Inalienable possession in Iquito (Zaparoan): a frequency analysis

Cynthia I. A. Hansen


The differential marking of alienable and inalienable possession has been attributed to iconicity, under the assumption that items that are conceptually close will have less linguistic distance (e.g. Haiman 1983). Haspelmath (2008) argues against iconicity, claiming instead that the coding asymmetry can be explained by an economy approach. This paper looks at the marking of inalienable possession in Iquito, a Zaparoan language of the northern Peruvian Amazon, and presents data in favor of Haspelmath's analysis, by showing that the shorter, more cohesive forms found with inalienably possessed nouns are better explained by frequency of use than by iconicity.

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