The Albanian language is typically described as having a genitive case. In actuality, this "case" consists of an connective particle which agrees in number, gender AND CASE with the preceding head noun, followed by the noun denoting what is possessed in the dative case. So for example:

libri i njeriut "the book of the man" (connective particle i for m.sg.nom.)
Unë shoh librin e njeriut "I see the book of the man" (e for m.sg.acc.)
pranë librit të njeriut "near the book of the man" (të for m.sg.abl.)

How is it possible for a "case" to be inflected for case???

It would make more sense to mentally translate the connective particle as "which [is/are]...", as follows:

libri i njeriut "the book (nom.) which (nom.) is to the man" (i.e. which is possessed by the man)
Unë shoh librin e njeriut "I see the book (acc.) which (acc.) is to the man."
pranë librit të njeriut "near the book (abl.) which (abl.) is to the man"

This construction is paralleled by the treatment of postnominal adjectives, e.g.

libri i mirë "the good book" (i.e. "the book (nom.) which (nom.) is good")
Unë shoh librin e mirë. "I see the good book."
pranë librit të mirë "near the good book"

Is there a standard analysis that treats the genitive as a CONSTRUCTION rather than as a "case", and if so, what is the standard term for what I'm calling a "connective particle" here?

  • 2
    "followed by the noun denoting what is possessed" -- shouldn't this be "followed by the noun denoting the possessor"? Oct 29, 2021 at 23:33
  • You are correct. Good catch.
    – Jeff Leer
    Oct 30, 2021 at 9:29
  • Almost the exact same thing happens in Romanian as well: carte a (cartea) omului, carti ale (cartile) omului, with the genitival articles a, ai, al, ale corresponding in number and gender with the possessed object, and the (genitival) form of the possessor being indistinguishable from that of its dative case.
    – Lucian
    Nov 5, 2021 at 21:01

1 Answer 1


See A. Spencer, The possessum-agreement construction or 'Does Albanian have a genitive case?'. He says

they are precisely homologous to the possessive construction of Bantu languages. This construction, the ‘possessum-agreement’ construction, marks the possessor noun or noun phrase with a formative which agrees with the possessor in the manner of an adjective, but the possessum itself is not categorially an adjective and the possessum phrase itself retains the internal syntax of a noun phrase.

("they" because Hindi has the same construction).

  • 1
    Isn't "agrees with the possessor" in the cited passage an error for "agrees with the possessum"? Oct 29, 2021 at 23:32
  • Yes, sorry, I got them backwards.
    – Jeff Leer
    Oct 30, 2021 at 9:30

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