Topicality of the “Copula” form Shi in Santa Mongolian

Author: Aoi GEKA (Kyoto University, Japan)
Speaker: Aoi GEKA
Topic: Language Contact and Change
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2020 General Session


Santa (Dunxian) Mongolian contains a form called shi coming from the copula “是 (shi4)” of Chinese. In previous research, this form is known as a borrowed form that can occur with the indigenous copula wo, though shi has been described as a “copula” (刘 1981, Kim 2003, Napoli 2004), “copula verb” (Field 1997), “postposition to show the presentation” (布和等编1986). For this, a unified opinion has yet to emerge, where a description aligning with the function of shi is insufficient.

In this presentation, I pay attention to topicality, and add an analysis after having analyzed the environment and the meaning of shi. First, regarding the environment, I pay attention to the element preceding shi. From the analysis of the type of noun phrases that appears before shi, and noun phrases that do not appear, I show that more definite noun phrases such as personal pronouns and demonstrative pronouns do appear, while less definite noun phrases such as interrogatives do not appear. Secondly, regarding the meaning function, I pay attention to examples frequently using shi. From the analysis of these examples, I show that shi has functions such as presenting a condition. Finally, regarding the topicality, I contrast the topicality of Santa Mongolian shi with that of “是” of Chinese, the original language of borrowing, and the Japanese “wa,” which is known as a topic marker.

With the above in mind, I conclude that the shi of Santa Mongolian should be analyzed as a topic marker, and not a copula.


Field, Kenneth L. 1997. A Grammatical Overview of Santa Mongolian. PhD dissertation. University of California, Santa Barbara.

Kim, Stephen S. 2003. Santa. In: The Mongolic Languages. ed. by Juha Janhunen. 346-363.
Napoli, Mateus Froes. 2014. Studies on the Verb Complex of Santa Mongolian. M. A. thesis. Payap University, Chiang Mai, Thailand.
布和等编1986.《蒙古语族语言方言研究丛书 007 东乡语和蒙古语》呼和浩特: 内蒙古人民出版社.
刘照雄编 1981.《中国少数民族语言简志丛书 东乡语简志》北京: 民族出版社.

Keywords: Santa (Dunxian) Mongolian, topic, copula, language contact