Possessive Adjective Construction in Upper Sorbian: Introducing a New Inflectional Category of ‘Function Adapter’

Sung-ho Choi, Chungbuk National University


This paper is concerned with the P(ossessive) A(djective) Construction in Upper Sorbian (cf. Fasske 1981, Schuster-Šewc 1996), where the PA functions syntactically both as Agreement Target (Modifier) like adjectives and as Agreement Controller like substantives. In a phrase like moj-eho (my-GenSgMasc) bratrow-e (brother’s-NomPl) dźěć-i (child-NomPl) ‘my brother’s children’, the PA (bratrow-e) agrees in Number and Case with the head noun (dźěć-i), but the attributive modifier (moj-eho) agrees in Gender and Number with the ‘base’ noun (bratr), with which the PA is associated. The problems that this construction raises, among others, are: (1) how an adjective (i.e., PA) could function as agreement controller and (2) whether the PA is derivationally or inflectionally formed. After discussing some previous treatments of this construction (cf. Zwicky 1986, Corbett 1987, Sadock 1991), the author will argue that the PA should be represented syntactically as a noun rather than an adjective, assigning the following syntactic structure to the PA construction: [NP1 [AP [NP2 moj- bratr]-ow]-e [N dźěć-i]]. The gist of this analysis is that the NP2 (the inner NP) is adapted to the syntactic function of modifier, which is typically performed by the adjective, within the NP1 (the outer NP), and that the suffix -ow plays the role of “F(unction) A(dapter),” i.e., it adapts the NP2 to the AP immediately dominated by the NP1. This analysis therefore claims that the attributive modifier (moj) agrees with the Noun (of the NP2), which has the morphosyntactic agreement features of [Gender: Masculine, Number: Singular, FA: OW], thus explaining the substantival and adjectival properties that the PA exhibits. This analysis entails that the assignment of [FA: OW] is syntactic and thus inflectional (cf. Anderson 1992), since it crucially refers not merely to the lexical category, but to the phrasal category (i.e, the inner NP as a whole). Finally, it will be emphasized that the innovative notion of “FA” is based upon the markedness relation between parts-of-speech (syntactic category) and syntactic functions. Specifically, a “marked” [FA: OW] appears when an NP, whose unmarked function is argument (subject or object), functions markedly as a modifier, which is typical for an adjective (cf. Croft 2001).




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