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In P&P, I assume that 'be' occupies the head of VP as P&P doesn't allow for empty heads. From that I assume that copulas head objects/complements in the same way that a lexical verb would?

In LFG, copulas pretty much disappear in f-structure but do they at least select complements in c-structure (while the head of VP is empty)?

Edit: I suppose VP being empty isn't really the issue. Lexical verbs without an aux can and do occupy IP/TP, leaving VP empty anyway. In f-structure, the predicative noun/adj. etc. is the predicator, while in c-structure I guess the order of things still shows objects as complements of what is ultimately the lexical or copula verb in IP/TP. Does this mean that LFG presents a conflicting analysis of copulas in f- and c- structure?

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In this case the outermost f-structure is the IP whose functional head is the predicative phrase. Copulae are (in LFG parlance) coheads, i.e., they have no PRED though they extend the predicator of the content word they fuse with. In this respect they're somewhat similar to complex predicates such as causatives which extend the predicator (by adding the causee which is always a NP and changing the GFs of the direct object if present). At c-structure though copulae are (again in LFG parlance) categorial heads governing the predicative NP or AP (which is not really a complement thought this is merely a terminological issue). The analyses are by no means conflicting, in fact the two structures mesh pretty well together (by structural correspondence). Note that c-structures capture only configurations ("hierarchical" word order) whereas f-structures capture only dependencies (they're tree-like) so they're disjoint and there's no conflict.

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  • @Atamari Ok so, c-structure only shows word order, whereas in P&P trees imply other things? I'm not sure I quite understand the predicative phrase being the head of the IP. What I find interesting is that in f-structure the copula can be gone without a trace. e.g I will be happy looks something like this: PRED 'happy' <SUBJ> MOOD judgement (or what you'd like to call it) - Subj: PRED 'pro' (not sure how to format on this site). So in c-structure they have the lexical integrity principal, but in f-structure words can just vanish. But you're saying that the copula is a co-head with 'happy'? – dylbro Jan 6 '18 at 2:40
  • @Atamari I just remembered, the complements of c-structure functional heads are f-structure co-heads, which explains the copula being a co-head in the predicative phrase, even though there seems to be no trace of it. – dylbro Jan 6 '18 at 2:45
  • @dylbro Yes, the copula and the adjective are coheads but the copula doesn’t vanish, the two f-structures are unified whereby the copula typically contributes some TAM attributes and alters the semantic form. In P&P trees encode GFs as well but this is long obsolete. In LFG function words (functional categories) fuse with their heads (content words). – Atamiri Jan 6 '18 at 4:02

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