Chapter published in:The Diachrony of Classification Systems
Edited by William B. McGregor and Søren Wichmann
[Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 342] 2018
► pp. 165–200
The diachrony of Oceanic possessive classifiers
With just a small number of exceptions, Oceanic languages have multiple types of attributive possessive constructions that involve a more or less elaborate system of possessive classifiers. Constructions with possessive classifiers usually serve to express alienable possession. A different construction type, one that does not involve possessive classifiers, is typically used to express inalienable possession. Proto-Oceanic had three possessive classifiers. In some present-day languages the original system of classifiers has been expanded considerably, while in some others it has been reduced or eliminated altogether. In some languages possessive classifiers exist alongside numeral classifiers, but the two systems operate on different principles. The paper investigates the system of possessive constructions in Proto-Oceanic, its emergence and its subsequent developments. It also critically assesses the claim that the Oceanic system with different constructions to express alienable and inalienable possession is the result of contact with Papuan (non-Austronesian) languages.
Published online: 14 May 2018
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