Reconsidering inalienable possession in French
Johan Rooryck
January 2018

In this paper, I show that ‘inalienable possession’ with definite DPs in French is not inalienable and does not involve possession. The relevant cases are best captured in terms of an analysis that combines a syntactic configuration for locative prepositions (RP in den Dikken’s 1995, 2006 sense) with the semantics of weak definites in the sense of Aguilar-Guevara (2014). I also show that the relevant ‘inalienably possessed’ weak definites are not restricted to body parts, but include a broader set of nouns with a stereotypical function that are located in or on the body of an animate possessor/ location: mental or physical faculties, facial expressions, as well as articles of clothing, protection, and adornment. This set of nouns displays a number of peculiar restrictions on the verbs that select them. I argue that all of these restrictions derive from the requirement that the semantic properties of weak definites and the syntactic configuration of the RP need to be compositionally respected. Finally, I speculate how this analysis can be extended to crosslinguistic variation in German and English.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/003721
(please use that when you cite this article)
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keywords: inalienable, possession, weak definite, location, stereotypical, semantics, syntax
previous versions: v1 [October 2017]
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