Morphological status and (de)grammaticalisation: the Swedish possessive

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It has been argued that the development of the Swedish possessive -s constitutes an example of degrammaticalisation because it has changed from being an affix to being a clitic (Norde 1997; 2001a, b). I argue that a simple distinction between affix and clitic cannot capture the development of this element, instead a distinction in two dimensions need to be made; PLACEMENT needs to be distinguished from DEGREE OF ATTACHMENT. Furthermore, I claim that the distinction between agreement and once only marking represents yet another dimension. With respect to the Swedish possessive, as Norde (1997) shows, there has been a clear change from agreement to once only marking; however, I argue that this change does not tell us anything about the element’s morphological status. With respect to placement, -s is still subject to competing constraints and with respect to attachment, there is some evidence of morphological interaction between the -s and the word to which it attaches. It is then inappropriate to call the Swedish possessive -s a clitic and to refer to the change which it has undergone as degrammaticalisation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-163
JournalNordic Journal of Linguistics
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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