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Doris Gerland

Doris Gerland, MA (Ms)

Phone +49 211 81-12454Fax +49 211 81-103170 (central fax, please include name of addressee)
Email gerland@phil.uni-duesseldorf.de



SToRE Membership

SToRE member from 21 Aug 2012 until Jun 2013

1. advisor: Prof. Dr. Sebastian Löbner
2. advisor: Prof. Dr. Robert Van Valin
3. advisor: Dr. Anja Latrouite

PhD Project

While most of the definite articles developed out of demonstratives there are also definite articles that emerged from possessor suffixes. My PhD-thesis investigates languages which display a frequent use of 3rd person singular possessor suffixes as markers of definiteness, as e.g. Uralic languages (Fraurud 2001, Nikolaeva 2003, Schröder 2006). The suffix is found in contexts such as anaphoricity and also with uniques such as ‘sun’. The suffix signals the non-ambiguity of the referent of the marked noun as Indo-European definite articles do.

Even though the suffix occurs in all contexts which are characteristically marked by definite articles (Hawkins 1978) its use is not obligatory, not even with pragmatic uniqueness. Moreover, in the majority of uses it serves the original function of specifying a possessor, which is most obvious when it co-occurs with a lexical possessor. However, the indication of uniqueness is also included in these constructions since the suffix can be considered as a possessive pronoun and therefore shifts the marked noun to a functional concept (Löbner 2011). Hence, the suffix always indicates uniqueness, and can additionally display the possessor, i.e. an additional argument. The interpretation of the suffix as a possessor marker or a “pure” marker of definiteness depends mainly on two factors: The context and the conceptual noun type of the marked referent.

The possessor suffix is qualified as definite article since it originally (as a possessive pro-noun) refers to an already established and therefore unique entity. The referent of the suffix-marked noun can be understood as a functional concept (Löbner 1985, 2011) and is unique, too. In this sense the suffix indicates uniqueness as Indo-European definite articles do. Moreover, the suffix originally functions as indicating a relation between two entities but is not restricted to any kind of possession such as inalienable or permanent possession. This function becomes less explicit in cases where no relation of possession is available in that the suffix links the referent of the marked noun to the discourse (as in anaphoric use) or speech setting. With individual concepts such as uniques the indication of relation is faded out completely. Hence, the primary use of the suffix is extended, the person specification is neutralized and the indication or establishment of a relation is omitted. What finally remains is the indication of definiteness.


Gerland, Doris, & Christian Horn (2010), Referential properties of nouns across languages. In Choi, D.-H.; J.-S. Hong, H.-K. Kang, Y.-S. Kang, K.-H. Kim, K.-A. Kim, J.-Y. Yoon, S.-H. Rhee, J.-S. Wu (eds.) (2010): Universal Grammar and Individual Languages. Proceedings of SICoL 2010. Seoul.     

Gerland, Doris (to appear), Definitely not possessed? Possessive suffixes with definiteness marking function. In Gamerschlag, Thomas, Doris Gerland, Rainer Osswald & Wiebke Petersen (eds.): Frames and Concept Types. Applications in Language, Cognition and Philosophy. Dordrecht: Springer.

Gamerschlag, Thomas, Doris Gerland, Rainer Osswald & Wiebke Petersen (eds.) (to appear), Frames and Concept Types. Applications in Language, Cognition and Philosophy. Dordrecht: Springer.

Conference presentations

Gerland, Doris (2012), ‘Possessive Suffixes as Definite Articles.’ Workshop Semantic and typological perspectives on definites, Düsseldorf.

Gerland, Doris & Albert Ortmann (2012). ‘What counts as relational in Hungarian, Uralic, and beyond?’ Conference on Concept Types and Frames 2012, Düsseldorf

Gerland, Doris (2011), ‘From possessive suffixes to definite articles.’ Workshop on Languages with and without articles, CNRS/Paris 8.

Gerland, Doris (2011), ‘Definitely not possessed: Possessives with non-possessive function.’ Grammatica & Contextus, Budapest ELTE.

Gerland, Doris & Christian Horn (2010), ‘Referential properties of nouns across languages’. Seoul International Conference on Linguistics SiCoL 2010. University of Seoul, Korea

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