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Grammatical ChangeOrigins, Nature, Outcomes$
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Dianne Jonas, John Whitman, and Andrew Garrett

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199582624

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199582624.001.0001

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Triggering syntactic change: Inertia and local causes in the history of English genitives

Triggering syntactic change: Inertia and local causes in the history of English genitives

(p.198) 10 Triggering syntactic change: Inertia and local causes in the history of English genitives
Grammatical Change

Paola Crisma

Oxford University Press

This chapter brings order to the bewildering complexity of genitive placement in determiner phrase (DP) in Old English (OE). In OE DPs containing a determiner, a genitive, and the head noun, all orders are possible except those with the determiner after the noun. The four basic patterns are characterized as one structurally comparable to the modern s-genitive, one involving an incorporated genitive (as in modern N-N compounds), a postnominal genitive, and a pattern fronting the genitive from postnominal position. The first change in the system is loss of the postnominal genitive. Three subsequent developments are affected by this change: the reanalysis of genitive -s in pre-head position as a phrasal clitic, the development of by-marking for posthead external arguments, and the development of of-marking. The chapter shows that the notion of a prior change ‘affecting’ a subsequent one is complex: In the case of the reanalysis of genitive -s, for example, the earlier change does not force the subsequent one, but rather removes a cue that would have otherwise precluded the later change.

Keywords:   genitive placement, Old English, determiner phrase, s-genitive, postnominal genitive

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