Possessive constructions in North Saami
We have investigated the distribution of two possessive constructions in North Saami: 1) with the possessive suffix appended to a noun, and 2) with the reflexive pronoun ieža-: 1) Son manai latnjasis ja velledii seŋgii. [3Sg.prn.NOM go.PRET.3Sg room.ILLSg.POSS3Sg and lay-down.PRET.3Sg bed.ILLSg] ‘He went to his room and lay down on the bed.’ 2) Hihtásit son manai sisa, gavccui loktii iežas latnjii ja velledii seŋgii moddját. [Slowly prn.3Sg.NOM go.PRET.3Sg in, climb.PRET.3Sg upstairs.ILLSg Reflprn.3Sg.GEN room.ILLSg and lay-down.PRET.3Sg bed.ILLSg smile.INFIN] ‘She went slowly inside, climbed upstairs to her room and lay down on the bed and smiled.’ Both examples are from Kirsti Paltto’s novel Ája. We see that the same author can use both the construction with the possessive suffix appended to a noun and the iežas pronoun, even though the referent is the same (son ‘s/he’) and the noun is the same (latnja ‘room’). Are these two constructions in free variation or is there a semantic/syntactic difference? If there is a difference, what is it? And is this difference also dependent upon the region and age of the author? We have gathered over 1800 sentences with these two constructions from works of fiction. The authors come from both Kautokeino and the Finnish side of the Tana river and represent three generations. In addition we have gathered 1500 examples from a new translation of the New Testament. All examples have been manually tagged for a variety of factors, such as the semantic class, case, and number for both the possessed item and the possessor, the type of reference (anaphoric, endophoric, exophoric), the author, etc. We analyze the use of the two possessive constructions in North Saami in relation to construction grammar (Goldberg 1995 & 2006), cognitive linguistics (Taylor 1996, Langacker 2008), and typological comparisons of possessive constructions in the world’s languages (Heine 1997, McGregor 2009, Aikhenvald & Dixon 2013). We use statistical methods (“CART” = Classification & Regression Trees and Random Forests, Strobl et al. 2009) to evaluate the influence of the various factors on the choice between the two possessive constructions. We find that there is a language change taking place in North Saami and that the possessive suffix is used less and less while the ieža-form, which was used in the older generation almost exclusively to mark a strong contrast, is now more and more neutral in the middle and younger generations. The most important factor in the choice between the constructions is the semantic class of the item that is possessed: the use of the possessive suffix remains strong only for inalienables (body parts and kin). After semantic class the next most important factor is the case marking for both the item that is possessed and the possessor. References Aikhenvald, Alexandra Y. and R. M. W. Dixon, eds. 2013. Possession and Ownership. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Goldberg, Adele. 1995. Constructions: A Construction Grammar Approach to Argument Structure. Chicago: Chicago University Press. Goldberg, Adele. 2006. Constructions at Work: The Nature of Generalizations in Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Heine, Bernd. 1997. Possession. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Langacker, Ronald W. 2008. Cognitive Grammar: A Basic Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. McGregor, William B. 2009. “Introduction”. In McGregor, William B., ed. The Expression of Possession. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 1-12. Strobl, C., G. Tutz & J. Malley. 2009. An introduction to Recursive Partitioning: Rationale, Application, and Characteristics of Classification and Regression Trees, Bagging, and Random Forests. Psychological Methods 14. 323-348. Taylor, John R. 1996. Possessives in English. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
PublisherUiT Norges arktiske universitet
UiT The Arctic University of Norway
CitationNORKOG - Kognitivt sommerseminar i Tromsø (2014), 20.-21. juni,
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