I love Phrasal Clitics

I may have mentioned this before, but I think that its the coolest thing that the English possessive morpheme is a Phrasal Clitic. What does that mean? Well, a typical clitic attaches to a word (Greek students, remember the rules for accents on ειμι?) Yes, that’s a normal or word clitic. A phrasal clitic attaches to an entire phrase. And that’s what the English possessive does:

[The man‘s] hat is brown.

But you say, “Hey wait, isn’t that just attaching to the word man?”

Well, it would appear so initially, but consider the next sentence:

[The husband and wife‘s] car is a Ford.

Here the possessive only attaches to the end of the subject noun phrase. But the next two sentences clinch it:

[The woman who went shopping on Monday‘s] husband stayed home to watch the game.

[The pug with breathing trouble‘s] leash was left outside last night.

Look where the possessive appear in those sentences!

Always at the end of the Noun Phrase.

That’s a phrasal clitic.

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