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3.5.3 Relativisation and the prenominal possessor construction

The possessor of a NP can be relativised, but the relative possessor pronoun cannot be separated from the NP to which it belongs.

Die littje Jan, [dän sin Foar] al moal Schütsenkening wezen wier.
the little Jan who.NNOM his dad already once marksman.king been was
Little Jan, whose father had been king of the marksmen at least once.

Thus the relative possessor is found at the beginning of the clause together with the rest of the NP to which it belongs. In the example above, the possessor belongs to a NP functioning a subject in the subordinate clause, so the subject is found anyway at the beginning at the clause. For object relatives, see below.


The relative equivalent of this construction is formed by means of the relative pronoun, which is homophonous with the definite article (also used as topic or personal pronoun). The possessor NP is relativized by putting the entire NP containing the possessor at the beginning of the sentence. Below two examples are presented involving a relative pronoun in the possessor position of the NP which has been placed at the beginning of the relative clause.

Die Mon, dän sien Huus iek baud häbe.
the man REL.NNOM his house I built have
The man whose house I built.
Dät Wieuw, ju hiere Woain iek koped häbe.
the woman REL her car I bought have
The wife whose car I bought.

The first example illustrates that the possessor is marked with non-nominative case. The last example nicely shows that the relation between the antecedent and the relative pronoun is not one of grammatical agreement, but of coreference. Thus the antecedent of the relative pronoun is a female person who is referred to by means of a neuter noun, Wieuw ‘woman’. The element in the full NP possessor position, the relative pronoun, is sensitive to the semantic coreference, female, hence the feminine relative pronoun ju is used. The relative pronoun is doubled by a possessor pronoun (hiere), which does not distinguish between gender or number.

Note also that the possessor itself is marked with non-nominative case, as is clear from the non-nominative masculine singular form dän ‘whom’ instead of die ‘who’ in (1) and (2) above. This case doesn’t correspond to the function of the NP as a whole in the subordinate clause, as is clear from example (1).

The construction requires a human antecedent. It is not clear whether the neuter pronoun dät ‘that’ is able to function in this construction at all. It depends on the acceptability of examples like the following:

? Dät Wucht, dät sien Huus iek baud häbe.
the girl.NTR REL.NTR his.NTR house I built have
The girl whose house I built.

About this we have no data, except that we haven’t been able to encounter a possessive instance of dät sin / sien ‘whose’ in our corpora.

There is also a possessor construction formed by means of the genitival -s suffix (though historically it differs from the original genitive in its earlier distribution). This construction is illustrated below, together with the corresponding genitival interrogative pronoun:

Annas Ku. Wäls Ku is dät?
Anna’s cow whose cow is that
Anna’s cow.’ - ‘Whose cow is that?

There does not seem to be a corresponding genitival relative pronoun, and it is unclear whether the genitival interrogative pronoun can be used as a relative pronoun.

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