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Re: THEORY: Mixed erg/acc

From:Tim Smith <timsmith@...>
Date:Friday, March 17, 2000, 2:05
At 12:17 PM 3/12/2000 -0500, Tim Smith wrote:
>At 05:47 PM 3/10/2000 -0600, Matt Pearson wrote: >>Mahajan's story is actually more of a series of observations than >>a full-blown analysis. It goes kind of like this: >> >>(1) Languages may express possession either by means of a >>verb "have", or by using the copula "be" with the possessor >>marked by an oblique case morpheme or adposition (typically >>"to" or "with" or "by"). Hindi belongs to the latter camp, >>so "I have a book" is "me by book COP" (or "by me is a book"). >> >>(2) The perfective in languages like English is formed by >>combining the past participle with "have". The perfective in >>Hindi is formed by combining the past participle with "be". > >Latin has both kinds. Alongside the English-like construction with "have" >(Petrus librum habet = "Peter has a/the book") is an alternative >construction with the so-called "dative of possessor" (liber Petro est = >"a/the book is to Peter"). I don't know what the functional difference is >between them, but I assume there must be one; I would guess that it has >something to do with whether the possessor or the possessum is the topic >and/or with whether the possessum is definite or indefinite.
Rooting around in my imperfect memories of high-school Latin, I think I've found the answer to my own implied question. The functional difference between "Petrus librum habet" and "liber Petro est" is indeed a matter of whether the possessor or the possessum is the topic. The first means "Peter has the book" and the second means "the book is Peter's". English uses a predicative genitive for the second function, but in Latin, the genitive can only be used attributively, never predicatively. (I may be overgeneralizing here.) In other words, a literal translation of the English sentence "the book is Peter's" would be *"liber Petri est" (with the genitive of Petrus rather than the dative), but that wouldn't be grammatical -- or rather, it would be, but it would mean "it's Peter's book", with "Petri" interpreted as an attributive modifier of "liber" rather than as a predicate. I know that some of you know Latin a lot better than I do, so I'd welcome any corrections or clarifications. - Tim