Prominent possessors

Workshop on Prominent Internal Possessors

The Workshop on Prominent Internal Possessors was held at SOAS, University of London on 22-23 September 2016 as part of the AHRC-funded project Prominent Possessors.

Invited speakers

Aslı Göksel, Boğaziçi University
Felicity Meakins, University of Queensland
Karin Michelson, University at Buffalo
Rachel Nordlinger, University of Melbourne
Sergey Say, Institute for Linguistic Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences  


In some languages, the possessor which remains internal to the possessive construction has a greater deal of syntactic ‘prominence’ than typically encountered. Contrary to what is usually expected, the grammatical properties of the possessor (and not the possessed item) are relevant for syntactic processes such as agreement with the verb, even though both possessor and possessed are part of the same syntactic phrase. A similar effect can be found with switch-reference, a special type of marking indicating that the subjects of the two clauses refer to the same entity. Switch-reference typically targets the head of the possessive phrase, but in some languages switch-reference marking indicates that the possessor within the subject phrase of one clause is interpreted as referring to the same entity as the subject of the second clause.

This type of data presents linguistic theorists with a challenge because, despite attested variability across languages in this respect, models of syntax have little to say about it. They have hitherto assumed that agreement and switch-reference are mechanisms that target the head of the possessive phrase, but not a dependent element.

The workshop brought together researchers who are interested in the syntactic, semantic and information-structural effects of internal possessor prominence.

Project members

Prof Irina Nikolaeva (SOAS)
Dr Oliver Bond
Prof Greville G. Corbett
Dr András Bárány (SOAS)
Dr Sandy Ritchie (SOAS)

Period of award:

October 2015 - March 2019


Arts and Humanities Research Council