Chapter published in:Germanic Genitives
Edited by Tanja Ackermann, Horst J. Simon and Christian Zimmer
[Studies in Language Companion Series 193] 2018
► pp. 301–323
On the role of cases and possession in Germanic
A typological approach
The Germanic languages exhibit several interesting developments with respect to genitive and ‘possession’. The genitive cannot be considered a structural case in line with the nominative or accusative, the function of which can often be expressed by word order alone. It has a very complex semantic status in its own right and shows several intersections with the semantics of the dative, also a formerly complex case. The transfer of possessive datives from Low German into the Mainland Scandinavian languages led, however, to language-internal typological inconsistency, as far as the possessive pronouns (3rd person) are concerned. Moreover, ‘possession’ may also be rendered through periphrastic constructions which display various realisations in the Scandinavian languages. Special emphasis is paid to the word order within noun phrases and to distributional restrictions. Morphological transparency, the emergence of a new possessive clitic (-sa) in Faroese and the inter/independency of pre- and postposed possessive constructions are also investigated. The conclusion focuses on the issue of whether these developments may be seen as a “progress in language” (Jespersen 1894) or rather as a “helix in language history” (von der Gabelentz 1901).
Published online: 26 April 2018
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