Copula of Identification
1. Type I VpPS: the copula of identification is characterised by the need for a temporary predicate after the verb. The definite predicate does not stand next to the verb directly. Nolan points out this was frequently not the case in Old Irish and is probably an analogical development after confusion with other types of copular sentences.
‘Sé an gníomh fónta is gnáthach le Rí a dheanamh – the predicate is an gníomh fónta and the subject is the relative clause.
‘Sé an t-uabhar a thosnaigh an t-olc – the predicate is an t-uabhar, é is the temporary predicate and (an rud) a thosnaigh an t-olc the subject. In English, “it was pride that started the evil” has “it” referring to the subject, “pride” and “that started the evil” as the predicate; in Irish an t-uabhar is the predicate.
‘Sé an saol so an t-earrach – an saol so is the predicate, an t-earrach the subject. This sentence, from Jesus’ explanation of a parable, shows the copula can mean “stands for, represents, means”.
Is é rud é is éagsamhlaí dár airíos riamh – the first é is the temporary predicate, rud … is éagsamhlaí is the predicate, and the second é is the subject. The predicate is therefore split in two, and only the fundamental noun of the predicate precedes the subject. Rud is definite, but the article is left off as it is defined later. That the second é is the subject is shown by the fact that this sentence can be rewritten: is é rud is éagsamhlaí dár airíos riamh é, with the subject coming last.
2. Type IIa VpSP: it is incorrect to say as some do that the temporary predicate is put in to separate the verb from a definite noun. Sometimes it is inconvenient fro the predicate to come immediately after the verb, and for rhetorical purposes the predicate is at the end, and the temporary predicate prevents the subject from coming directly next to the verb. Type I has the subpredicate by analogy; Type II, even in Old Irish always had it, to prevent the copula from standing next to the subject (bearing in mind the function of the copula is to identify the predicate).
‘Sé is mian leis an Eaglais fearg Dé do mhaolú -the subject is (an rud) is mian leis an Eaglais, the predicate is fearg Dé do mhaolú. “The thing that the Church desires is this–to lessen God’s anger.”
This form is often used for a cumbrous predicate. ‘Sé (an) rud a dheininn a leataoibh a thabhairt sa ngaoith – where ‘sé an rud a dheininn contains the temporary predicate and the subject and the predicate is a long phrase. Another example given by Nolan is ‘sé bua na scéithe sin an fear a bheadh ar a scáth nách féidir é ‘ bhualadh, bíodh ná beadh ann ach garsún gan féasóg, nú bíodh go mbeadh sé na sheanduine. Here bua na scéithe sin is the subject, with the temporary predicate anticipating a very long predicate given in the remainder of the sentence.
B’é ab fhada leis go raibh sé amu’: the subject is (an rud) ab fhada leis, and the predicate is go raibh sé amu’. Once again an implied rud is the fundamental noun of the subject. Nolan adds that the subject itself contains a copula of classification where the predicate is fada leis and the subject is the relative particle contained in ab.
So there is a contrast between a copula of classification, b’fhada leis go raibh sé amu’ (VPS) and a copula of identification, b’é ab fhada leis go raibh sé amu’ (VpSP). B’fhada leis would have been insufferably weak, an anti-climax, in this passage from Séadna, whereas the copula of identification identifies the one thing that Tadhg was long for – to safely get out. Consequently, these sentences are not equivalents, and careful use is enjoined by Nolan.
Na druinge gurb é a nDia a mbolg: this is an interesting example, as Nolan parses this as Type II, with a nDia the subject and a mbolg the predicate. It could probably be interpreted as Type I also, with the roles reversed, but this way round keeps the logical and grammatical predicates identical. A clearer example of the difference between the types is ‘Sé mo thuairim ná tiocfaidh sé, because the temporary predicate é cannot refer to tuairim, which is feminine, but rather to ná tiocfaidh sé, showing such sentences are Type II rather than Type I.