genitive affixes

Elena Maslova Lena at LH.BICOS.DE
Sat Dec 19 11:40:09 UTC 1998

Dear colleagues, dear Leon,

At 01:58 12/19/98 +0100, stassen wrote:

>   The reason I ask is the following. I am setting up a typology
> predicative possession. One of the types I have to distinguish
anyway is
> something I call the Locational Possessive: it's the
Latin/Russian type of
> "At/to John, there is/exists a horse". Now, in the same areas
where I find
> this locational type, I also find instances of what might be
called the
> Genitive Possessive, that might be rendered as "John's horse
> However, if I can reduce genitive marking to locational
> (ablative/dative/locative) marking, I can collapse the two
types into one,
> and I would like that.

It seems to me that an attempt to collapse these two types into
one can involve a problem for an adequate account of the
head-marked possessive constructions, as

(1) John horse-POSS is/exists

Such constructions seem to be naturally affiliated with your
Genetive Possessive (insofar as they instantiate just another
variant of creating nominal possessive constructions), but hardly
so with your Locative Possessive (assuming that the Possessor is
an unmarked nominal). This problem is, of course, independent of
whether or not all genetive markers can be traced back to some
locative markers.

A note on Yukaghir (and Russian) which may turn our relevant for
your typology. A construction like in (1), with an unmarked
Possessor, constitutes a regular option in Yukaghir (although not
the most frequent one - more frequent is a construction with a
verbal Comitative form -

(2) John horse-COM-3SG.)

Yet now an alternative option with the Locative Possessor AND the
Possessive marker on the Possessum is also possible (probably,
under the Russian influence), i.e.

(3) John-LOC horse-POSS is.

Furthermore, the Locative Possessor appears to be an option for
the comitative construction like in (2) as well, i.e.

(2)' John-LOC horse-COM-3SG

The funniest thing is that the verb agreement in such a
construction can be controlled by the _Locative_ (which is
otherwise ABSOLUTELY impossible in Yukaghir), i.e. with a Plural
Possessor you will have the 3PL marker on the verb, like

(4) Boy-PL-LOC horse-COM-3PL 'Boys have/had horse/horses'

(Unfortunately, there are no reliable examples for 1-2 person

If these constructions have become possible under the Russian
influence (which I consider highly probable), these data
contribute to one of my favorite ideas which was expressed and
argued for long ago by a brilliant Russian (Soviet?) scholar
Solomon Kacnel'son, namely, that the locative prepositional
phrase in Russian predications of possession, as in

(5) _at John_ is horse

is conceived and should be analyzed as the _subject_. The
Russian-internal support of this claim is given, among other
things, by regular "mistakes" in the use of converbs (attested in
the speech of virtually all Russian speakers, from least educated
to most educated, like Leo Tolstoy) where the Possessive-Locative
prepositional phrase controls the converb, i.e. the (obligatorily
dropped) subject of a converb is co-referential with the
prepositional phrase and not with the formal subject (which is
possible only for subjects otherwise).

Well, my comments turned out rather distant from your the initial
request, yet these data seem to be relevant for an appropriate
description of "Locative Possessors".

All the best, and Happy Christmas,


Elena Maslova
University of Bielefeld
mailto:lena at

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