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From Morpheme to Pronoun: The Development of the Separated Genitive in the Early Modern English Period (pp. 47-66)

Lara López Lueje

Universidad de Oviedo


The separated genitive, or his genitive, was a grammatical resource used systematically in earlier stages of the English language to express possession. The general assumption is that it originated at the end of the Early Middle English period as an allomorph for the flexive genitive (–es), and that it was later reanalyzed in Early Modern English as an authentic possessive pronoun that required agreement with its antecedent in the possessor phrase. In this paper I provide evidence for said reanalysis using the correspondence of Nathaniel Bacon of Stiffkey (1569-1594) and Katherine Paston (1603-1627) as sources. The main features that will be discussed are the use of a wide range of pronominal forms for the possessive particle (including feminine and plural ones); the lack of non-agreeing examples; the presence of genitives combining morphemal –es and the external possessor his; the status of the separated genitive when attached to complex possessors; and, finally, a question of orthography and the spelling of his.  

Keywords: separated genitive; his genitive; Early Modern English; pronoun.


Lara López Lueje is a PhD student at the University of Oviedo, Spain. Her work centers on historical linguistics, more specifically on the use of the grammatical resource known as ‘separated genitive’ during earlier stages of the English language, which is the topic of her thesis. She is also interested in translation studies and video game localization.

e-mail address: uo231901@uniovi.es


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