Linguistic possession deals with the ways the concept of possession is expressed in a language through syntactic constructions and possessive relationships. This complex phenomenon is difficult to define due to its high variability within particular languages and cross-linguistically. This work examines possession in Polish as a complete system of a single language. First, it aims to study the syntactic structures encoding possession in Polish written discourse in order to examine possessive constructions employed in a variety of contexts. The second aim is to examine the semantic features of the possessive constructions in Polish as they appear in a corpus of actual written language. Several methods have been combined to achieve these aims and Heine’s (1997a) cognitive framework of possessive notions was chosen for examining the semantics of possessive constructions. The first source of data, the book corpus, consists of three types of texts representing contemporary Polish in topical contexts and providing examples of authentic planned discourse. The second source of data is an extensive corpus of Polish available on-line. The quantitative view of possessive constructions demonstrated their high diversity; however, few constructions expressed possession systematically. The findings showed that Polish makes distinctions in the way it encodes possession. The studies of Polish demonstrate how the universal framework (Heine 1997a) works for investigating a specific language. The detailed view of the possessive domain in Polish is a product of a dynamic interrelationship between the syntactic and semantic fields.
Beata Malczewska-Webb works at Bond University, Gold Coast, Australia where she lectures in linguistics and language teacher education (TESOL). She gained her degrees in education and linguistics in Poland and Australia. Apart from the cross-linguistic expression of possession, her other research interests include internationalisation of Australian and global education and teaching in linguistically and culturally diverse groups.