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External possession and constructions that may have it

Ilja A. Seržant


There seems to be no construction that would code specifically the possession relation of external possessors. Instead, various host constructions such as the free-affectee construction (a subtype of which is the free-dative construction), monotransitive or applicative construction can – to a different degree – accommodate participants that are bound by a possession relation. The binding procedure identifying the possessor operates at the pragmatic-semantic interface and takes into account the semantic roles of the event participants, their discourse saliency and lexical properties (such as animacy), world knowledge, properties of the possessum (such as the degree of (in)alienability), etc. The external-possession relation and the meaning of the hosting construction are orthogonal to each other, but there is a strong interplay between them. Positing a dedicated external-possessor construction faces the following problems: the same binding procedure is found in other constructions as well (such as the monotransitive or ditransitive constructions); at the same time, the very possession relation is only inconsistently found in constructions referred to as external-possessor constructions, and, what is more, the possession relation may sometimes be canceled (even if it is inalienable). To account for this terminologically, I introduce the term non-thematic affectee construction, a subtype of which is the free (non-thematic) affectee construction particularly spread in European languages. The latter is found with different types of coding (accusative, dative, different prepositional phrases) which have different diachronic sources.























definite article






external-possessor construction
























nominal phrase












prepositional phrase


past (active) participle


past passive participle














I thank the editor Gabriele Diewald and the external reviewer for their extensive and highly valuable and helpful discussions that improved the paper considerably. All disclaimers apply.


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