Possessive antecedents

on the Possessive Antecedent Proscription (PAP)

extensive discussion in the handout for my 2005 ADS paper “Toni Morrison’s genius puts her in the grammar/usage spotlight”:

Click to access adshand.pdf

otherwise, start with this posting:

10/11/09: Just In: NYT Violates PAP!:
example: Astor’s Son is Convicted of Stealing From Her

PAP is a fictitious principle of English usage/grammar that bars possessive-marked nouns as antecedents for personal pronouns
a product of three bad ideas:
— (1) the idea that pronouns are simply replacements for repeated nouns (“That’s why they’re called pronouns, dummy!”);
— (2) the idea that possessive-marked nouns are adjectives (because they modify — in some sense of modify — nouns), so of course — see (1) — they can’t serve as antecedents for pronouns; and
— (3) the idea that if a linguistic element can in some way contribute to difficulty in understanding, ambiguity, unclarity, or awkwardness, then it should always be barred.

other postings, in chronological order:

GP, 10/5/03: Menand’s acumen deserts him:
on the PSAT example Toni Morrison’s genius enables her to create novels that arise from and express the injustices African Americans have endured and Menand’s labeling it a grammatical error

AZ, 10/8/03: Louis Menand’s pronouns:
PAP violations in Menand’s book The Metaphysical Club

AZ, 10/21/03: Grammaticality, anaphora, and all that:

>Can a sentence be ungrammatical in isolation, but grammatical in context? In an exchange of e-mail with me, Louis Menand suggests that this is the case for the now-famous example Toni Morrison’s genius enables her to…

Menand proposes that if there’s a previous mention, PAP violations are merely “technically” solecisms

AZ, 10/23/03: In search of the fimpossant:
first-mention possessive antecedent (“fimpossant” for short) in an issue of The New Yorker

AZ, 2/20/06: Collateral damage:
Garner’s Dictionary of Modern American Usage (Oxford, 2003) invoking PAP

AZ, 5/22/08: More theory trumping practice:
version of PAP in Lauri Rozakis’s Complete Idiot’s Guide to Grammar and Style (2nd ed.)

ML, 4/15/12: Skipping the rat:
connection between “dangling modifier” examples and the PAP

10/20/12: Possessive controller for SPAR:
more on “dangling modifiers” (X-SPARs in my terminology) and the PAP

10/29/18: Motherhod and stupid PAP:
on: This mother took her children’s phones and shot them to teach them a lesson!

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