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Re: Possessible and non-possessible nouns

From:Brian Betty <bbetty@...>
Date:Friday, January 29, 1999, 18:14
Kristian wrote: "That is what I thought. I have heard of this phenomenon
being widespread among Amerindians. I also heard that when Europeans first
came to the Americas with the concept of farming on land which they "own",
many Indians failed to grasp what owning land meant."

The latter is true, but they are (mostly) separate issues. True, if a white
man tried to say, 'this is my land,' then the meaning of that sentence
would probably not be understood by a possessive/nonposessive language
speaker; however, the use of possession/nonpossession cannot be connected
with philosophical ideas about the land. Clearly Western languages do not
have this particular language attribute, but they could; they would just
treat land that is owned as possessible by a certain person.

Actually, that would be really interesting - slaves and women in the 1840s
America would not be allowed to own land, so they would not be able to
describe land using possessives ... Would that have lead to explicit "owner
/ nonowner" legal & social categories? And how would someone say, "O my
God?" Would you then circumlocute to "O God of [over] me?" Howabout the
more alien "God o' me?" from "God owning me?"

Woo-hoo, this is more interesting than I first thought!


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