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The NP as possessor

The possessor of the genitive construction functions as a determiner to the head noun, which encodes the possessum. The determiner can either be a possessive pronoun, as illustrated in (1), or a noun phrase that constitutes the determiner together with the genitive particle se, as illustrated by example (2).

a. ons huis
our house
our house
b. hulle/hul voorkeur
our preference
their preference
c. haar fiets
her bicycle
her bicycle
d. sy skoene
his shoes
his shoes
a. Ouma se huis
Ouma PTCL.GEN house
Grandma's house
b. die luisteraars se voorkeur
the listeners PTCL.GEN preference
the listeners' preference
c. Marelize se fiets
Maralize PTCL.GEN bicycle
Marelize's bicycle
d. 'n ander mens se skoene
a other human PTCL.GEN shoes
another person's shoes

Semantically, the use of a noun phrase in the possessive construction is not restricted to possession in the narrow sense of the word, but can extend to other meanings, such as kinship, body parts, or a part-whole relationship. The Afrikaans genitive construction with se is considerably more productive and less restricted than the Dutch or Frisian constructions with -s, and closer to the English construction with 's in this respect.

[+]Grammatical relations between possessor NP and the larger NP

The possessor noun phrase is a constituent of a larger phrase that functions as determiner to the head noun. Within the larger determiner phrase, the possessor noun phrase combines with the possessive particle se to form the genitive. Afrikaans also allows another genitive with the particle vanof, similar to the English alternation between genitive 's and the variant with of. The order of head noun and the phrase containing the possessive is different, depending on which construction is used, and there are contexts in which the two constructions are not interchangeable, but there is 'n fair number of contexts where the two variants are in productive variation.

Factors that favour the selection of the se-genitive include animacy (animate possessors favour se) and complexity / syntactic weight (less complex and shorter possessor noun phrases favour se). Conversely, inanimate possessors and longer or more complex possessor noun phrases favour the selection of the van-genitive. The contrast is illustrated by the pairs in example (3), where the more probable and frequent variant is presented first, followed by the less likely variant.

a. my pa se bokke en skape
my dad PTCL.GEN goats and sheep
my dad's goats and sheep
a.' die bokke en skape van my pa
the goats and sheep of PTCL.GEN dad
the goats and sheep of my dad
b. haar man se polisse
her husband PTCL.GEN policies
her husband's policies
b.' die polisse van haar man
the policies PTCL.GEN her husband
the policies of her husband
c. die interessante ou karakters van daai tyd
the interesting old characters PTCL.GEN that time
the interesting old characters of that time
c.' daai tyd se interessante ou karakters
that time PTCL.GEN interesting old characters
that time's interesting old characters
d. die toepassing van lyfstraf as strafvorm
the application PTCL.GEN body.punishment as punishment.form
the application of corporal punishment as a form of punishment
d.' lyfstraf as strafvorm se toepassing
body.punishment as punishment.form PTCL.GEN application
corporal punishment as form of punishment's application
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