LINGUIST List 4.343

Thu 06 May 1993

Qs: Nominal vs verbal predication, West African language

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Susan Herring, nominal vs. verbal predication
  2. , identification of W. African language sought

Message 1: nominal vs. verbal predication

Date: Wed, 5 May 93 16:04:39 CDTnominal vs. verbal predication
From: Susan Herring <>
Subject: nominal vs. verbal predication

1) Are there any modern languages that require (or prefer) nominal,
as opposed to verbal, predication? For example, Old Tamil is
said to have lacked finite verbs but instead used predicate nominals,
such that a sentence like 'Kumar broke the coconut' would be rendered
literally as 'Kumar was (the) coconut-broke-person'. (The verb 'break'
is inflected for tense plus an agentive nominalizer (historically a
subject pronoun).) Other conceivable candidates might be languages
like colloquial Japanese, which makes frequent use of the particle NO
as a clause nominalizer, as in:

 o- too- sama wa o-ikutsu dat-ta- NO
 HON-father-HON TOP HON-how.many be-PAST-NZR

 'How old is your father?'
 (lit. 'As for (your) father, (a) how-old-being (thing)?)

2) Conversely, are there languages that *lack* or make very limited
use of nominal predication? (I exclude English from this category,
despite the fact that English requires a verb (copula) in an equational
clause.) Candidates might be languages where instead of saying
'John is a nurse', one would have to say 'John has become a nurse',
'John nurses', or some such. Does anyone know of any actual languages
that work like this (Amerindian languages, perhaps)?

Finally, and most generally, has anything been written on nominal vs.
verbal predication from a typological or functional point of view?

Best regards,

Susan Herring
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Message 2: identification of W. African language sought

Date: Thu, 6 May 93 13:44 MET
From: <>
Subject: identification of W. African language sought

In the research project on the Dutch creole of the Virgin
islands, the collaborators Cefas van Rossem and Hein van der
Voort encountered a short text in an unidentified West African
language. They do not have e-mail and found it a good idea to ask
the subscribers to Linguist for their help in identification.
Reactions can be sent by e-mail to "".
Snail-mail: Cefas van Rossem, ATW-UVA, Spuistraat 210, 1012 VT
Amsterdam, Holland. A facsimile of the text can also be provided
to persons interested. This is the information they have, plus
the text in Dutch Creole and in the unidentified African

The following text was published in 1742 as a part of the first
printed publication in a creole language. A part of this text
however is written in an African language we have not been able
to identify. The placename 'Poppo' in the text points in the
direction of a language spoken in todays Benin (Gbe) or so. But a
native speaker of Ewe (a dialect of Gbe) could not read it,
however. He did recognize a few words, for instance Mau for
'God', and told me that the text could possibly be written in the
Phla dialect of Gbe. It is also possible that the language is a
 The original translation of the text is in Negerhollands (it
is named 'Cariolische' in this text), the Dutch-based creole
language that has been spoken on the Danish Antilles (now U.S.
Virgin Islands) from +1700-1987. The English and French transla-
tions were added later by us.

 Der Aeltestin der Gemeine der
 The eldest of the community of the
 La plus vieille de la Communit des

 Negros in St. Thomas Schreiben an die
 Negroes in St. Thomas write to the
gres de St. Thomas ecrits a la

 Koenigin von Daenemarck.
 Queen of Danmark
 Reine du Danemark

 An. 1739.

[beginning of the African text]

 Ne acadda.

 Cabe my le ad ga Tome minge bruhu
 mau, mi wago voltom . Gewoma
 dih , na mangi Bruhu Ajuba malle na ma do
 wi tu ma gagni na mi, quaffi nangi netto
 dy a WoDu Gowo maja powo Dn. Poppo
 leofi, Mia meyi dik bowo dn mille dikbe
 mige meacadda nadak be no vo Dn Mau
 e nma dak bena Anib dassi sala Martinus na
 doclio na mi nass na mi ang vo Dn. na
 cossi de tami, denik" Do Batroe Mau s
 Mau m agnis ne a cadda.
 Minzu Gnon en ho
 ma poppo!


[end African text]

 Ubersetzung ins Cariolische.
 Translation into Creole.
 Traduction en Cr ole.

 Groote Koninginne.
 Great Queen.
 Grande Reine.

 Die tyd mi a wes na Poppo op Africa,
 The time I was in Poppo in Africa
 Ce fois j' etais a Poppo en Afrique

 doen mi a dint die Heer Mau, nu ko-
 then I served the Lord Mau, now come
 j'ai servi le Seigneur Mau, maintenant

 me na blanco land, mi no wilt gu din de
 to whites land, I do not want to serve the
 j'ai venu dans le pays des gens blancs, Je ne veux pas

 Heere. Mi no ha di grond vor t# dien die
 Lord good. I do not have the ground to serve the
 le Seigneur. Je n'ai pas de raison pour servir le

 Heere; mi ben bedroev na min herte, voor
 Lord; I am sad in my heart, because
 Seigneur; je suis triste dans ma coeur, parce que

 dat Negrinne no kan dien die Heere Jesus in
 Negresses can not serve the Lord Jesus in
 les Negresses ne peuvent pas servir le Seigneur Jesu a

 Thomas, die Blanke no wil dien die Heere.
 Thomas, the Whites do not want to serve the Lord.
 Thomas, les Blancs ne veulent pas servir le Seigneur

 Lat so as sili wil, maar soo de povre swarte
 Leave it like they want, but this way the poor black
 Laissent comme ils veulent, mais a cette mani
re les pauvres

 Broeders en susters wil dien de Heer Jesus,
 Brothers and sisters want to serve the Lord Jesus,
res et soeurs veulent servir le Seigneur Jesu,

 so moet zilli doen, as si bin maron volk. As
 so they must do, when they are maron people. When
 a cette mani
re ils doivent faire, quand ils sont Marons.

 Neacanda belyv, gy moet bidde de Heere Je-
 Neacanda stays, you must pray the Lord Jesus
 Neacanda reste, vous devez prier au Seigneur Jesu

 sus voor ons, en bidd ook A Niba, voor la
 for us, and pray also to A Niba, for let
 pour nous, et prie aussi a A Niba, pour laissez

 stan Bas Martinus prek de Heere woord,
 reverent Martinus preach the Lords word,
re Martinus pr cher le mot de Dieu

 voor ons moe leer voor kenn de Heere, en
 because we must learn to know the Lord, and
 parce que nous devons apprendre pour connaisser le Dieu, et

 voor Doop ons Negers, op Naam des Va-
 to Baptize us Negroes, in the Name of the Fa-
 pour baptiser nous N
gres, dans le Nom des P

 ders, Sons en Hilig Geest. Die Heer be-
 thers, Sons and Holy Spirit. The Lord
 Fils et le Saint Esprit. Le Dieu

 waar sinder, en seegene sinder, son en doch-
 protects them, and blesses them, son and daughter
 les prot
ge, et les b nit, fils et filles

 tersen, heel Familie, en mi sal bid den Heer
 entire Family, and I will pray the Lord
 tout la famille, et je veux prier le Seigneur

 Jesus voor sinder.
 Jesus for them.
 Jesu pour lui.
 Ob naam van over Tweehondert en
 In the name of over twohundred and
 Dans le nom de plus de deux cents

 Vyftig Negerssen Zrouwen, die
 fifty Negroe women, who
 cinquante Negresses, qui

 den Heere Jesus beminnen, ge-
 love the Lord Jesus,
 aiment le Seigneur Jesu

 schreven door
 written by
 crit par




 van Poppo uyt Africa.
 from Poppo from Africa.
 de Poppo en Afrique.
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