From Linguifex
Jump to navigation Jump to search

In umbrean possession is frequently used. But it is headmarking here so the possessed, dog in "My dog", is the one being marked, which is by putting it into construction state and is always assumed definite then. An important thing is that while it talks about possession it does not strictly refer to "owning" but a close relation between the entities which depends on context.

An important distinction is inalienable vs alienable possession, though they do carry additional implications. Sometimes the meaning of a noun changes depending on which possession is used.

Inalienable Possession

Inalienable refers to a form of possession that is unseperable, "My hand" will always be mine no matter what, even if its cut off. This form is marked by NOT using the construction state, definite state is used instead.


  • Family relations, including inlaws and extended families, "My mother-in-law", "My Second Cousin"
  • Blood relations
  • Husband - Wife relation
  • Creations, things oneself have created, "My book"
  • Generational items, things that have passed on for atleast 2 generations
  • Deeply held emotional items
  • Body related things, arms, legs etc


  • Family relations require inalienable if the intension is to talk about them, using alienable is considered an insult.

Alienable possession

Alienable possession refers to things that can be distanced from the possessor, "My briefcase", the briefcase can be removed from the possessor. Marked by Construction state. It does however serve other purposes aswell.

  • Item possession
  • Ownership
  • Domain
  • Mark relation between mass noun and a measure word, "Glass of water"
  • Mark relation between countable nouns and a collective word, "Flock of birds", "Pack of wolves"

See Examples