Demonstratives and possessives: From Old English to present-day English

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Three different nominal word orders in Old English through present-day English are investigated, in order to determine whether English has an ‘adjectival’ possessive similar to Modern Italian. It is argued that the orders a) demonstrative, possessive, noun and b) possessive, demonstrative, noun represent different syntactic constructions, with different paths of development. It is concluded that the a) order represents three different constructions: i) apposition, ii) a possible ‘adjectival’ possessive, no longer found in Middle English, iii) an Early Modern English focus construction using the proximal. The b) order represents a demonstrative in form, functioning only as a definiteness marker.


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