Word order within possessive constructions

A possessive structure contains two lexical items expressing the possessive relationship. In the prototypical example, the possessor is a person, represented as a noun in adnominal position[1], while the possessed noun is an alienable item, as in the man’s car. The lexical item representing the possessor (noun or pronoun) is a subordinate element within the phrase, whereas the possessed noun is the head of the phrase. If the possessor is a noun, it is marked Gen[2]; if a pronoun, it is marked gen. The possessed noun is always marked Poss. [3]

The relative positions of Gen (or gen) and Poss should be considered in sentences in which the possessive phrase is the primary noun phrase and does not serve a predicative function. Since the parameter considers the positions of these items relative to one another, their individual morphological structures and the presence of other morphemes between them are irrelevant.


GenPoss: The possessor, whether noun or pronoun, precedes the possessed noun.

GenPossgen: The possessor, if a noun, precedes the possessed noun; if a pronoun, follows it.

PossGen: The possessor, whether noun or pronoun, follows the possessed noun.

PossGengenPoss: The possessor, if a noun, follows the possessed noun; if a pronoun, precedes it.

When a language displays more than one type, multiple values can be listed. If one type is dominant, a slash (/) can separate the two values, with the dominant value appearing first; if neither is dominant, they are listed with an ampersand (&) separating the two. If the relative word order is dependent on the type of the possessed noun, a tilde (~) should be used, and the circumstances should be detailed in the commentary.[4]


[1] Attributive function should be considered, rather than predicative function.

[2] Although the label is derived from the word genitive, its use does not mean that the language in question actually has a genitive case in its nominal paradigm or applies it in the given case.

[3] The occurrence of the possessed as a pronoun is a rare phenomenon and is not considered for this parameter.

[4]The standard word order should be listed before the tilde, while the word order of the specific type of possessed noun should appear after the tilde. For example, the word order may differ in the case of an inalienable possessed noun. In this case, the value GenPoss~PossGen indicates that the standard order is GenPoss, while the word order of specific (here, inalienable) possessed nouns is PossGen. If the context determining word order is unclear, complex, or sometimes optional, the value GenPoss&PossGen should be used instead — as in the case of English, for example.