A Prominent Internal Possessor (or PIP) is a possessor that behaves, fully or partially, as if it were a clause-level element and the head of its own phrase, even though there is no independent evidence that it is external to the nominal phrase to which the possessed item belongs. Such possessors can be said to exhibit a higher level of syntactic (and possibly functional) prominence than their regular counterparts.
Agreement with a PIP is an issue for syntactic theory because, despite attested variability across languages in this respect, models of syntax have little to say about it. They have hitherto assumed that agreement is a relation that holds between a verb and the head of one of its subject noun phrase(s), but not a dependent element within that noun phrase.
Another syntactic process relevant to the study of PIPs is switch-reference: a special type of marking indicating that the subjects of the two clauses refer to the same entity. It typically targets the head of the possessive phrase, but in some languages, e.g. Turkish, switch-reference marking indicates that the possessor within the subject phrase of one clause is interpreted as referring to the same entity as the subject of the second clause.
Data of this kind is typologically challenging because very little is known about how prominent possessors are manifested within the same phrase as the possessed item, and how they function in grammar. Until now, the extent of the phenomenon and in what languages and language families they are found has never been investigated, yet the implications of these possessive constructions for our understanding of how grammar works are profound.
This database is a searchable repository for data on Prominent Internal Possessors across a typologically diverse set of languages.
It was created as part of the AHRC-funded project 'Prominent possessors' awarded to awarded to Irina Nikolaeva (PI), Oliver Bond and Greville G. Corbett (Project reference AH/M010701/1). The AHRC's support is gratefully acknowledged.