Definite Genitives: Predicting the Alternation

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Definite Genitives: Predicting the Alternation
In English, the so-called Saxon genitive (also known as prenominal or 's-genitive) and the
postnominal genitive (also called of-genitive) show overlap in their usage. Whereas an
indefinite head noun requires nearly exclusively a postnominal genitive, definite heads
are instead found with both constructions.
When both types of phrases are possible, factors that have been proposed in the
literature to influence the choice of one construction over the other include, most
importantly, animacy, the meaning of the conveyed relation, and information structure.
To my knowledge, there is still no empirical study exploiting information from corpus
data that given two objects to be related via a genitive phrase tries to model the best
outcome, or, in other words, tries to predict which construction is most likely to be
used, taking into account the factors above.
In this talk I will describe a few models for generating definite genitive phrases showing
the relative influence of various factors. To do so, I will introduce the annotated data I
used to build the predictive models, with particular attention to the issue of information
structure. The empirical results I will discuss do not entirely conform to what the
literature suggests.
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