Alan R. King mccay at REDESTB.ES
Mon Jan 11 15:05:56 UTC 1999

Two or three possible leads re relating genitive markers to locative ones:

(1) Biblical Hebrew expresses attributive genitive relations (John't book)
by the so-called Semitic "construct" construction.  The older Semitic case
affixes, including the genitive, are lost in Hebrew, but the "construct",
which involves juxtaposition in the order POSSESSUM - POSSESSOR, persists,
so "John's book" comes out as "book John":

sefer John
book J.

However Modern Hebrew tends to prefer a different, more analytic construction:

ha-sefer shel John
the-book of John

The origin of the modern preposition shel is as follows.  We must look
first at the predicative possession construction ("John has a book"), which
is literally "Is to John book":

yesh le-John sefer
is to-John book

The preposition l(e) "to" expresses dative (giving to) and allative (going
to) as well as possession and some other notions.  The word yesh, here
glossed "is", is not actually a verb, and the copula is usually absent in
Hebrew.  In Classical Hebrew "John has a book" can also be expressed
without yesh:

le-John sefer
to-John book
"J. has a book"

but modern Hebrew requires yesh in this construction (I think).  Anyway,
all this is just background to the story of shel "of", which comes from
she-l(e), where she is a relative conjunction, so that the diachronic
analysis of

ha-sefer shel John


ha-sefer she-le-John
the-book REL-to-John
lit. "the book which is to/of John" > "the book which John has" > "John's

So modern shel incorporates le, at least one of whose basic meanings is "to".

(2) Welsh is like Hebrew in some points. The "construct" genitive is found

llyfr John
book John
"John's book"

This is the basic way to express genitive relations, but sometimes (as in
Hebrew) this construction yields rather complicated or unwieldy phrases,
and the need for a more analytic expression of the genitive relation is
felt in the language.  In that case the locative preposition o "from" is
recruited, like Dutch van, English of, Romance de etc.  So this Celtic
language tends in the same direction as Germanic and Romance in such cases.

(3) In Basque there are two different genitive markers, but the most basic
one has the form -(r)en.  The other Basque case marker ending in -n is the
inessive with the basic form -(e)n "in, at, on".  They may be
diachronically related; while this is not actually known, it would not be


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