A description of the copular clause in Trinidadian French Creole based on Higgins (1979)



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This study describes the copular clause in the variety of Trinidadian French Creole (TFC) spoken in Paramin using Higgins’ (1979) taxonomy of copular clauses. Higgins’ taxonomy identifies four classes based on syntactic and semantic criteria. Such documentation is important since TFC is an endangered heritage language with a 146-year-old grammar that does not treat with copular clauses comprehensively and cohesively. The study aimed to determine the distribution of the equative, attributive and locative copulas attested in Creole languages and to determine the semantic properties of the clauses studied. This was done with the help of two native speaker consultants and one non-native speaker in a methodology that involved reverse translation elicitation, creation of a novel testing schedule to determine the semantic properties of the clauses under study based on English tests proposed by Higgins (1979), Mikkelsen (2011)and Niimura (2007), and construction and introspection elicitation. The schedule included the following tests: subject-complement inversion, vini-replacement, alternation with sé-clefts and embedding under a propositional verb without a copula. The study found four forms occupying the position of the copula, /se/, /sete/, ø and /te/, but posits two copular forms. /se/ is the equative copula with the variant /sete/ found with NP predicate complements in all of Higgins’ classes and ø the locative and attributive forms found in the predicational class only. /te/ is analysed as the pre-verbal anterior marker, and /sete/ as a bimorphemic combination of /se/ and /te/. Additionally, the study found that predicational, identificational, and specificational clauses can be identified based on their responses to the four tests used in the study. Predicational clauses pass vini-replacement and embedding under a propositional verb without a copula, ICs fail subject-complement inversion and embedding, and SCs pass subject-complement inversion and alternation with sé-clefts. The study also raised methodological issues in studying the semantic properties of copular clauses in French Creoles and endangered languages.


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French Creole, Patois