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3.4 Modification of NP by possessors

NPs can be premodified by possessors, which are realised as NPs. An example is given below:

Anna-s huus.
Anna-GEN house
Anna’s house.

There are two kinds of prenominal possessive constructions.


The first prenominal possessive construction involves a proper name which is marked with an -s. It could be viewed as one of the last shadowy and changed vestiges of the genitival case, but it is restricted to proper nouns and nouns preceded by a determiner and an adjective at most and denoting a specific person. Some examples are given belowRE:

Mien Suster-s Huus. Min Bruurs Wucht.
my sister-‘s house my.MSC brother’s.MSC girl
My sister’s house. My brother’s daughter.
Mien Bäidens Bäidene. Uus Noabers Wänt.
my children’s children ouer neighbours’ guy
My children’s children. Our neighbours’ son.
Pestoors Tuun. Uus oold Babe sin Houd
Reverend’s garden our old dad his hat
The reverend’s garden. Our old dad’s hat.

The examples in (2) make it clear that the possessive pronoun agrees in gender with the following noun. However, there is just a binary opposition here. There is a separate form for the masculine singular, and all other combinations of gender and number share the same form. The following table gives an overview of this:

Table 1
MSC SG min din sin hiere uus jou Jou hiere
elsewhere mien dien sien hiere uus jou Jou hiere

The table makes it clear that the opposition MSC SG versus all others is only made with the possessive pronoun for the 1SG and 2SG and for the 3SG MSC. The pronoun hiere may also appear as hier, see Kramer (1996).

The second possessive construction involves the use of the possessive pronoun, which may be doubled by a full NP. Possessive pronouns are thus used to double a prenominal non-pronominal NP which functions as possessor. This construction may have supplanted the genitive. The following German sentence expresses this humorously as: “Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod”, for German also features this construction, as do Dutch and Frisian. Now for Saterland Frisian it is not the dative but the non-nominative which spells the death of the genitive, seeing that we will establish that the non-pronominal NP and the doubling pronoun are marked with non-nominative case. To illustrate, consider the following example of this doubled possessor construction:

Dät was dän Groaf sin Hoangst.
it was the.NNOM count his stallion
It was the count’s stallion.
Teikla hiere Huus.
Teikla her house
Teikla’s house.
Läit uus truch dän Buur sien Gäärs gunge.
let us through the.MSC farmer.MSC his.NTR grass.NTR go
“Let's walk through the farmer's grass.

The last example nicely shows that the grammatical gender of the possessor pronoun depends on the following noun, which is neuter. The antecedent of the possessor pronoun is the preceding masculine noun Buur ‘farmer’. Had the following noun been masculine, then the possessor pronoun would have been sin instead of sien, as it is in (5) above. The construction is restricted to the third person, and pronouns are banned from the position in which full NPs are found. So we don’t find examples like the following in Saterland Frisian (though it exists in dialects of Dutch like Brabantian):

*Se / Him hiere Huus.
them their house
Their house.

There is, however, an exception to this generalisation. The definite article also functions as a demonstrative pronoun, a topic pronoun, a personal pronoun and a relative pronoun. This pronoun is allowed in the position of full NPs, and it is doubled by a following possessive pronoun, as in the example below:

Hie häd sik epentelk sät juun do Nazis un do hiere sonaamde Euthanasiepolitik.
he has REFL openly turned against the Nazis and 3PL their so-called euthanasia.politics
He openly turned against the Nazis and their so-called politics of euthanasia.

Interesting, the same example would also be grammatical in West Frisian, in which the pronoun dy ‘that, he’ is unambiguously used as a demonstrative pronoun.

There is a recent variant of the prenominal possessor construction, in which the pronoun is not doubled by a NP but by a PP under the influence of a similar construction in German. As a result, sentences like the following may be found in informal Saterland Frisian:

Fon Mäme die Koai lait deer noch.
of mother the key lies there still
Mother’s key is still lying there.
Wo heet noch fon Clemens dät Moanske?
how calls yet of Clemens the wife
What iss the name of Clemens’ wife?

Such examples are counterexamples to the claim that PPs do not occur in the prenominal field, unless one adopts an analysis in which fon ‘of’ is a case-marker or a preposition which does not project, so that the constituent as a whole is a NP. This suggestion is supported by the fact that a partitive PP can occur in a position reserved for arguments, as in the following sentence:

Also am bästen is fon däd jeele Wierträit.
so SUP good.SUP is of that yellow copper.wire
So the best is that type of yellow copper wire.

Here the subject looks like a PP based on the preposition fon ‘of’. If this preposition can be used to spell out partitive case, then it is not a long shot to hypothesize that it has extended its functional domain to spell out the oblique case assigned to doubled possessors.

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