Case and Affectedness in German Inalienable Possession Constructions


  • Vera Lee-Schoenfeld University of Georgia


The possessor in German inalienable possession constructions can be an accusative or dative-marked nominal, as in Der Junge hat ihn/ihm in die Nase gebissen 'The boy bit him (ACC/DAT) into the nose' (see also Wegener 1985, Draye 1996, and Lamiroy and Delbecque 1998). Not all participating verbs allow this case optionality. Some require accusative, others seem to require dative when modified by one kind of PP but take accusative when modified by another kind of PP. This paper argues that the option of having a possessor dative, an instance of 'external possession,' depends on the possibility of using the verb intransitively, with a Goal PP indicating the endpoint of a directed motion.