From Demonstratives to Copulas: A Cross-Linguistic Perspective and the Case of Polish

Paweł Rutkowski 1
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1Warsaw University and Yale University

Copyright ⓒ 2016, Sejong University Language Research Institue. This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Published Online: Jan 01, 2017


This paper aims to clarify the syntactic status of the element to which appears in Polish copular expressions. The word to has recently been analyzed as a verb, see Linde-Usiekniewicz (2006); however, from the historical point of view, it clearly derives from a demonstrative pronoun. In the present article, I attempt to set the discussion of Polish to-constructions against a broader, cross- linguistic perspective. I provide an overview of a number of syntactic properties that characterize copulas derived from pronouns in other languages. I follow Li & Thompson (1977) in assuming that a demonstrative may be (diachronically) reanalyzed as a copula if the nominal structure that precedes it changes its status from a left- dislocated topic to the subject of the whole copular expression. I conclude that this reanalysis has not yet taken place in Polish; therefore, I argue that the element to should not be interpreted as a copula.

Keywords: demonstrative pronouns; copulas; topicalization; left- dislocation; syntactic reanalysis



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