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5.1.4.4. The definite article in inalienable possession constructions
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This section discusses the use of definite determiners (instead of a possessive pronoun) in inalienable possession constructions. The first subsection will show that Dutch normally does not allow this option, but there are a number of systematic exceptions involving locational constructions which will be discussed in the second subsection. The third subsection will conclude with a discussion a number of more idiomatic examples.

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[+]  I.  Non-locational constructions

Standard Dutch normally does not use the definite article in inalienable possession constructions, but resorts to possessive pronouns as in (185a); as a result this example is ambiguous between a reading on which Jan broke his own, and a reading on which he broke somebody elseʼs leg. Examples (185b) and (185c&c') are only used to express inalienable possession in certain varieties of Dutch spoken in the east of the Netherlands: cf. Cornips (1991/1994).

Example 185
a. Jani brak zijni/j been.
  Jan  broke  his leg
b. * Jani brak heti been.
  Jan  broke  the leg
c. * Jani brak zichi heti been.
  Jan  broke  refl  the leg
c'. * Jan brak Mariei heti been
  Jan  broke  Marie  the leg

Note that we have extended the normal use of indices in these examples in order to express the intended inalienable possessive reading: coindexing of noun phrases will be used in this section to indicate coreference as usual, and coindexing of a noun phrase and a definite article will be used to indicate the inalienable possession relation. Thus, the sentence in (185b) is acceptable in Standard Dutch, but not on the intended, inalienable possession reading that Jan broke his own leg expressed by the co-indexing of Jan and het.

[+]  II.  Locational constructions

There is a systematic exception to the general rule that inalienable possession is expressed by means of a regular possessive pronoun in Standard Dutch: if the possessee is part of a locational PP and there is a PP-external noun phrase that may act as an inalienable possessor, there is a free alternation between the possessive pronoun and the definite determiner; cf. Broekhuis & Cornips (1997). A typical example is given in (186a). The PPs in inalienable possession constructions of this sort function as complementives, which is clear from the fact, illustrated in (186b), that they cannot undergo PP-over-V. Another typical property of these examples, which is illustrated in (186c), is that the possessor at least marginally alternates with a bij-PP; cf. Corver (1992).

Example 186
a. Marie heeft Jani het kind in zijni/dei armen geduwd.
  she  has  Jan the child  into  his/the arms  pushed
  'Marie has pushed the child into Janʼs arms.'
b. * Marie heeft Jani het kind geduwd in zijni/dei armen
c. (?) Marie heeft het kind bij Jani in zijni/dei armen geduwd.

Example (186a) shows that the inalienable possessor is the object Jan. This exhausts the possibilities: the subject Marie cannot function as the possessor. The following discussion addresses the question of when a noun phrase may function as an inalienable possessor, and concludes with a brief note on the argument that the complementive PP containing the possessee is predicated of.

[+]  A.  Dative possessors

In German, inalienable possessors are typically dative phrases (which holds both for locational and non-locational inalienable possession constructions). Although Dutch does not show morphological case distinctions, the same thing is arguably true for locational constructions such as (186a). In order to see this, consider the structurally similar example in (187a). That the possessor is not accusative but dative is clear from passive formation: example (187b) shows that in the regular passive, it is not the possessor Jan that gets promoted to subject, but the noun phrase de boeken'the books'; (187c) shows that in the so-called krijgen-passive the possessor is promoted to subject. This is sufficient to conclude that the possessor is an indirect object, and is hence assigned (abstract) dative case.

Example 187
a. Marie heeft Jani de boeken in dei armen geduwd.
  Marie  has  Jan the books  into  the arms  pushed
  'Marie has pushed the books in Janʼs arms.'
b. De boeken werden Jani in dei armen geduwd.
c. Jani kreeg de boeken in dei armen geduwd.

Note that example (187c) shows that inalienable possessors may function as subjects if they correspond to an “underlying” indirect object. We will discuss this more extensively in the next subsection.

[+]  B.  Nominative possessors

The previous subsection has shown that a subject may function as inalienable possessor if it corresponds to an underlying indirect object. Now consider the examples in (188) with the verb geven'to give'. Example (188b) is excluded due to the fact that krijgen-passivization of the verb geven is impossible. Broekhuis & Cornips (1997) have claimed that this is due to the fact that the intended meaning can also be expressed by means of example (188b').

Example 188
a. Marie gaf Jani het kind in dei armen.
  Marie gave  Jan  the child  into the arms
  'Marie gave the child into Janʼs arms.'
b. * Jani kreeg het kind in dei armen gegeven.
  Jan  got  the child  in the arms  given
b'. Jani kreeg het kind in dei armen.
  Jan  got  the child  in the arms

Perhaps one might argue that (188b') is derived from (188b) by elision of the semantically light participle gegeven'given'; see the next subsection for more evidence for the semantic lightness of geven'to give'. If so, we may conclude that this example is fully compatible with the claim that inalienable possessive subjects are “underlying” indirect objects.
      The dynamic verb krijgen has a more static counterpart, hebben, which also allows inalienable possessive subjects; cf. (189). We may account for this by assuming that the subjects in these examples are also “indirect” underlyingly. If this suggestion is on the right track, this may lead to the conclusion that, alongside the more familiar unaccusative verbs, there is a set of “undative” verbs that take a goal argument, but which are not able to assign dative case as a result of which the goal argument must be realized as a nominative subject. An argument in favor of this analysis is that verbs like hebben and krijgen cannot be passivized: this might be due to the fact that they do not have an agentive argument.

Example 189
a. Jani heeft het kind in dei armen.
  Jan  got  the child  in the arms
b. Hiji had een hoed op zijni/?heti hoofd.
  he  had  a hat  on his/the  head
c. Hiji had geen sokken aan zijni/?dei voeten.
  he  had  no socks  on  his/the  feet

      If this analysis of the examples with krijgen and hebben is on the right track, we may expect there to be more undative verbs: good candidates are the verbs nemen'to take' and houden'to keep'; these verbs also seem to take subjects with a kind of goal role, show an aspectual difference like krijgen and hebben, and resist passivization.

Example 190
a. Jan neemt de boeken.
  Jan takes  the books
a'. * De boeken worden genomen.
  the books  are  taken
b. Jan houdt de boeken.
  Jan keeps  the books
b'. * De boeken worden gehouden.
  the books  are  kept

Furthermore, the examples in (191) show that the subjects of these verbs may indeed function as inalienable possessors. However, there is a little snag: it seems that the passive counterparts of these examples are better than those in (190), which is also clear from the fact that they can readily be found on the internet. This means that we can only maintain our claim if we assume that the verb nemen with a PP-complementive is ambiguous between an agentive transitive and less agentive undative form. Perhaps this can be supported by the fact that the particle verb meenemen'take away' is clearly agentive and readily allows passivization. We will leave this issue for future research.

Example 191
a. Jani neemt het kind in dei armen.
  Jan  takes  the child  in the arms
a'. ? Het kind werd in de armen genomen.
  the child  was  in the arms  taken
b. Jani houdt het kind in dei armen.
  Jan  takes  the child  in the arms
b'. ? Het kind werd in de armen gehouden.
  the child  was  in the arms  kept
[+]  C.  Accusative possessors

It is not expected that the direct object of a locational construction can act as an inalienable possessor given that it functions instead as the entity that is located with respect to the possessee: the direct object een hand in (192), for example, is the entity that is given a certain location with respect to the object of the locational PP.

Example 192
a. Marie legde een hand op Peters schouder.
  Marie put  a hand  on Peters shoulder
b. Marie legde Peteri een hand op dei schouder.
  Marie put  Peter  a hand  on the shoulder

Nevertheless, there is a class of verbs that systematically allow what seems to be their direct object to act as an inalienable possessor: the common denominator of these verbs is that they imply some form of bodily contact between the subject and the direct object of the clause; cf. Broekhuis et al. (1996). Some examples are given in (193) and (194); the (b)- and (c)-examples show that these examples allow regular passivization but not semi-passivization, which should be sufficient to show that we are dealing with a direct and not an indirect object in the (a)-examples.

Example 193
a. De hond beet Peteri in heti been.
  the dog  bit Peter  in the leg
b. Peteri werd in heti been gebeten.
  Peter  was  in the leg  bitten
c. * Peter kreeg in het been gebeten.
  Peter  got in the leg  bitten
Example 194
a. Marie kuste Peteri op heti voorhoofd.
  Marie kissed  Peter  on the forehead
b. Peteri werd op heti voorhoofd gekust.
  Peter  was  on the forehead  kissed
c. * Peter kreeg op het voorhoofd gekust.
  Peter got  on the forehead  kissed

Still, there are reasons to doubt the conclusion that we are dealing with direct objects in the (a)-examples of (193) and (194). First, it should be noted that the verbs that enter inalienable possession constructions like those in (193) and (194) are generally denominal and can be paraphrased by means of the light verb geven followed by an indefinite noun phrase. Some examples are given in (195); see Section 5.1.4.1, sub III, for a discussion of the semantic difference between the denominal and the light verb construction.

Example 195
a. bijten to bite een beet geven to give a bite
b. kloppen to knock een klop(je) geven to give a (gentle) blow
c. kussen to kiss een kus geven to give a kiss
d. slaan to blow een slag geven to give a blow
e. steken to sting een steek geven to give a sting
f. trappen to kick een trap geven to give a kick

This implies that the examples in (193a) and (194a) are more or lesss equivalent to those in (196), in which the inalienable possessor does function as indirect object. Now if we assume that the semantically light verb geven has a phonetically empty counterpart that triggers so-called incorporation of the direct object, by which the denominal verbs in (195) are derived, we may maintain that the inalienable possessors in (193a) and (194a) actually have the same thematic role as the indirect objects in (196).

Example 196
a. De hond gaf Peteri een beet in heti been.
  the dog  gave  Peter  a bite  in the leg
b. Marie gaf Peteri een kus op heti voorhoofd.
  Marie gave  Peter  a kiss  on the forehead

The suggested analysis for the problematic examples in (193a) and (194a) makes it possible to maintain the claim that inalienable possessors must be (underlying) goals. Of course, we still have to solve the problem that regular pasivization is possible, but semi-passivization is not. Broekhuis et al. (1996) claim that this is due to the fact that these examples are actually ambiguous between a structure with a dative and a structure with an accusative object; they substantiate this by referring to the German examples in (197), in which the possessor may appear either as a dative or an accusative DP.

Example 197
a. Der Hund hat mir/mich ins Bein gebissen.
  the dog  has  medat./meacc  in.the leg  bitten
b. Peter hat ihr/sie auf den Mund geküβt.
  Peter has  herdat/heracc  on the mouth  kissed

This still does not solve the entire problem given that there does not seem to be any discernable meaning difference between the two alternatives. There may be several ways to solve this problem, but we will leave this to future research and refer the reader to Broekhuis et al. (1996: fn.3) for a suggestion.

[+]  D.  Located argument

The PPs in the locational constructions discussed above are predicative in the sense that they take an argument and assign it a location with respect to their complement, the possessee. This located argument is generally the direct object, but we have seen that it may also appear as the subject in regular passive constructions. The relevant example is repeated here as (198b).

Example 198
a. Marie heeft Jani de boeken in dei armen geduwd.
  Marie  has  Jan the books  into  the arms  pushed
  'Marie has pushed the books into Janʼs arms.'
b. De boeken werden Jani in dei armen geduwd.

Given that unaccusative verbs also involve a derived subject with the thematic role of theme, we expect that the subjects of these verbs may also function as inalienable possessors. The examples in (199) show that this prediction is indeed borne out.

Example 199
a. Het kindi is Jani in dei armen gesprongen.
  the child  is Jan  into  the arms  jumped
  'The child has jumped into Jans arms.'
b. De traneni sprongen Peteri in dei ogen.
  the tears  jump  Peter  into the eyes
  'Peterʼs eyes flooded with tears.'
[+]  III.  Idioms

Inalienable possession is also a common property of idioms. These idioms may involve locational constructions, as in the examples in (200): they differ from the more regular locational constructions in that the definite article cannot be replaced by a possessive pronoun without losing or at least jeopardizing the idiomatic meaning.

Example 200
a. iemandi iets op de mouwi spelden
  somebodydat  something  on the sleeve  pin
  'to delude someone'
b. iemandi de hand boven het hoofdi houden
  somebodydat  the hand  above the head  hold
  'to protect someone'

Idioms may also take an entirely different form. The examples in (201) involve cases in which the possessee is part of an absolute met-construction. Or perhaps it is better to speak about possessees, given that the possessors men and hij are also construed as the possessor of the located object. In (201a), the articles cannot readily be replaced by a possessive pronoun whereas this seems the more common form of (201b). Perhaps this is related to the fact that it is easier to identify the former example as an idiom.

Example 201
a. [Met de hoed in de hand] komt men door het ganse land.
  with the hat in the hand  comes  one  through the whole land
  'There is nothing lost by civility.'
b. Hij stond [met zijn/de handen in zijn/de zij].
  he  stood  with  his/the hands  in his/the side

Example (202a) shows that there are also idiomatic cases in which an indirect object acts as the possessor of a theme that surfaces as a direct object. Example (202b) contains the unaccusative verb lopen and involves a theme that surfaces as a subject of the clause. Examples like (202a&b) resemble the productive patterns that can be found in the eastern and western dialects of Dutch and in German.

Example 202
a. Hij kust haar de hand.
  he  kisses  her  the hand
  'He kisses her hand.'
b. Het hoofd loopt me om.
  the head  runs  me  around
  'My head is spinning.'
References:
  • Broekhuis, Hans & Cornips, Leonie1997Inalienable possession in locational constructionsLingua101185-209
  • Broekhuis, Hans & Cornips, Leonie1997Inalienable possession in locational constructionsLingua101185-209
  • Broekhuis, Hans, Cornips, Leonie & De Wind, Maarten1996Inalienable possession in locational constructions; some apparent problemsCremers, Crit & Den Dikken, Marcel (eds.)Linguistics in the Netherlands 1996Amsterdam/PhiladelphiaJohn Benjamins37-48
  • Broekhuis, Hans, Cornips, Leonie & De Wind, Maarten1996Inalienable possession in locational constructions; some apparent problemsCremers, Crit & Den Dikken, Marcel (eds.)Linguistics in the Netherlands 1996Amsterdam/PhiladelphiaJohn Benjamins37-48
  • Broekhuis, Hans, Cornips, Leonie & De Wind, Maarten1996Inalienable possession in locational constructions; some apparent problemsCremers, Crit & Den Dikken, Marcel (eds.)Linguistics in the Netherlands 1996Amsterdam/PhiladelphiaJohn Benjamins37-48
  • Cornips, Leonie1991Possessive object constructions in HeerlensDrijkoningen, Frank & Kemenade, Ans van (eds.)Linguistics in the Netherlands 1983Amsterdam/PhiladelphiaJohn Benjamins21-30
  • Cornips, Leonie1994Syntactische variatie in het Algemeen Nederlands van HeerlenAmsterdamUniversity of AmsterdamThesis
  • Corver, Norbert1992"Bij Marie in de nek": interne structuur en extractiegedragGramma/TTT21-40
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