LINGUIST List 24.2529

Thu Jun 20 2013

Diss: Syntax, Language Documentation: Mazzoli: 'Copulas in Nigerian Pidgin'

Editor for this issue: Xiyan Wang <>

Date: 12-Jun-2013
From: Maria Mazzoli <>
Subject: Copulas in Nigerian Pidgin
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Institution: Università degli Studi di Padova Program: PhD in Linguistics Dissertation Status: Completed Degree Date: 2013

Author: Maria Mazzoli

Dissertation Title: Copulas in Nigerian Pidgin

Linguistic Field(s): Language Documentation                             Syntax
Subject Language(s): Pidgin, Nigerian (pcm) Language Family(ies): Southern Eastern Atlantic Creole
Dissertation Director:
Alberto M. Mioni Cinzia Avesani Paola Beninca
Dissertation Abstract:

In this work I describe the copular system of Nigerian Pidgin (NigP), a
pidgin/creole language spoken in Nigeria. I restricted the analysis to the
modern Western metropolitan variety.

Chapter 1 offers a socio-historical background on the origins of Nigerian

Chapter 2 describes the research methodology: the field research, the
written and the spoken NigP corpus, the procedure used for the elicitation
of grammaticality judgements and the prosodic experiment on the tonal
realisation of DE. I built the present work upon both corpus occurrences
and grammaticality judgments. The spoken corpus of NigP was collected
during field research in Lagos, Ibadan and Benin City in 2007; later, I
added to this material a sample of written NigP texts. This combined corpus
counts about 100.000 words and is accessible in the CD (Appendix A-CD and
B-CD). In 2012 I conducted a prosodic experiment in collaboration with the
Paduan CNR on the tonal realisation of DE in the spoken production of two
speakers from Benin City. This elicited material is also available in
Appendix C-CD.

Chapter 3 outlines the state-of-the-art of the studies dealing with copulas
in diverse disciplines of linguistics. In this chapter I also explain my
taxonomical choices with respect to the NigP copular system. I divided the
space covered by copulas in NigP into three semantic domains: (1)
identification/ascription, (2) location/existence, and (3) attribution. The
choice of the copula in NigP is mainly grounded on the syntactic nature of
the complement. Thus, the copulas be and na govern nominal complements in
identificational and ascriptive contexts, the copula de governs locative
arguments or displays intransitively in existential contexts, and the
attributive copula de is inserted in the verb slot before verbal property
items (attributive contexts) if certain conditions are met. I deal with
these issues in the three research chapters (4, 5 and 6 respectively). The
main aim was to attest and explain the variation encountered in each domain.

In Chapter 4 I explain that the focus introducer na has been reanalysed as
a copula in identificational and ascriptive contexts. In fact, the copular
constructions with be and na entail two different pragmatic and syntactic
encodings of their arguments, which explains the perfect complementary
distribution of the two items.

In Chapter 5 I deal with the lexical item DE, which encompasses two
grammatical categories: existential/locative copula and imperfective
aspect. Speakers realise the difference between the two by means of tone,
as the results of the prosodic experiment consistently confirmed.

Attributive contexts are not always copular due to the verbal nature of
property items, as I claim in Chapter 6. The insertion of the copula de is
governed by diverse syntactic and semantic factors. Also, the prosodic
experiment conducted on the tonal realisation of DE allowed attesting the
fluctuating aspectual character (stative/non-stative) of property items in
NigP and, consequently, their occurrence with both the high-toned copula de
and the low-toned imperfective marker dè.

Page Updated: 20-Jun-2013