’s.’

The schematic Vocabulary Insertion rules that give rise to such a system are as follows:37

(72) vBE ⇔ api- / Voice{D},ϕ___
(73) vBE ⇔ ka- / ___Predindiv
(74) vBE ⇔ tiya-

Let us now turn to those imaginable patterns which are not attested in Clark’s survey (and which are not attested in the surveys of Stassen 1997 or Creissels 2016 either, as far as I can tell). These are repeated in (75) for convenience.

(75) Unattested syncretism patterns
  a. Existential and possessive2 are never marked with the same BE verb to the exclusion of the others.
  b. Locatives and possessive1 are never marked with the same BE verb to the exclusion of the others.
  c. Possessive1 and possessive2 are never marked with the same BE verb to the exclusion of the others.

To illustrate what these patterns would look like if they existed, pseudo-English examples are provided in (76)–(78).

(76) Unattested pattern (75a)
  a. There BLAH a book on the table. (Existential Construction)
  b. The book is on the table. (Locative Construction)
  c. Tom has a book. (Possessive1 Construction)
  d. The book BLAH Tom’s. (Possessive2 Construction)
(77) Unattested pattern (75b)
  a. There is a book on the table. (Existential Construction)
  b. The book BLAH on the table. (Locative Construction)
  c. Tom BLAH a book. (Possessive1 Construction)
  d. The book is Tom’s. (Possessive2 Construction)
(78) Unattested pattern (75c)
  a. There is a book on the table. (Existential Construction)
  b. The book is on the table. (Locative Construction)
  c. Tom BLAH a book. (Possessive1 Construction)
  d. The book BLAH Tom’s. (Possessive2 Construction)

The unattested patterns (77) and (78) are predicted to be impossible in my system – there are no commonalities in the structures picked out by BLAH which are not shared by the other constructions. Since the complement set of environments has no unifying feature either, it will not be possible to derive (77) and (78) by having BLAH be the elsewhere case. To see in detail why this is so, take (77) as an illustrative example. Let us assume for the sake of illustration that we are dealing with a language in which the existential is intransitive and the Possessive1 construction is of the existential BE-based type (as in Russian, Hungarian, Cochabamba Quechua, and many other languages). Now, vBE would occur with a Predstage complement in (77b), but with a Predexist complement in (77c), so no unified conditioning environment for BLAH can be stated with reference to the complement. While both constructions involve vBE in the environment of Voice{}, this property is also shared by the Existential construction and the Possessive2 construction, making it impossible to pick out BLAH using this feature of the environment also. Nor is there any way to derive (77) by setting up BLAH as the elsewhere case – this route would require formulating a conditioning environment which unites the Existential and Possessive2 constructions to the exclusion of the others. Since these two constructions involve different Pred heads, this cannot be done with reference to the complement of vBE. Once again, since all four constructions involve Voice{}, appealing to the presence of this head also fails.38 Similar demonstrations can be made for (78), and for versions of (77) in a language that exhibits HAVE in Possessive1 and/or the Existential construction, although I will not include such demonstrations here for reasons of space.

On the other hand, (76) is predicted to be possible in my system, but only in very narrow circumstances: namely, in a HAVE language which has BE in its existentials, and in addition has a distinction between individual level and stage level predication in its predicative copula constructions. A schematic set of Vocabulary Insertion rules for such a system is provided in (79b).

(79) a. Derivation of unattested pattern (76)
    Construction Form
    Existential A
    Locative B
    Possessive1 C
    Possessive2 A
  b. vBE ⇔ B / ___Predstage
    vBE ⇔ C / Voice{D},ϕ___
    vBE ⇔ A

We can see that this system is a lot like the one attested in Santiago del Estero Quechua, except that the existential verb is identical in form with the individual-level copula, rather than the stage-level copula. Although not attested in existing surveys to my knowledge, it seems plausible that this is an accidental gap. Given that HAVE languages themselves are in the minority, it is perhaps unsurprising that a language of this kind (which combines HAVE with a further copula split) is not easy to find.

Another system predicted to be possible by the present system, but which is as yet unattested, is shown in (80). In this system, there is a split between stage-level predication and all other subtypes. I must leave it to future research to discover whether the apparent absence of (80) is truly an accidental gap, as predicted by my system.

(80) a. Predicted attern (haven’t found an example yet)
    Construction Form
    Existential A
    Locative B
    Possessive1 A
    Possessive2 A
  b. vBE ⇔ B / ___Predstage
    vBE ⇔ A

Before moving on, let me note that there is a striking similarity between (76) and (80): they have in common that the Existential and the Possessive2 construction are united to the exclusion of the Locative construction. One might question whether this similarity is a coincidence, and whether the absence of such systems is truly an accidental gap, as my approach predicts.39

An important subtradition in work on syncretism identifies a recurring typological gap dubbed the *ABA Generalization (see in particular Caha 2009; Bobaljik 2012; Smith et al. 2016; Bobaljik & Sauerland 2017; De Clercq & Vanden Wyngaerd 2017). Bobaljik & Sauerland (2017) give the following general definition of this effect:

(81) *ABA Generalization (Bobaljik & Sauerland 2017: 2)
  “[G]iven some arrangement of [morphological] forms in a structured sequence, the first and third may share some property “A” only if the middle member shares that property as well. If the middle member is distinct from the first, then the third member must also be distinct.”

The question that arises now is this: could the absence of the patterns in (76) and (80) be instances of (81), rather than being accidental? Both (76) and (80) could indeed be conceived of in this fashion. All that is required is that individual level predication (for which Possessive2 is a proxy), stage level predication (for which Locative is a proxy), and existential predication be arrayed in a paradigmatic structure in that order (or its opposite), as shown in (82).

(82) A *ABA pattern in copula allomorphy?
    I-level S-level Existential
  a. A B A
  b. A A B
  c. A B B
  d. A B C
  e. A A A

On this scheme, (76) and (80) are both instantiations of pattern (a.) in (82), and would be ruled out by the *ABA Generalization. Other syncretism patterns would be predicted to be attested, as indeed they are: (b.) is instantiated by Cochabamba Quechua, (c.) by Santiago del Estero Quechua, (d.) by Spanish, and (e.) by English.

This is a tantalizing possibility, but I will leave open whether or not it is correct. My hesitation in adopting this idea is a methodological one, having to do with the predictions it makes about decomposition. In particular, deriving a *ABA pattern on a theory like those of Caha (2009) and Bobaljik (2012) involves claiming that the paradigmatic array involved maps onto morphosyntactic structure transparently as a containment relationship.40 In concrete terms, this could mean one of two things for present purposes. One possibility is that the syntactic structure involved in constructing individual level predication is a proper subset of the structure involved in building stage level predication, which in turn is a proper subset of the structure involved in existential predication. This hypothesis is schematized in (83).

    1. (83)

An alternative structure, also compatible with the scheme in (82), is simply an inversion of (83), with existential predication being properly included in stage level predication, which in turn is properly included in individual level predication, as in (84).

    1. (84)

The methodological difficulty inherent in pursuing (82) further is that I know of no independent morphological or syntactic evidence that either of the two containment relationships in (83) or (84) is correct. That is, neither the version of the decomposition prediction which emerges from (83), nor that which emerges from (84), is supported to my knowledge. This contrasts with the situation we find with well-established *ABA patterns in the literature, where independent evidence for the morphosyntactic decomposition required is forthcoming (see Caha 2009: 37 and elsewhere on case; also Bobaljik 2012: 50 on the transparent containment relationship between the superlative and the comparative in some languages).

For this reason, I will not go down the route of ruling out (76) and (80) in this way here. However, if independent decompositional evidence for either (83) or (84) should emerge in the future, this possibility will have to be re-evaluated.

This section has set out the specific predictions of the present approach for possible and impossible syncretisms. These are fully listed in the online appendix, where every possible syncretism pattern given the syntax I have proposed for copula predications is listed, along with examples when these are known to me.41 Testing these predictions in full is not possible given existing typological surveys, but the predictions themselves are clear, and can be tested by future typological work. Having dealt with the possible and impossible syncretisms prediction, we move on to the Impoverishment prediction in the next section.

6 Testing the Impoverishment prediction: A Quechua case study

The present approach predicts that distinctions between copulas should sometimes be subject to neutralization in certain marked morphological environments – that is, complex copula systems are predicted to be subject to Impoverishment (Bonet 1991; Halle 1997). This section employs a case study from Cochabamba Quechua to show that this prediction is correct. It should also be noted that such neutralization is by no means unique to Cochabamba Quechua (see Stassen 1997: 336, his (72)).

First, recall the basic structure of the Cochabamba Quechua copula system, as established in the previous section (this is repeated from (68) and (69)).

    1. (85)
    1. Cochabamba Quechua Locationals
    1.  
    1. a.
    1. Mesa-pi
    2. Table-on
    1. libru
    2. book
    1. tiya-n.
    2. beexist-3SUBJ
    1. (Existential Construction)
    2.  
    1. ‘There is a book on the table.’
    1.  
    1. b.
    1. Libru-s
    2. book-PL
    1. mesa-pi
    2. table-on
    1. ka-n-ku.
    2. be-3SUBJ-PL
    1. (Locative Construction)
    2.  
    1. ‘The books are on the table.’
    1.  
    1. c.
    1. Tom-pata
    2. Tom-GEN
    1. libru-n
    2. book-3POSS
    1. tiya-n.
    2. beexist-3SUBJ
    1. (Possessive1 Construction)
    2.  
    1. ‘Tom has a book.’
    1.  
    1. d.
    1. Libru-s
    2. book-PL
    1. Tom-pata
    2. Tom-GEN
    1. ka-n-ku.
    2. be-3SUBJ-PL
    1. (Possessive2 Construction)
    2.  
    1. ‘The books are Tom’s.’
(86) vBE ⇔ tiya- / ___Predexist
(87) vBE ⇔ ka-

The basic generalization is that, in the present tense (as well as infinitives, nominalized subordinate clauses, and adverbial clauses), tiya- is used in existential sentences, and ka- is used for all predicative copula constructions. This is further illustrated from outside the domain of locationals by the following examples (examples (88), (89), and (91) are from Myler 2016: 350; (90) comes from my fieldnotes).

    1. (88)
    1. Noqa
    2. I
    1. lingüista
    2. linguist
    1. ka-ni.
    2. be-1SUBJ
    1. (Nominal Predicate)
    2.  
    1. ‘I am a linguist.’
    1. (89)
    1. Noqa
    2. I
    1. jatun
    2. big
    1. ka-ni.
    2. be-1SUBJ
    1. (Individual-level Adjectival Predicate)
    2.  
    1. ‘I am big.’
    1. (90)
    1. Noqa
    2. I
    1. kusisqa
    2. happy
    1. ka-sha-ni.
    2. be-DUR-1SUBJ
    1. (Stage-level Adjectival Predicate)
    2.  
    1. ‘I am happy.’
    1. (91)
    1. Noqa
    2. I
    1. Inglaterra-manta
    2. England-from
    1. ka-ni.
    2. be-1SUBJ
    1. (I-level PP Predicate)
    2.  
    1. ‘I am from England.’

The examples in (89) and (90) are given to show that Cochabamba Quechua does not make a distinction of the ser/estar type in the copula system itself. Instead, a similar distinction can be made using the durative aspectual morpheme.

Things are rather different in the past tense and the future tense. In these tense forms, we find ka- rather than tiya- in existential sentences.42

    1. (92)
    1. Mesa-pi
    2. Table-on
    1. libru
    2. book
    1. ka-rqa-∅.
    2. be-PAST-3SUBJ
    1. ‘There was a book on the table.’
    1. (93)
    1. Mesa-pi
    2. Table-on
    1. libru
    2. book
    1. ka-n-qa.
    2. be-3SUBJ-FUT
    1. ‘There will be a book on the table.’

This has the profile of a typical case of Impoverishment, since (i) past and future are marked feature values for tense, relative to present, and (ii) neutralization is in favor of ka-, which is the elsewhere allomorph of vBE in Cochabamba Quechua in the inventory of Vocabulary Items given in (86) and (87). The Impoverishment Rule needed to account for this situation is as follows. This rule deletes the Predexist head from the PF representation when the T head bears a marked feature value.

(94) Predexist ⇒ ∅ / ___{…}T[fut/past]

The Impoverishment prediction is thus confirmed.

7 Prospects for a non-suppletive approach

Sections 4, 5, and 6 have introduced a new version of the suppletive allomorphy approach to complex copula systems, and shown that it makes correct predictions concerning the crosslinguistic morphological profile of such systems. This section considers whether a non-suppletive approach – that is, one that analyses complex copula systems by postulating more than one BE verb in the lexicon, rather than having them be allomorphs of the same element – can capture the same generalizations. This approach will differ from mine in assuming that the different BE verbs are syntactically distinct (though equally meaningless) elements, and that their varying distributions are encoded in terms of c-selection. Hence, whereas my approach says that estar and ser are the realization of the same vBE in the environment of Predstage and Predindiv respectively, this approach will list estar and ser as lexically distinct verbs, with estar c-selecting a PredP headed by Predstage, and ser c-selecting a PredP headed by Predindiv.43 It will turn out that this non-suppletive approach is not capable of fully replicating the predictions of the suppletive allomorphy approach. To see this, we will consider in turn how Spanish, Santiago del Estero Quechua, and Cochabamba Quechua might be analyzed on this approach.

Spanish can be rather straightforwardly analyzed using the lexical entries below (stipulations on what Voice can c-select will be necessary in order to ensure that ser and estar are found only with Voice{}, and that haber and tener are found only with Voice{D},ϕ).

(95) The Spanish copula system: Non-suppletive analysis
  a. serv
    [_____PredindivP]
    Meaning: λx.x
  b. estarv
    [_____PredstageP]
    Meaning: λx.x
  c. haberv
    [_____PredexistP]
    Meaning: λx.x
  d. tenerv
    [_____DP]
    Meaning: λx.x

The sorts of structure assigned to constructions containing these copulas will be geometrically identical to the ones assigned by my own analysis in Section 4. The resulting analysis of the Spanish copula system is just as descriptively successful as the suppletive allomorphy-based analysis given in Section 4.4. It is also clear that this version of the non-suppletive approach succeeds in capturing the Decomposition prediction, since it assumes the same inventory of heads as my analysis. However, grave problems arise when it comes to the possible and impossible syncretism prediction and the Impoverishment prediction.

The issue that arises for the possible and impossible syncretisms prediction is that this version of the non-suppletive theory has no notion of an elsewhere case which is in complementary distribution with other (more richly specified) cases, which is crucial to deriving the predicted syncretisms in the online appendix. One illustration will suffice to convey the general problem. Consider again the copula system of Santiago del Estero Quechua, repeated here in (96).

    1. (96)
    1. Santiago del Estero Quechua Locationals
    1.  
    1. a.
    1. Mesa-pi
    2. Table-on
    1. libru
    2. book
    1. tiya-n.
    2. beexist-3SUBJ
    1. (Existential Construction)
    2.  
    1. ‘There is a book on the table.’
    1.  
    1. b.
    1. Libru
    2. Book
    1. mesa-pi
    2. table-on
    1. tiya-n.
    2. beestar-3SUBJ
    1. (Locative Construction)
    2.  
    1. ‘The book is on the table.’
    1.  
    1. c.
    1. Tom
    2. Tom
    1. libru-ta
    2. book-ACC
    1. api-n.
    2. have-3SUBJ
    1. (Possessive1 Construction)
    2.  
    1. ‘Tom has a book.’
    1.  
    1. d.
    1. Libru
    2. Book
    1. Tom-pa
    2. Tom-GEN
    1. ka-n.
    2. beser-3SUBJ
    1. (Possessive2 Construction)
    2.  
    1. ‘The book is Tom’s.’

In this system, tiya- covers two types of configuration: existential and stage level predication. This pattern is captured on the suppletive allomorphy approach by setting up tiya- as the elsewhere allomorph (recall rules (72)–(74)). One might first think to replace this idea in the non-suppletive approach by proposing lexical entries with subcategorization frames of the following sort (with stipulations on Voice ensuring that api- and only api- appears in transitive configurations, and that ka- and tiya- only appear in intransitive ones).

(97) The Santiago del Estero Quechua copula system: Non-suppletive version
  a. ka-v
    [_____PredindivP]
    Meaning: λx.x
  b. api-v
    [_____DP]
    Meaning: λx.x
  c. tiya-v
    [_____XP]
    Meaning: λx.x

The idea is that ka-v can select PredindivP only, but that tiya- is effectively unrestricted. But this does not have the same effect as the Vocabulary Insertion rules in my analysis, because tiya-v could also select PredindivP given the frames above. The subcategorization frame of tiya-v is less specific than that of ka-v, but because subcategorization frames do not compete in the same way that Vocabulary Items do, this fails to have the desired effect. The system in (97) thus falsely predicts that tiya-v should be able to convey both individual level and stage level predication. The same issue will arise for all systems in the appendix which make reference to an “elsewhere” case.

It seems that this approach can only describe the Santiago del Estero Quechua system correctly by postulating two accidentally homophonous versions of tiya-v, as in (98), or by allowing disjunctions in c-selection statements of the form in (99).

(98) Accidental homophony
  a. tiya-v
    [_____PredstageP]
    Meaning: λx.x
  b. tiya-v
    [_____PredexistP]
    Meaning: λx.x
(99)   tiya-v
    [_____{ PredstageP/PredexistP } ]
    Meaning: λx.x

However, a theory that countenances these possibilities can also model any imaginable syncretism (including ones that appear to be unattested, like (77) and (78)), and thus makes no predictions at all about what syncretisms should be (im)possible. I conclude that the non-suppletive approach has fatal problems in replicating the possible and impossible syncretisms prediction.

Moving on to the Impoverishment prediction, we find that an attempted analysis of the Cochabamba Quechua data also founders. To see this, we must first propose an analysis of the basic distribution of ka- and tiya- in that dialect in environments other than the past and future tense (and the environments where optionality is found mentioned in footnote 42). Already we encounter a version of the “elsewhere” problem that prevented this approach from replicating the possible and impossible syncretisms prediction, because we must somehow ensure that ka-v can select both PredindivP and PredstageP without also being allowed to occur in existential contexts (outside of the future and past tense). Let us lay that aside for now by postulating a disjunctive specification of the subcategorization frame of ka-v. The lexical entries for the Cochabamba Quechua copula system would then be as follows:

(100) The Cochabamba Quechua copula system: Non-suppletive version
  a. ka-v
    [_____ { PredstageP/PredindivP } ]
    Meaning: λx.x
  b. tiya-v
    [_____PredexistP]
    Meaning: λx.x

From this position, we require two things in order to reproduce the effect of the Impoverishment rule in (94): (i) we need to explain why tiya-v cannot combine with past or future tense, and (ii) we need to explain why ka-v, which ordinarily cannot select PredexistP, becomes able to do so in precisely those tenses. Unfortunately, (i) cannot be achieved because c-selection is local, and (ii) violates assumptions about the immutability of selection relations which have been maintained in some from since at least the Projection Principle of Chomsky (1981). I conclude that the Impoverishment prediction cannot be replicated in the non-suppletive approach either.

Even if these problems were surmounted somehow, presumably the result would be a system which could just as easily have modeled a language like Cochabamba Quechua, except that the ka-/tiya- distinction is neutralized in favor of tiya- in the past and future tenses. This would then be a weaker prediction than the Impoverishment prediction made by the suppletive allomorphy approach, according to which Impoverishment should always lead to neutralization in favor of a less specified allomorph. I conclude that there are no prospects for a non-suppletive approach to the generalizations discussed here.

8 Conclusions

This paper began by outlining two potential approaches to cross-linguistic variation in the complexity of copula systems: the non-suppletive approach and the suppletive allomorphy approach. I have shown that the suppletive allomorphy approach to complex copula systems makes a number of morphological predictions which are plausibly correct: (i) we should see surface evidence of decomposition in copula predication, (ii) there will be universal restrictions on possible and impossible syncretisms, and (iii) complex copula systems should sometimes be subject to morphological neutralizations in marked morphological environments–what is known as Impoverishment. While a non-suppletive approach can capture the decomposition position, this approach is doomed to miss the generalizations at the heart of the possible and impossible syncretism prediction and the Impoverishment prediction. In each case, the problems stem from a core difference between the two approaches: only in the suppletive allomorphy approach are the different forms of vBE competing to realize the same syntactic node.

Additional File

The additional file for this article can be found as follows:

Supplementary file 1

Online Appendix to Complex copula systems as suppletive allomorphy. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5334/gjgl.214.s1