In case of some Indo-European languages it seems there is no visible verb in the sentence. This is specially visible in languages like Bangla, Hindi etc.

For example the sentence

Who is there?

is most of the time said

Who there? ( "কে ওখানে?" ) in Bangla.

Although such sentences are small in number, these are extremely common. If I want to build a Question Answering System dependency parsing such sentences are extremely important.

"বাংলাদেশের জাতীয় পাখির নাম কি?", which literally translates to ("what the name of the national bird of Bangladesh?") but means ("what is the the name of the national bird of Bangladesh?")

However there is no visible verb in the sentences. So how should one represent and parse sentences where the verb is invisible but carries the meaning anyway. And what this invisible verb phenomena is called?

Thank you very much.

NB: Sorry I can not formulate my question any better as I don't know what this grammatical phenomenon is called. :(

  • What meaning does it carry if it's invisible? How do you know that it's a verbal predicate rather than a nominal predicate?
    – curiousdannii
    Oct 21, 2016 at 14:37

1 Answer 1


This phenomenon is called zero copula. It especially common for third person present tense.

I recommend that you read on how this is handled in syntax parsers for Russian or Hindi. It was also an issue for Irish, Hungarian, Japanese, Turkish, Arabic and many other languages.

  • I wonder if a zero copula is detectable by other means (is there a trace or some other element that prevents things like wanna contraction and so on? I don't know, it would be good to find out.) I am surprised that you mentioned Irish. From what I understand of Celtic languages in general (not very much), the verb is always present and pronounced, right at the start of the clause. So if you are able, it would be great if you could maybe flesh your answer out with some examples and maybe an explanation of the phenomenon. Oct 21, 2016 at 10:25
  • 1
    @Wilson - You can see the examples if you follow the link provided (WiKi).
    – tum_
    Oct 21, 2016 at 10:45

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