Relational and partitive inalienable possession in Slave

Shay Hucklebridge


Agreement asymmetries seen in Slave, a Dene language of Northern Canada, suggest that its inalienable class of nouns must be further divided into two subclasses: partitive inalienable nouns (body parts, goods, and possessions) and relational inalienable nouns (kinship terms). While all possessums, regardless of noun class, determine subject agreement, the partitive inalienable possessor determines object agreement, and this is not the case with alienable and relational nouns, which always have the possessum as the target of agreement (Rice, 1989). This paper argues that this is a product of the way that object agreement is formed in the language, in conjunction with variation in the position of the possessor in possessive construction across the three classes of nouns.

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