, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 99-140,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Ellipsis in Dutch possessive noun phrases: a micro-comparative approach

Abstract

We discuss ellipsis of the possessee in both pronominal possessor constructions (Dutch: zijn boek ‘his book’) and possessor doubling constructions (Dutch: John z’n boek, John his book ‘John’s book’) from a micro-comparative perspective. More specifically we show, on the basis of an in-depth study of the nominal system of 57 Dutch dialects, that there are two types of possessee ellipsis. In the first type there is a pro which needs to be licensed by gender agreement. In the second type there is an overt pro-form, similar to English one, and hence no ellipsis. Dialects that have the first type of possessee ellipsis can be further divided into two subtypes. The first has gender agreement on the possessive pronoun, the second one does not. Interestingly, possessee ellipsis can take place in the possessor doubling construction only in the former subtype of dialect. We implement this striking generalization by arguing that in the latter type of dialect pro has to move to Spec,DP in order to be licensed. The doubling possessor also has to be merged in Spec,DP. As a consequence, pro and a doubling possessor cannot co-occur and hence possessee ellipsis and possessor doubling are incompatible. In the former type of dialect, i.e., those dialects that do express gender on the possessive pronoun, pro can be licensed by the gender agreement on the possessive pronoun in a position lower than Spec,DP. Hence, in these dialects Spec,DP is available for a doubling possessor and, consequently, possessee ellipsis and possessor doubling can co-occur.