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An Interdisciplinary Journal of the Language Sciences

Editor-in-Chief: van der Auwera, Johan

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Volume 45, Issue 3 (May 2007)


External possession and utterance interpretation: a crosslinguistic exploration

M. C O'Connor
Published Online: 2007-07-31 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/LING.2007.018


The External Possession Construction (EPC) (Payne and Barshi 1999) morphosyntactically encodes a possessor participant as an apparent argument of the verb, in a constituent separate from its possessum. However, the meaning of a sentence containing an EPC entails the proposition expressed by the corresponding sentence containing a regular possessive DP; the external possessor is “extrathematic.” This study of three typologically diverse languages, Northern Pomo, Spanish, and Czech, takes up the question of the extra contribution to utterance interpretation made by the EPC, both its content and its status within the grammar. Three hypotheses are considered: affectedness of possessor, speaker empathy towards possessor, and topicality of possessor. It is argued on the basis of a variety of diagnostics that the EPC's extra meaning contribution is a conventional implicature (Potts 2005) with two components. The argument includes consideration of two types of data that have been relatively neglected: unpredicted restrictions on EPC use to conventional contexts, and “alternation-based scalar implicatures”, a type of generalized conversational implicature that results from avoidance of the EPC in certain contexts.

About the article

*Correspondence address: Applied Linguistics, 2 Sherborn St., Boston University, Boston, MA 02215, USA.

Received: 2005-05-26

Revised: 2006-08-16

Published Online: 2007-07-31

Published in Print: 2007-05-23

Citation Information: Linguistics, ISSN (Online) 1613-396X, ISSN (Print) 0024-3949, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/LING.2007.018.

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