double possessives

RonButters at AOL.COM RonButters at AOL.COM
Fri Sep 28 13:46:48 UTC 2001

In a message dated 9/27/2001 2:11:23 PM, tharriso at MAIL.MACONSTATE.EDU writes:

<< At least the way I speak, "Sue's Tom's recommendation" might come up in a
conversation like this:

"Did you get Tom's recommendation?"
"Tom who?"
"Ohh, I can't remember his last name.  You remember Sue, used to be
Wilkinson?  She married him.  Sue's Tom's recommendation."

But that would have yet another, and more normal, structure.

Thom >>

Yes, here (if I understand you correctly) "Sue's" modifies "Tom's". I'm
interested in the case where both of the possessives modify the noun.

--On Thursday, September 27, 2001 1:48 pm +0000 RonButters at wrote:

> In a message dated 9/27/01 1:32:39 PM, lynnem at COGS.SUSX.AC.UK writes:

Possessives _are_ determiners--in all of the cases you cited.
And that's why you can't have them together. I don't know why you
(apparently) can have 'my your' (that's the personal 'you', not the generic
'you'.  I still can't have it at all.)

If possessives are determiners, then Thom's example gives us a determiner
modifying another determiner. I guess that is OK, but the "syntactic" rules
here keep getting more and more complex.

Perhaps what we have here are not syntactic rules at all, but just pragmatic
constraints? Consider the following utterances, which seem OK to me:

     Is this your Handel's "Messiah" CD or mine?
     Which is a better print, my Renoir's "Lunch of the Boating Party" or

The pragmatic rule would be that it is OK to use two possessives before a
noun iff (1). it is clear from context that they modify different nouns (as
in Thom's example) or (2). it is clear from context that they are different
kinds of possessives (i.e., possessives of ownership vs. possessives of
creation. Double pronouns are so lacking in specificity (being essentially
deictic) that they are really impossible to process and hence seem to violate
a syntactic rule.

3. Can anyone think of an example that contrast alienable and inalienable
possession (e.g., "This is Tom's your eye" versus "This is Jack's your eye")?
The only ones that work for me at all seem quite obscene, but that may just
be the way my mind works.

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