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Linguistics and English Language

Germanic possessive -s: An empirical, historical and theoretical study

Summary

Two much-debated questions in recent theoretical linguistics concern the historical origin of grammatical markers and their synchronic status. Researchers have adduced key evidence for both from the evolution of English possessive -s and the related but subtly different constructions in Swedish and Dutch. What has not to date been attempted, and what the present proposal offers, is a systematic synchronic and diachronic comparison of these constructions across all three languages. The aim is threefold:  to provide a consistent multi-lingual dataset;  to compare detailed historical trajectories;  and to develop a theoretical account of these items within a typology of grammatical markers.

People

Principal investigators: Professor Kersti Börjars, Professor David Denison.
Research associate: Dr Alan Scott.
PhD students: Sophie Guile (The possessive -s and the of-possessive: Identifying and accounting for relative frequency (1650-1800)), Pauline Harries (The structure of the Faroese Noun Phrase).

Technical support provided by Paul Johnston, under the direction of David Risley (initially Daniel Smith) of the Faculty of Humanities ICT Office.