[Lingtyp] Questions on possessives

Elizabeth K Nielsen ekayen at uw.edu
Wed Sep 13 17:11:07 EDT 2017


Hello,



Many thanks to Bernard Comrie, Seino van Breugel, and Martin Haspelmath for
their responses to my questions, which I’ve summarized below.



First, I asked about adjective placement in languages where possession is
marked by simple juxtaposition. Bernard Comrie provided the following
example from Egyptian Arabic (found in T.F. Mitchell. Colloquial Arabic:
The living language of Egypt. London, 1962: English Universities Press,
p.49.):



           rubAAT            gazma                          9AsmAr

            lacing (M.SG) shoe.pair (SG.F)          black.M.SG

           'the black laces of the shoes'



            rubAAT            gazma                         sAmrA

            lacing (M.SG) shoe.pair (SG.F)          black.F.SG

            'the laces of the black shoes'



These examples demonstrate that an adjective may modify a possessum in such
constructions, even if it is not adjacent to it.



Second, I asked if there were possessive phrases of the form "the [the
cat-GEN] paw" in languages with modifier-like possessives. Dr. Comrie gave
the following example from Ancient Greek, which illustrates exactly this
pattern (from William W. Goodwin, A Greek grammar. New edition. London,
1894: Macmillan & Co, section 1085):



he: toû patròs oikía

             the.F.SG.NOM the.M.SG.GEN father(M).SG.GEN house(F)Sg.NOM

             ‘the father's house'



Seino van Breugel referred me to Section 6.4 (pp.106-9) of his 2014
publication, *A grammar of Atong* (Leiden, Boston: Brill.), which shows
examples of juxtaposed nouns with possible possessive interpretation.



Martin Haspelmath recommended his forthcoming article, “Explaining
alienability contrasts in adpossessive constructions: Predictability vs.
iconicity” (in *Zeitschrift für Sprachwissenschaft *2017; 36(2): 193–231),
which provides many examples of languages with juxtaposition-style
possessive constructions, which are a good potential source of examples for
those interested.



Best,

Elizabeth Nielsen

On Sun, Sep 10, 2017 at 2:17 PM, Elizabeth K Nielsen <ekayen at uw.edu> wrote:

> Hello,
>
>
>
> I'm currently working on extending the LinGO Grammar Matrix, which is a
> system that allows linguists to jumpstart the creation of an implemented
> HPSG grammar through a questionnaire interface (see Bender et al. 2010
> <http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1969044>). I’m working on extending
> the Grammar Matrix to cover adnominal possession. A couple of the analyses
> I’m working with right now would have typological implications which I’d
> appreciate input on.
>
>
>
> First are cases of possession expressed via simple juxtaposition, without
> any possessive morphemes, e.g.:
>
>
>
>        cat paw
>
>        'cat’s paw’
>
>
>
> The analysis for this construction that I'm currently using would preclude
> constructions such as the following, where you can put a modifier on the
> left edge and have it interpreted as the modifier of the possessum:
>
>
>
>     little cat paw
>
>     'cat’s little paw’ (rather than ‘the paw of the little cat”)
>
>
>
> Does anyone know of a language where these constructions do occur?
>
>
>
> Second, I have developed a working analysis for languages like Italian
> that have possessive modifiers -- constructions where a possessed noun can
> appear with both a possessor and a determiner:
>
>
>
>        la mia casa
>
>        the my house
>
>        ‘my house’
>
>
>
> My current analysis for possessive modifiers would allow the possessor
> noun to be a full NP, including determiners, etc. For example, using
> English lexical items to demonstrate, my current analysis would allow
> sentences like the following:
>
>
>
>        the [the cat-GEN] paw
>
>        ‘the cat’s paw’
>
>
>
> Are there in fact examples of languages with possessive modifiers that
> allow comparable constructions? Or are possessive modifiers in such
> languages not full NPs?
>
>
>
> Many thanks,
>
>
>
> Elizabeth Nielsen
>
> University of Washington
>
> MS in Computational Linguistics
>
>
>
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