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The morphosyntax of (in)alienably possessed noun phrases

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Abstract

This paper argues that there is a fundamental difference between alienable and inalienable possession in the syntax of the noun phrase, and that this difference involves direction of predication. A possessum is the subject of a predicate that is or contains the possessor; the configurational relationship between the possessive predicate and its subject is established by a relator that takes the possessum either as its specifier or as its complement, with the possessive predicate occupying the other position in the small clause. Alienably possessed noun phrases involve an underlying syntax in which the possessum is the relator&#8217;s specifier; inalienable possession constructions are built on a structure in which the possessum is the complement of the relator. The paper provides an analytical sketch of a partial typology of possessed noun phrases and an account of the cross-linguistic generalisation that for languages that show a systematic structural distinction between alienable and inalienable adnominal possession, it is the inalienably possessed noun phrase that is morphosyntactically simpler than the alienably possessed one. The focus of the discussion is on Hungarian, a language whose &#8216;possessedness marker&#8217; <i>-(j)a/-(j)e</i> is teased apart into two component parts: an affixal &#8216;spurious&#8217; article <i>-a/e</i> lexicalising the relator of DP-internal possession, and an additional <i>-j-</i> that in noun phrases that show a morphological alienability split has morphemic status, functioning as the linker that facilitates the Predicate Inversion derivation of alienably possessed noun phrases.

References

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