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Genitive coordinations with personal pronouns1

  • JOHN PAYNE (a1)

English genitive noun-phrase coordinations follow two patterns. The first is the single genitive, in which exponence of the genitive case occurs solely on the final coordinate, e.g. Mary and Jane's; and the second is the multiple genitive, in which exponence of the genitive case occurs on all coordinates, e.g. Mary's and Jane's. When either of the coordinates is a personal pronoun, difficult choices have to be made about the form of the pronoun. These difficulties arise especially with the single genitive, which is judged to be totally ungrammatical in coordinations like *my wife and I's or *my wife and my. On the other hand, the alternative use of the multiple genitive, my wife's and my, conflicts with a preference for the single genitive when the coordinates are felt to constitute a single unit. In this article, we first conduct a corpus-based analysis for genitive coordinations with personal pronouns, based on the British National Corpus. This, supplemented by some non-standard examples from web-based sources, gives some insight into the choices actually made by native speakers. We then provide a theoretical account of the syntactic problems that genitive coordinations with pronouns create. This account is shown to be compatible solely with an analysis of the English ’s genitive as an inflectional affix.

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English Language & Linguistics
  • ISSN: 1360-6743
  • EISSN: 1469-4379
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