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Consider possessive determiners when the owner is a third person.

In many languages, the determiner depends on the natural gender of the speaker (English: he-she-it) or, in languages with grammatical gender, on the grammatical gender of the owner (German: sein-ihr, Russian: его́ - её).

I recently read a book about Italian, which only has one possessive determiner stem (suo). The book explained that the possessive determiners in Italian were not inflected for the gender of the possessor, but for the possessed, in contrast to German. I considered that statement nonsense, because possessive determiners in German are inflected for the possessed, whereas the stem is determined by the possessor.

But what is the adequate name for the dependency of the possessive determiner on the possessor? In particular, possessors in 1st and 2nd person usually fall out of the gender pattern, but in languages with many genders/noun classes, is this dependency a gender-related concept?

  • Your question is a bit hard to follow. Can you please provide more examples of everything you're asking about? – curiousdannii Aug 29 '14 at 8:42
  • Are you asking about the difference between head-marking and dependent-marking? – Thomas Gross Aug 29 '14 at 10:46
  • German possessive determiners are inflected for both the gender of third-person singular possessors sein-/ihr- in the roots, and the gender, number, and case of the possessed noun in their inflectional suffixes. – jlawler Aug 29 '14 at 17:24
  • I don't know if it's common to treat e.g. his and her as inflections of the same lexeme. There are languages like Japanese, where men and women tend to use different first person pronouns, so accordingly, the first person possessive determiners will be different as well. – dainichi Sep 1 '14 at 2:32
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The term you are looking for is Agreement.

Here's the definition of Agreement:

Agreement is a phenomenon in natural language in which the form of one word or morpheme covaries with the form of another word or phrase in the sentence. [...]
Agreement is perhaps the quintessential morphosyntactic phenomenon, since it involves the morphological expression of a relation that most researchers take to be a syntactic one [...]

Also, Wikipedia:Possessive

In some languages, possessive determiners are subject to agreement with the noun they modify [...], in terms of relevant categories of gender, number and case.
Since personal pronouns may also agree in number and gender with their own antecedent or referent, the possessive forms may consequently show agreement with either the "possessor" or the "possessed", or both.

Wikipedia:Agreement also refers a synonym: Concord.


P.S. Since you mentioned Russian, most Slavic languages have a rather complex possessive determiner agreement, depending on grammatic Person being used:

  • 1st and 2nd Person agree with the "possessed" (by number and grammatical gender):
    • дом [dom] (house, masc.): мой [moj] (my) дом, наш [nash] (our) дом, твой [tvoj] (your/sg.) дом, ваш [vash] (your/pl.) дом;
    • книга [kniga] (book, fem.): моя [maja] (my) книга, наша [nasha] (our) книга, твоя [tvaja] (your/sg.) книга, ваша [vasha] (your/pl.) книга
    • место [mjesto] (place, neut.): моё [majo] (my) место, наше [nashe] (our) место, твоё [tvajo] (your/sg.) место, ваше [vashе] (your/pl.) место
  • 3rd Person agree with the "possessor":
    • он [on] (he); оно [ano] (it) — note the pronoun is the same:
      • дом [dom] (house, masc.): его [jevo] дом
      • книга [kniga] (book, fem.): его [jevo] книга
      • место [mjesto] (place, neut.): его [jevo] место
    • она [ana] (she) — again, the pronoun is the same:
      • дом [dom] (house, masc.): её [jejo] дом
      • книга [kniga] (book, fem.): её [jejo] книга
      • место [mjesto] (place, neut.): её [jejo] место

Note: table above is for Nominative case, and I only used singular possessed object.

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  • Nice answer! Could you also provide transliterations for those who don't read Cyrillic? Since it's precisely those people who will likely not be familiar with Russian possessive determiners. – robert Aug 29 '14 at 12:51
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    @robert Added a rought transliteration. – bytebuster Aug 29 '14 at 13:49

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