[Lingtyp] Questions on possessives

Elizabeth K Nielsen ekayen at uw.edu
Sun Sep 10 21:17:45 UTC 2017


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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