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foreign language study, French, possessive adjectives


It is well-known to anyooone involved in the pursuit of foreign language study that possessive adjectives serve to express a variety of relationships which are often far removed from the basic notion of possession. A Frenchman calls "his" not only the things he owns (ma maison, ma voiture, mes livres, mon argent) and the ingredients that constitute the physical, mental or moral make-up of his personality (ma vigueur, ma bonté, mon intelligence, mon calme, etc.), but he also extends his ownership, as it were, to the circle of people he comes into contact with and to a variety of concepts that together form "his world." Whether he displays an immoderate desire to own when using a possessive mon would be a choice topic for a psychologist to unravel. It will suffice at this point to merely hint at the numerous shades of meaning implied in such statements as ma femme, ma maîtresse, mes amis, mes collègues, mon général, not to mention ma maladie where the roles of possessor vs. possessed seem to have been inverted. These semantic variables need not command our attention, as they are part and parcel of each person's intuitive Sprachgefühl. Instead, it is my intention to devote these few lines to the examination of the syntax of the possessives in the language of the troubadours. By delimiting the problem in this manner, I hope to be able to achieve two goals: to show how truly versatile the possessives are and to throw light on a few selected passages in the earliest poetry of Europe.