Marking of genitive, adjectival, and relative-clause functions

Languages may rely on the same or different grammatical strategies to express genitive (possessive), attributive (adjectival, or property-denoting), and relative-clause functions. Some languages use a single strategy for all three[1], others reserve a distinct strategy for each, and the remainder display an overlap in which two, but not all, of the three functions rely on a shared strategy.[2] In determining the strategies used to express each function, only prototypical constructions should be considered.[3]


Nondiff: The three functions are expressed using the same morphosyntactic strategy. This is known as nondifferentiation.[4]

Attrdiff: The three functions are expressed using three distinct morphosyntactic strategies. This is known as complete differentiation.

AttrReldiff: Genitive constructions and attributive phrases are formed using similar strategies, while relative clauses rely on a distinct strategy.

AttrAdjdiff: Genitive constructions and relative clauses are formed using similar strategies, while attributive phrases rely on a distinct strategy.

AttrGendiff: Attributive phrases and relative clauses are formed using similar strategies, while genitive constructions rely on a distinct strategy.


[1] None of the three functions display a morphological marker that the other two lack, nor do they differ in word order.

[2] If a function is expressed by multiple strategies, some of which show overlap with at least one of the two other functions, while other strategies do not, the overlapping strategies should be considered. For example, a language in which verb-based relative clauses and simple adjectives are formed the same way (for example, they are both unmarked or they are derived using the same morpheme) is considered to show nondifferentiation between these two strategies.

[3] For genitive constructions, the prototypical construction is a personal name with an alienable possession; for adjectives, it is an adjective expressing a color; and for relative clauses, it is a semantically past-tense verb or verb-derived form expressing a specific activity, with the nominal head as its (implicite) direct object.

[4] For example, all three types might be formed using the same prenominal modifier or attributive affix or through mere juxtaposition.