Prenominal possessives in English

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This paper examines the circumstances favouring the use of a prenominal possessive in English, even if, syntactically and semantically, a postnominal construction would also have been acceptable. An evaluation of earlier treatments of the difference between the constructions reveals two approaches. The traditional approach typically yields multifactor accounts, concentrating on the constraints on both constructions, while the theoretical approach is characterized by a tendency to reduce the difference to one underlying principle. Using authentic examples, this paper proposes a theoretically-based multifactor account which adds a major cognitive-pragmatic factor to those traditionally distinguished, and which tries (a) to resolve the question of whether any factor(s) is (are) more prominent, and (b) to explain, at least for some factors, why it is that they favour a particular construction.


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