What Are Contractible & Uncontractible Copula Verbs?

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The speech and grammar rules that a child learns as he acquires language follows a set pattern, according to Edward Finegan, author of "Language: Its Structure and Use." Along with contractible and uncontractible copula nouns, there are a total of 14 morphemes, a list that also includes present verbs, regular nouns, articles and possessive nouns. Because children gain these skills fairly early in life, the recognition and use of copula verbs supports language acquisition, as well as reading and writing skills.

1 Uncontractible Copula Verb Definition

An uncontractible copula verb is a linking verb that's not a contraction but also doesn't have a meaning on its own, according to Elly van Gelderen, author of "The Linguistic Cycle." In other words, a copula verb links the subject to the rest of the sentence, but it doesn't describe action like traditional verbs. Uncontractible copula verbs are the seventh morpheme that children acquire as they learn to talk, according to the College of New Jersey. Morphemes are the smallest parts of a language and include singular nouns, such as cat, as well as endings, such as "s" or "ing," and prefixes such as "re" and "pre." Most children have a firm grasp on using uncontractible copula verbs between the ages of 33 and 34 months, based on Roger Brown's theory of language acquisition.

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2 Examples of Uncontractible Copula Verbs

"Looked" is one example of an uncontractible copula verb, but only when it's used as a linking verb, such as in the sentence, "The dress looked nice on her." The dress isn't actually looking at anything so it's not a specific action, but it links the subject, which is the dress, and the girl wearing the dress. "Appeared" is another example. In the sentence, "The boy appeared unhurt," "appeared" is the uncontractible copula verb that links the subject, who is the boy, and that he is unhurt. Be, become, see, keep, stay, remain, go, turn and fall are additional uncontractible copula verbs, van Gelderen notes.

3 Contractible Copula Verb Definition

A contractible copula verb is a linking verb that is paired with a contraction, but that isn't an action. In the case of contractible copula verbs, there might also be another verb in the sentence that does suggest action. Contractible copula verbs are the 13th morpheme that children acquire, and that generally occurs somewhere between 41 and 46 months of age based on Brown's theory of language acquisition.

4 Examples of Contractible Copula Verbs

A simple example of a contractible copula verb is the sentence "He's my father." The subject of the sentence is "he," and the "he" in the sentence is "father." The contraction "he's" is the copula verb that actually means "he is," "is" being the specific copula verb. "She's eating pasta," is another example. The subject of the sentence is "she" and the complement is "pasta." The contraction means "she is," and is used as the verb to link the she who is eating pasta. This sentence also includes another verb, "eating," which is an example of a verb that shows action and that is not a copula verb.

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.