Skip to main content
Login | Suomeksi | På svenska | In English

Inalienably possessed lexical items : A microtypological analysis of the languages of New Guinea

Show full item record

Title: Inalienably possessed lexical items : A microtypological analysis of the languages of New Guinea
Author(s): Ahola, Noora
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts
Degree program: Master's Programme in Linguistic Diversity and Digital Humanities
Specialisation: General Linguistics
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2023
This thesis is an investigation of inalienably possessed lexical items in the languages of the New Guinea area. Inalienable possession is a linguistic feature in languages with an alienability distinction: in these languages, there are two distinct possessive noun phrases, the choice of which depends on the semantics of the possessed noun. Inalienable possession covers those possessive relations which are conceived as inherent, whereas alienable possession pertains to more prototypical ownership relations. Cross-linguistically, then, the nouns involved in inalienable possession are kinship terms, body part nouns, and spatial nouns. Additionally, there are often language-specific concepts that are inalienably possessed. The inalienable lexical items are not semantically uniform across languages, but it is rather highly language-specific which nouns are treated as inalienable. This variation forms the core of the thesis: the objective is to examine inalienable possession from the lexical perspective to gain a detailed understanding of the semantic nature of inalienability. The study is based on a genealogically balanced sample of 23 languages. The analysis of the inalienable lexical items is based on language descriptions and dictionaries of the individual languages. The results show that in general, the semantic characteristics of inalienable possession follow the cross-linguistic tendencies: kinship nouns and body part terms are the most common inalienable lexical items. Spatial relations, however, are not as commonly inalienable. The analysis shows that it is the most prototypical nouns in their respective semantic categories that are most frequently inalienably possessed. The languages also have inalienable nouns beyond kinship terms, body part nouns, and spatial nouns, and the majority of these nouns are inalienable in one language only. Explanations to these semantic deviations are proposed, and explanations to the tendencies present in the data are also discussed. The study also briefly addresses the areal distribution of alienability distinctions. Alienability distinctions are relatively common in the languages of the New Guinea area, but the study shows that although they are attested in languages spoken across the area, they are notably lacking from the southern part of the island.
Keyword(s): inalienable possession alienability distinction language typology New Guinea

Files in this item

Files Size Format View
Ahola_Noora_MastersThesis_2023.pdf 1.853Mb PDF

This item appears in the following Collection(s)

Show full item record