Axel Holvoet

Beyond External Possession: Genitive and dative with locational nouns in Latvian

The present article deals with the dative external possessor construction in Latvian. Attention is drawn to the widespread occurrence of this construction, extending to constructions with relational nouns practically functioning as adpositions. The carrying-over of the external possessor construction to what would otherwise be described as adpositional phrases creates certain problems for syntactic description. Emphasis is, however, on the semantic aspects. The features commonly associated with the external possessor construction, such as animacy, sentiency and affectedness, play no role here. It is suggested that the differences between the constructions with genitive and dative in spatial expressions with relational nouns are connected with the figure-ground configuration, the constructions with the dative serving to mark the shift of saliency from the figure (located object) to the ground (reference object). This, it is argued, is not an accidental extension of the external possessor construction to a domain where is was not originally applicable, but reflects the general principles underlying the external possessor construction. This can be formulated as the shifting of cognitive or discourse saliency from the figure/possessum to the ground/possessor in a locative/possessive structure.

Keywords: external possession, adpositional constructions, relational nouns, ground-figure relationship