Possession/modification by simple juxtaposition

David Gil gil at EVA.MPG.DE
Sat Nov 22 16:49:53 UTC 2008

Dear all,

Re the Semitic construct state:  I add my voice to those who have 
pointed out that this is NOT a case of simple juxtaposition.  In Hebrew, 
too, like in Arabic, attributive possession may be expressed in a 
construction of the form N-CONTSR N; while there are, admittedly, some 
instances of syncretism betwen construct and absolute states (eg. many 
masculine singulars, and many feminine plurals), this does not justify 
characterizing the construction is involving simple juxtaposition.

Re the Västerbotten dialect: I would tend to agree with Östen Dahl that, 
as compounds, they don't really belong in the same boat as true 
syntactic juxtapositions.

Finally, since this discussion seems to have become public, I append 
below the comments which I sent earlier today to Andrew Spencer, 
containing some examples of what I think ARE bona fide instances of 
simpe juxtaposition ...

What you're looking for is very common in the languages of Indonesia. 
Off the top of my head, Malay/Indonesian (Standard Malay/Indonesian, 
Riau Indonesian, Jakarta Indonesian), Minangkabau, and Sundanese, all 
have this pattern, with modifiers occurring postnominally, eg. (from 
Standard Malay/Indonesian):

buku bagus 'book good'
nama anak 'name child'
buku Gwen 'Gwen's book'
ibu Gwen 'Gwen's mother'

all with no additional morphology or other markings of the respective 
construction. I'd be surprised if there weren't dozens of other 
languages in western Indonesia that worked like this.

In the east of the archipelago, genitives switch to prenominal, but some 
languages still allow for bare juxtaposition, eg. Papuan Malay ...

buku bagus
anak nama (for some reason I'm not sure about this one, and would have 
to doublecheck with a speaker before you cited it)
Gwen buku
Gwen mama

In my papers on Riau Indonesian I've discussed at some length the multi- 
(or rather macro-)functionality of bare juxtaposition in that language. 
Also, I have a chapter in the World Atlas of Language Structures (map 
60, "Genitives, Adjectives and Relative Clauses"), which deals with 
various patterns of coalescence of these three functions (albeit not 
specifically with the bare juxtaposition option.)



David Gil

Department of Linguistics
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Deutscher Platz 6, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany

Telephone: 49-341-3550321 Fax: 49-341-3550119
Email: gil at eva.mpg.de
Webpage:  http://www.eva.mpg.de/~gil/

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