LINGUIST List 10.847

Fri Jun 4 1999

Sum: Possession in Hebrew

Editor for this issue: Jody Huellmantel <>


  1. Simona Herdan, Sum: Possession in Hebrew

Message 1: Sum: Possession in Hebrew

Date: Thu, 3 Jun 1999 10:18:46 +0300
From: Simona Herdan <>
Subject: Sum: Possession in Hebrew

First I would like to thank everyone who took the time to resond to my
query. I was simply overwhelmed with responses and it took me quite a
while to make up a summary. Here's a list of everyone who replied (my
apologies to anyone I might have missed!)

Glenn Ayres <>
Farooq Babrakzai <>
Donn Bayard <>
Andolin Eguzkitza Bilbao <>
Francis Bond <>
Jean-Frangois Bourdin <>
Joel Boyd <>
Benjamin T. Bruening <muawiyaMIT.EDU>
Chris Butler <>
Gaby Charing <>
Gema Chocano
Vern Curts <>
Nikolai A. Dobronravin <>
Kathleen Evans-Romaine <>
Gisbert Fanselow
Stephane Goyette
Mohamed Guerssel <>
Karen A. Van Hoek <>
Jussi Hakokari <>
Mark Irwin <>
Natalia Kondrashova <>
Rina Kreitman
Richard Laurent <>
John Peterson
Seongha Rhee <>
Deborah D K Ruuskanen <>
Geoffrey Sampson <>
Ellen Schur <>
Robin Setton
Alexandra Terano <>
Yishai Tobin
Takae Tsujioka <>
Theo Vennemann <>
Remy Viredaz <>
Maurice Williams <>

For those who don't remember my query, I've pasted the original query here:

>I am gathering information for a project on various aspects of
>possession in Hebrew. What I find most interesting is the use of
>"there is/are" to render the present tense of "to have" and of the
>forms of "to be" for the other tenses. These verbal forms are followed
>by a preposition indicating goal/direction. So, literally, a sentence
>like "I had a book" would be translated as "A book WAS TO ME".
>I wonder if such correspondences between "to have" and "to be" exist
>in other languages too. I would very much appreciate any help in
>finding references to studies dealing with possession in general and
>also with this particular aspect of Hebrew or of another language.

The relationship between existence and possession seems to be quite
wide-spread cross-linguistically. As I have been told and noticed
myself from the examples I got, languages that lexicalize possession
by means of a verb similar to English "have" are quite a
"minority". Expressing possession as abstract location appears to be
cognitively salient, phenomenon which has already been studied. Some
of the languages that behave more or less like Hebrew are (in no
particular order):

Welsh and Insular Celtic Languages
Classical Persian
Classical Arabic

I have received lots of examples and references which are all very
interesting and helpful, which I won't mention here because the list
is too long. Anyone who is interested in the subject can contact me
and receive the list and the examples. Once again, thanks everyone.

Simona Herdan
Linguistics Student
University of Bucharest, Romania
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