I am designing a language where a single case affix expresses both loc and gen. How should such a case be labelled?

An example would be:

  1. house-GEN.LOC 'in the house';
  2. he-GEN.LOC house-3POSS 'his house'
  • 1
    Welcome to Linguistics! Do you have an example? I think it would be easier to show it with an example (especially in the answer), if you have one at hand.
    – Alenanno
    Jun 26, 2014 at 9:19
  • Thanks! Well, something like this: house-GEN.LOC 'in the house'; he-GEN.LOC house-3POSS 'his house'
    – żaba
    Jun 26, 2014 at 10:52
  • Can you do something like: house-GEN.LOC door-3POSS 'the houses door'? Jun 26, 2014 at 11:06
  • Yes, that's perfectly grammatical in some contexts.
    – żaba
    Jun 26, 2014 at 11:13
  • @żaba Ok thank you. Please add that to your question, like "An example would be..." Something like that. :D
    – Alenanno
    Jun 26, 2014 at 13:57

2 Answers 2


Given your examples, I'd recommend that you don't think of the case as GENITIVE at all but only a LOCATIVE with a metaphorical extension of property and possession.

You have a very good precedent with languages like Russian which expresses possession as location: SHE HAS A BOOK = A BOOK IS BY HER.

This sort of semantic extension is very common with cases. Plus, there's some (not implausible) argument that genitive should not be considered a case because it does not denote syntactic relationships at the clause level (but that's a discussion for another thread).


There are two possible situations I can think of, and how you'd gloss it depends on which situation it is.

The language has both locative and genitive cases, but for this word the allomorphs happen to be the same: if you can determine from context which case it is, then simply gloss it as that case. If you can't, then make a guess and note the ambiguity in a footnote.

The language has one case with both locative and genitive meanings: decide what you think is the prototypical meaning and gloss it as that. Then in your discussion of the cases explain the range of meanings it conveys. I'd probably go for the genitive in this case because in many languages it's already so diverse. Or label it Case #3. No need to confuse more people with counter-intuitive case names!

  • So, scenario (2) is the most adequate explanation. But how to decide what's the "prototypcial" meaning? This is a hard judgment to assess. Why not just go with GEN.LOC or GEN/LOC...? I was just hoping there was a seed of similarity (or super-category) of the genitive and locative cases that could be a good gloss.
    – żaba
    Jun 26, 2014 at 12:23
  • You'll just need to collect lots of language data, and get native speakers to interpret it for you. Is it actually a pure motionless locative case, or is it closer to an ablative case?
    – curiousdannii
    Jun 26, 2014 at 12:32
  • Two reasons why I'd advise not to use a label like GEN/LOC: it shows indecision and an inability to adequately analyse the case (which is perfectly fine at the beginning of course, but it would be better to figure it out before publishing it), and it implies polysemy. It could be that the case is polysemous, but you'd want strong evidence that it is before giving it a label like GEN/LOC.
    – curiousdannii
    Jun 26, 2014 at 12:36
  • It's closer to a "pure" motionless locative case. GEN/LOC seems polysemous so far as I see... But I agree with you and would prefer to have a single gloss for this case, ideally a gloss that is neither "GEN" or "LOC" (or even "GEN/LOC") but something totally different, but basic to both. I guess there are no options out there for that...
    – żaba
    Jun 27, 2014 at 11:52
  • @żaba just keep collecting more data until it becomes clearer I guess. And get interpretations/paraphrases of the morpheme in the language itself.
    – curiousdannii
    Jun 27, 2014 at 12:09

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