[Lingtyp] query: possessives and animacy

g.corbett at surrey.ac.uk g.corbett at surrey.ac.uk
Thu Feb 2 06:42:20 EST 2017

Dear David,

Instances where the possessor “takes over" and determines the properties of the whole NP have been termed “prominent possessors”. See this site for a project on the subject, led by Irina Nikolaeva (https://www.soas.ac.uk/linguistics/prominent-possessors/)

Very best

Greville G. Corbett

Surrey Morphology Group
English (I1)
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
University of Surrey
Surrey, GU2 7XH
Great Britain
email: g.corbett at surrey.ac.uk<mailto:g.corbett at surrey.ac.uk>

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On 2 Feb 2017, at 10:52, David Gil <gil at shh.mpg.de<mailto:gil at shh.mpg.de>> wrote:

Dear all,

Is anybody familiar with languages in which:

(1) NPs exhibit different properties (coding, syntactic behaviour, or whatever) depending on whether they're animate or inanimate; and

(2) If an NPs consists of possessor and possessed nouns, where the possessor is animate and the possessed is inanimate, such NPs are treated as animate, even though the inanimate possessed noun is otherwise the head of the NP.  (For example, in such a language, "John's book" would be considered animate.)

I am currently working on such a case, and am wondering how commonplace this is, and whether analyses have already been proposed for similar patterns in other languages.  (I have a vague recollection of having encountered something similar in the past, but can't quite place it.)  In principle one could imagine analogous mismatches for features other than animacy.



David Gil

Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
Kahlaische Strasse 10, 07745 Jena, Germany

Email: gil at shh.mpg.de<mailto:gil at shh.mpg.de>
Office Phone (Germany): +49-3641686834
Mobile Phone (Indonesia): +62-81281162816

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