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Building and Interpreting Possession Sentences$
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Neil Myler

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780262034913

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262034913.001.0001

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Previous Approaches to Predicative Possession: A Guide for the Perplexed

Previous Approaches to Predicative Possession: A Guide for the Perplexed

(p.67) 2 Previous Approaches to Predicative Possession: A Guide for the Perplexed
Building and Interpreting Possession Sentences

Neil Myler

The MIT Press

This chapter aims to summarize previous approaches to the too-many-meanings puzzle and the too-many-surface-structures puzzle, providing a uniquely detailed and up-to-date appreciation of recent literature on possession. It begins by setting out the scale of the puzzles by examining functional-typological work. The second section introduces the standard generative approach to the too-many-surface structures puzzle, which I refer to as the Freeze/Kayne tradition. This approach, associated with Freeze (1992) and Kayne (1993) (but with antecedents going back much earlier), proposes that the vast surface diversity in possession constructions is to be derived via movement from one or two underlyingly identical structures. The third section looks at extensions of and reactions to the Freeze/Kayne tradition. In the fourth section, various approaches to the too-many-meanings puzzle are discussed, much of it from the formal semantics literature. The main conclusions of this overview are (i) that the Freeze/Kayne tradition is correct to treat HAVE and BE as two realizations of the same element; but (ii) some of the surface differences among possession constructions involve real underlying differences in argument structure; and (iii) the meaning of possession sentences does not come from HAVE and BE themselves, but from other elements in the structure.

Keywords:   Possession, Linguistic Typology, Formal Semantics, HAVE/BE, Copulas

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