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The possessive morpheme in English occurs in a variety of constructions - prenominal possessives (the man's hat, the plane's arrival), postnominal possessives (a friend of mine), -ing nominalizations (without my saying so), and possessive compounds (a girls' school). What does this morpheme actually mean, what is its syntactic category, what is its semantic contribution to the expressions in which it occurs, and how can various restrictions on its use be accounted for? Dr Taylor proposes a unitary account of the possessive morpheme. He takes as his theoretical framework Cognitive Grammar, as developed over the past 15 years by Ronald Langacker and others. In the earlier chapters of the book he introduces and motivates the conceptual apparatus of the theory, and in later chapters he develops a coherent account of the full range of possessive constructions in English. A special feature of the book is that it offers a wide-ranging critique of both traditional and more recent accounts of possessive expressions.
Focusing particularly on Government and Binding theory, the author highlights the profound conceptual differences underlying the two theoretical approaches represented by GB and Cognitive Grammar, while also observing some points of convergence between them.
John R. Taylor is Senior Lecturer in Linguistics at the University of Otago. He is the author of Linguistic Categorization: Prototypes in Linguistic Theory (OUP 1989; second edition 1995), and editor (with R. MacLaury) of Language and the Cognitive Construal of the World (Mouton de Gruyter 1995).