Possession and modification-a perspective from Canonical Typology

Irina Nikolaeva, Andrew Spencer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The chapter addresses a set of semantic, syntactic, and categorial criteria for canonical attributive modification and canonical inalienable possession. Canonical attributive modification is expressed by a dedicated word class (adjective) denoting a property concept, while canonical possession is inalienable possession of a relation noun (kin term, (body) part). Irina Nikolaeva and Andrew Spencer argue that modification-by-noun and alienable possession constructions can be analysed as non-canonical variants of canonical modification and possession. In many languages the same morphosyntax is used to express various combinations of the four constructions and the authors explore some of the typological variation in terms of selective violations of canonical properties.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCanonical Morphology and Syntax
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191746154
ISBN (Print)9780199604326
StatePublished - Nov 8 2012


  • Alienable possession
  • Attributive modification
  • Canonical typology
  • Inalienable possession
  • Modification-by-noun
  • Possession-modification scale


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