This paper examines the asymmetry between alienable (AL) and inalienable (IA) possession in Tigrinya, a Semitic language spoken in Ethiopia and Eritrea. It is demonstrated that Tigrinya encodes the two types of possession using two distinct syntactic structures. Based on a number of syntactic diagnostics, it is also argued that the two types of possession must be syntactically as well as semantically distinguished, attributing the difference to the nature of the possessor and its syntactic position with respect to the possessee. The paper particularly argues that (i) an IA-possessor is an argument and should be merged sister to the possessee head, while (ii) an AL-possessor is a modifier and should be adjoined to the noun phrase headed by the possessee. If this is true, it provides additional evidence for the view that syntactic differences are almost always a reflection of semantic differences.
Selected Proceedings of the 42nd Annual Conference on African Linguistics: African Languages in Context
edited by Michael R. Marlo, Nikki B. Adams, Christopher R. Green, Michelle Morrison, and Tristan M. Purvis Table of contents
ISBN 978-1-57473-453-9 library binding
xi + 337 pages
publication date: 2012
published by Cascadilla Proceedings Project, Somerville, MA, USA