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Jan Rijkhoff

On the co-variation between form and function of adnominal possessive modifiers in Dutch and English

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  • Section for Linguistics

This contribution is concerned with Dutch and to a lesser extent English possessive modifiers introduced by the preposition of (Dutch van), as in a woman OF INFLUENCE or (Dutch) de auto VAN MIJN BROER (the car OF MY BROTHER) ‘my brother’s car’. The main goal of this paper is to demonstrate that the remarkable variation in the grammatical properties of this possessive construction directly correlates with the kind of modifier function it has in the noun phrase.
It is first shown that lexical possessive modifiers with van ‘of’ (“adnominal possessives” for short) are used to express most of the modifier functions recognized in a semantic, five-layered model of the noun phrase (section 2). I will then argue that the values for certain grammatical parameters (here subsumed under the labels MODIFICATION, PREDICATION, REFERENCE) correlate with the kind of modifier function the adnominal possessive has in the noun phrase (section 3); a tentative explanation is given in section 4.
The more general point this paper wants to make is that functional modifier categories like CLASSIFYING MODIFIER or QUALIFYING MODIFIER can be characterized in grammatical terms and, furthermore, that important grammatical generalizations can be made about members of different form classes (e.g. adjectives and possessives) if modifiers are characterized in functional rather than formal terms. This paper is restricted to possessive modifiers of nouns that denote concrete objects.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Expression of Possession (The Expression of Cognitive Categories [ECC] - Volume 2) :
EditorsWilliam B. McGregor
Number of pages56
Place of publicationBerlin/New York
PublisherDe Gruyter Mouton
Publication year2009
ISBN (print)978-3-11-018437-2 hb, 978-3-11-018438-9 pb
ISBN (Electronic)ISBN 978-3-11-021323-2
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Bibliographical note

The expression of possession:
Hardcover Publication Date: 2009
ISBN: 978-3-11-018437-2

Ebook Publication Date: 2009
ISBN: 978-3-11-021323-2

Paperback Publication Date: December 2010
ISBN: 978-3-11-018438-9

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