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Academic Paper

Title: Expressing Joint Possession or Why me and Mary’s paper wasn’t accepted (but Bob and I’s was)
Author: Karen Milligan
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: Wayne State University
Linguistic Field: Psycholinguistics
Subject Language: English
Abstract: In this paper I examine the possessive form of the conjoined noun phrase when one of the conjuncts is a first person pronoun, the attitudes that native English speakers have toward it, and the maneuvers many go through to avoid using it. Much has been written about the individual structural components that contribute to the topic, including theories of coordination (Johannessen 1998, Zoerner 1995, Munn 1993, Goodall 1987), determiners (Abney 1987, Larson 1987), possession (Taylor 1996), and the possessive morpheme ’s (Zwicky 1987). Much research has also been devoted to studies of case assignment and/or hypercorrection in coordinate NPs, such as between you and I (Preston 2002, Emonds 1986, Johannessen 1998); and there is at least one study of the relationship between pronoun choice, pronoun order, and ‘politeness’ (Angermyer & Singler 2003). There is also a body of research devoted to frequency and its effect on pronoun choice in coordinate NPs (Boyland 2001). To my knowledge, however, there has been no study of the interaction of these elements, and their collective role in coordinated possessive constructions such as me and Sean’s, Sean’s and my, Sean and my, Sean and I’s, etc. While it is necessary to examine these linguistic elements in order to understand the constructions themselves, to do only that would be insufficient. The goal of this study is not simply to determine what is predicted by the grammar of the language; it is also a question of what is acceptable to the speakers of the language. And in the case of this construction, as this paper will show, these two concepts, grammaticality and acceptability appear to be at odds./L//L/In this paper, I will demonstrate that English does indeed have a way to express the concept of joint possession when one of the conjuncts is the 1SG pronoun. I will show that there is a default construction, me and Sean’s, which is predicted by the grammar; it is syntactically the most economical choice and the one utilized by children first. It is also the one adults revert to subconsciously—when under stress or in unguarded speech./L//L/I will show that use of the default construction, me and Sean’s, declines with age, leading to eventual abandonment of the default in favor of some other strategy (except in unguarded speech, as mentioned above). I will show that the abandonment of the default is prescriptively motivated, and alternative constructions are prescriptively influenced; and that misanalysis of the default construction—in particular the possessive ’s morpheme, and over-extension or misappropriation of prescriptive rules results in constructions that are semantically altered and/or unpredicted by the grammar of English. /L//L/Finally, I will show that this is an area where the grammar of English and the grammaticality judgments of its speakers are in direct conflict.
Type: Individual Paper
Status: Completed
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