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Removing the owner: Non-specified possessor marking in Arawak languages*
journal contributionposted on 27.10.2021, 22:32 authored by Alexandra AikhenvaldAlexandra Aikhenvald
In most Arawak languages, obligatorily possessed nouns are bound forms. They have to be accompanied by a possessor. If the possessor is unknown or irrelevant, the noun will take the non-specified possessor suffix. A suffix of the same segmental form occurs in deverbal nominalizations with unspecified arguments, or as a nominalizer on verbs. We hypothesise that the non-specified possessor suffix was originally a feature of obligatorily possessed nouns denoting body parts and a selection of culturally important items (including ‘house’) but not kinship terms. The common Arawak polysemy of a non-specified possessor marker and a nominalizer, reconstructible for the proto-language, appears to be cross-linguistically rare.