Change in the possessive system of French Caribbean Creole languages

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This paper explores the gradual development and stabilization of possessive constructions in the French-lexified Creoles of the Caribbean. It makes the point that, in creole formation, these languages reassign grammatical functions to material borrowed from several sources; therefore, from a grammatical point of view, Creoles cannot be said to be descendants of their lexifiers. Historical texts often allow us to map the diachronic development of these new grammatical systems, as exemplified here for the possessive systems of the French Creoles of the Caribbean. It is significant that, while sources from the region (18th century onwards) initially document the co-occurrence of two different possessive constructions (viz. N+<i>a</i>+personal marker, and N+personal marker) in seemingly free variation, the modern Creoles have now settled for one of the two variants. The observation of this relatively late grammatical development ties in with Jacques Arends’ cautionary remarks that modern Creole data cannot be taken to represent the state of the language at the moment of its creation.


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