Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Wiley-Blackwell Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

New from Oxford University Press!


Language Planning as a Sociolinguistic Experiment

By: Ernst Jahr

Provides richly detailed insight into the uniqueness of the Norwegian language development. Marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Norwegian nation following centuries of Danish rule

New from Cambridge University Press!


Acquiring Phonology: A Cross-Generational Case-Study

By Neil Smith

The study also highlights the constructs of current linguistic theory, arguing for distinctive features and the notion 'onset' and against some of the claims of Optimality Theory and Usage-based accounts.

New from Brill!


Language Production and Interpretation: Linguistics meets Cognition

By Henk Zeevat

The importance of Henk Zeevat's new monograph cannot be overstated. [...] I recommend it to anyone who combines interests in language, logic, and computation [...]. David Beaver, University of Texas at Austin

Summary Details

Query:   summary: adnominal possessives and animacy
Author:  Anette Rosenbach
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Morphology

Summary:   A month ago I posted the following query (Linguist 14.1869):

''Is anyone aware of a OV-language which has 2 adnominal possessive
constructions which differ in the position of the possessor
(i.e. which have both a preominal and a postnominal genitive) and
where there is an animacy-induced preference for either position?
Similar to English (though a VO-language) where human possessors are
preferably realized in prenominal position (1),while inanimate
possessors usually occur postnominally (2).

(1) Johns book
(2) the roof of the house

Is there anything comparable for OV-languages?

I wish to thank Gerlof Bouma, Mark Donohue, Dafna Graf, Detmar
Meurers, Hirotaka Mitomo, Pius ten Hacken, Claus Pusch, Horst Simon,
and Helmut Wei? for their responses. Heres a
summary of what they wrote:

Hirotaka Mitomo wrote that:
Japanese is a typical OV-language, and only has a prenomimnal position
for dependents on a noun. Your (1) and (2) are translated into (1a
and (2a) respectively.

(1) a. John-no hon
-Gen book

b. *hon John(-no)

(2) a. ie-no yane
house-Gen roof

b. *yane ie(-no)

Mark Donohue pointed out Saweru, a SOV language of central Yapen
island, New Guinea, which has various possessive strategies:
Possessive prefixing (with 2 sets, alienable and inalienable) (cf. 3),
dative marking (4 and 5) and the general modification strategy
(6). While human possessors show a preference to occur prenominally
(3-5), inanimate or at best non-human possessors tend to occur
postnominally (6). (5) is restricted to human possessors and the only
possibility for pronominal possession.

(3) ruama (afi) a=watu(n)
woman she 3SG.GEN.ALIEN=house
'the woman's house'

(4) ruama (afi)=ai watu(n)
woman she=DAT house

(5) ruama watun=rai
woman house=3Sg.F.DAT
the womans house

(6) watun=o mae
house=LNKR dog
'dog's house'

Horst Simon, Detmar Meurers, and Helmut Wei? pointed out German
as an underlyingly OV-language, where prenominal possessors are
restricted to human possessors (7, with 7b being non-standard), and
inanimate possessors have to occur postnominally (8)

(7) a. Friedas Vater
Frieda-GEN father
Friedas father
b. der Frieda ihre Mutter
the-DAT Frieda her mother
Friedas mother
(8) der Sattel von meinem Fahrrad
the saddle of my bike

Claus Pusch provided data from his German dialect,

(9) John's book = em Johann si buech (dem Johann sein Buch)
(10) the roof of the house = s'dach vom huus (''das Dach vom Haus'')

He also pointed out that he feels that the prenominal position is
particularly preferred if *both* the possessor and the possessum are
animate, as in (11) and (12)

(11) em Johann si brueder (''dem Johann sein Brueder'')
(12) em Fritz si chatz (''dem Fritz seine Katze'')

A further expanded possessum does however decrease the acceptability
of the prenominal construction (13 and 14):

(13) ? em Fritz si(s) chliis ch?tzli (''dem Fritz seine kleine Katze'') Fritz little cat
(14) s'chlii ch?tzli vom Fritz the little cat of Fritz)

Gerlof Bouma and Pius ten Hacken pointed out Dutch, which behaves
quite similarly to English and German. The following detailed data
were provided by Gerlof Bouma:

(15) Jans huis
john+gen house
(16) het huis van Jan
the(neuter) house of john
(17) het dak van het huis
the(neuter) roof of the(neuter) house
(18) *het huis' dak
the house+gen roof

(18) is out, also because the gen. of `huis' simply does not
exist. Only in idiomatic constructions like:

(19) 's lands beste koffie
the(neuter+gen) land(gen) best coffee

which can easily be paraphrased as:
(20) de beste koffie van het land
the(comm) best coffee of the(neut) land

Gen. forms (created by suffix -s) only exist in Dutch for
proper-names. As a native speaker I would say names for persons are
strongly preferred, but others are not ruled out. A construction with
an adjective like the following, I would allow:

(21) Europa's belangrijkste bankier
Europe's most-important banker

Finally, names denoting things other than persons do not have a
genitive form if they include a (visible) determiner. The following
line is from the website of DSM, formerly `De Nederlandse

(22) Toen de mijnwinning groeide en DSM's verwerkingsactiviteiten
when the mining grew and DSM(gen) processing activities
uitbreidden ...

Replacing DSM with the old name does not work...

(23) * en De Nederlandse Staatsmijnens verwerkingsactiviteiten
and the-dutch-state-mines(gen) processing activities

Finally, it _does_ work with a proper-name denoting a person, with a

(24) De Gooiers acteertalent
de gooier(gen) talent-for-acting

(Rijk de Gooier is a Dutch actor)

Finally, Dafna Graf pointed out Maria Koptjevskaja-Tamms
(2001) article on Adnominal possessives in:
Martin Haspelmath et al. (eds.): Language Typology and Language
Universals, Volume 2, 960-970. (Handbooks of Linguistics and
Communication Science 20. 1,2): Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Thanks again to everybody!

Anette Rosenbach
(Heinrich-Heine University Duesseldorf)

LL Issue: 14.2077
Date Posted: 05-Aug-2003
Original Query: Read original query


Sums main page