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Modelling Possessor Constructions in LFG: English and Hungarian

Erika Chisarik

John Payne


English and Hungarian are languages with more than one structurally distinct possessor construction. In this paper, it is argued that noun phrases in such languages require the postulation of two unrestricted argument functions: SUBJ and NCOMP. The SUBJ function in noun phrases parallels the sentential SUBJ function, but NCOMP is special to noun phrases and distinct from the sentential OBJ function, not least in the range of semantic roles it encompasses. For example, NCOMP like SUBJ but unlike OBJ permits agent roles. In English, as in Hungarian, a single unrestricted argument of an appropriate role can in principle map either to SUBJ or to NCOMP. The two functions however stand in a hierarchical relation. In both languages, the structurally higher possessor construction maps onto SUBJ and the structurally lower construction maps onto NCOMP. Also, given a thematic hierarchy for noun phrase arguments analogous to that required for clauses, when two unrestricted arguments are present, there is an asymmetry in that the higher role must map to SUBJ and the lower to NCOMP.

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