[Lingtyp] evolution of inalienable possession NP

Françoise Rose francoise.rose at univ-lyon2.fr
Tue Jun 15 11:44:40 UTC 2021

Dear Sergey,
Sonia Cristofaro gave a great talk at last SLE on the diachrony of different possessive constructions.

De : Lingtyp <lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org> De la part de Sergey Loesov
Envoyé : vendredi 11 juin 2021 20:50
À : lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
Objet : [Lingtyp] evolution of inalienable possession NP

Dear colleagues,
I wonder if somebody has studied the evolution of NPs encoding “inalienable possession” in the world’s languages.
The question is related to my inquiry into the history of the Assyrian language, a now extinct East Semitic variety.
The Old Assyrian languge (roughly, 19 century BC) had a synthetic NP construction with kinship terms and body parts as heads (“inalienable possession”): aχu N “N’s brother”.
The analytical construction was used with most other heads, here the dependent substantive is governed by the preposition ʃa: alpu ʃa N “the ox of N”.
My internal reconstruction shows that the synthetic possessive NP with “inalienable” head is a retention, since once an ancestor of Assyrian had no analytical construction at all, and no preposition ʃa.
Starting from this, I would assume that in Neo-Assyrian (roughly  the 8th century BC)  the analytical ʃa-construction was going to oust completely the “inalienable” one: aχu ʃa N “the brother of N” ~  alpu ʃa N “the ox of N”.
But actually “inalienable” heads, rather than lose their specific syntactic feature,  developed a brand-new NP construction, with an obligatorily anticipatory pronoun:  aχu-ʃu ʃa N lit. “brother-his of N” vs. alpu ʃa N “the ox of N”.
Are you aware of similar developments elsewhere?
Best wishes,
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