The copula cycle in Kriol

  • Chiara Truppi Centro de Linguística da Universidade de Lisboa
Keywords: Kriol, copula cycle


The present paper aims to study the item i in Kriol, the Portuguese-based creole of Guinea-Bissau. More specifically, i is 3SG subject pronoun and also functions as copula in individual-level predication. As a pronoun, i may also occur as resumptive to topic-comment structures. On the basis of the striking similarity between copular clauses with i and topic-comment structures with resumptive i, I will argue that the pronoun i and the copula i are not simple homophones, but represents two different syntactic functions of the very same item. I assume that the copula i derives from the resumptive pronoun i in topic-comment structures. This kind of grammaticalization of the pronoun into a copula, also known as copularization, is well documented in a number of languages. The main goal of the paper will be to reconstruct the path of grammaticalization of the copula i and to provide a syntactic account of it. I will follow Lohndal (2009) in assuming that this kind of grammaticalization, motivated by the ambiguity caused by certain topic-comment structures with resumptive pronoun, corresponds to an economy-oriented structural change: the pronoun shifts from the specifier to the head of the predication phrase (PrP). This shift belongs to the type of structural changes included in Lohndal’s copula cycle. Given that 3SG i is arguably a subject clitic and cannot sit in the specifier of PrP, I will argue, on the basis of Kihm’s (2007) paper, that in the proto-creole that originated Kriol and the other Upper Guinea Creoles, there was a 3SG nonclitic pronoun *ele. It occurred as resumptive to topic-comment structures and was later reanalysed as a copula.