Thursday, February 5, 2009

To ? or not to ?

Russian has no copula - or to put it more cautiously, Russian speakers don't need one "in the present tense", of all tenses.There are no everyday "This is really that" expressions to reinforce talk about "existence", "timelessness of being" and so on.

Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that there has never been a widely-known Russian Philosopher of Being. The major work of such a person, ? и время, would probably not have wowed the literate community. I bet Heidegger goes off in Russia like a damp squib.

Come to think of it, copulation itself requires no copula. You just put two people next to each other, and off they go. I can cite Burroughs in support of this: "Me Tarzan, you Jane".

"To be" is not meaningless though, in English say, since it is needed as an enzyme to bring things together that are conceived of as ontologically inert. I wonder whether evidence exists that static, "building block" world-views are associated, in a statistically significant way, with languages in which a copula plays a prominent part. This could take the form of a comparative frequency chart of schools of ontology, and the languages in which the philosophers involved publish.

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