Control and the evolution of possessive and existential constructions

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This paper examines aspects of the evolution of possessive and existential constructions that shed interesting light on the affinities between possession and the notions underlying existential predication, comitative predication and transitive predication. The unity of the notion of possession follows from the notion of personal sphere of an individual, but the relationships between an individual and the elements of his/her personal sphere are very diverse, and sometimes ambiguous, with respect to the control exerted by the possessor. Consequently, whatever the source of a predicative construction expressing possession (existential, comitative, or transitive), its extension to the whole domain of possession implies extension to situations that differ from those encoded by the source construction in terms of control, which favors further evolutions. This explains why many languages have constructions expressing predicative possession that are fully aligned with none of the constructions that can be their historical source. Keywords: possession; existence; comitative; transitivity


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