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Séjour court


Linguistics - Belgium

Research topics


Let’s give hands – and arrows: (in)alienable possession in Amazonian languages and beyond

This project combines the linguistic disciplines of language description and typology and investigates how human cognition and grammar intertwine in a specific area, that of expressing inalienable possession. Its starting point is the observation that structures expressing adnominal possession similar to ‘my hand’ and ‘my arrow’ are coded differently in quite a number of languages, which has been explained in terms of the conceptually different types of possession they involve, viz. inalienable possession (my hand) versus alienable possession (my arrow). That is, many languages formally indicate that entities like arrows can easily shift possessors, while entities like hands cannot. However, adnominal possession is not the only grammatical environment where alienability contrasts turn up.
Earlier research has also pointed to other phenomena, at word-, phrase- and clause-level. A well-known word-level phenomenon is the existence of bound nouns, which are ubiquitous in South American languages, and also occur in Harakmbut, an endangered isolate language spoken in the Peruvian Amazon.
This project has two goals. On the one hand, it seeks to contribute to the description of the Harakmbut language, transcribing and analysing recorded narratives, with a focus on the behaviour of bound nouns as well as classifiers, which have been found to originate in bound nouns. On the other hand, it aims to conduct systematic cross-linguistic pilot studies on inalienability phenomena in grammar surfacing at word-, phrase- and clause-level. More generally then, this project moves forward the documentation of imperilled cultural heritage and advances our current understanding of structural diversity in human language and its relationship with human cognition.

Activities / Resume


An Van linden is associate professor of English language and linguistics at the University of Liège and affiliated researcher in the research unit Functional and Cognitive Linguistics at the University of Leuven, where she obtained her PhD in English linguistics in 2009.

Her doctoral research focused on complementation patterns with modal-evaluative adjectives in English such as essential and appropriate, from a synchronic and diachronic perspective. Before joining the University of Liège in October 2016, she secured several postdoctoral positions, funded by the Research Council of KU Leuven (2009-2010), the Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO) (2010-2014), and the Fund for Scientific Research - FNRS, hosted by the Université catholique de Louvain (UCL) (2015-2016). In the course of these postdoctoral fellowships, she developed a further interest in the domains of mood and modality as well as clause-combining, complementation and insubordination.

In addition, she started documenting and describing Harakmbut, an unclassified language from the Peruvian Amazon, with fieldwork stays in three different Harakmbut communities in the summers of 2010, 2011 and 2016



  • Van linden, An. 2012. Modal adjectives: English deontic and evaluative constructions in diachrony and synchrony [Topics in English Linguistics 75]. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.
  • Van linden, An, Jean-Christophe Verstraete & Kristin Davidse (eds.), in collaboration with Hubert Cuyckens. 2010. Formal evidence in grammaticalization research [Typological Studies in Language 94]. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.


  • Van linden, An. Forthcoming. The diachrony of stance constructions with ‘no’ chance and ‘no’ wonder. Language Sciences.
  • Van linden, An. Forthcoming. Harakmbut. In Patience Epps & Lev Michael (eds.), Amazonian Languages, An International Handbook. Berlin: de Gruyter Mouton.
  • Van linden, An. 2020. Constructional effects of indirect evidential marking in Harakmbut. Functions of Language 27(1): 7–28 [Special issue ‘Notes from the field on perspective-indexing constructions: Irregular shifts and perspective persistence’, edited by Stef Spronck, An Van linden, Caroline Gentens and María Sol Sansiñena].
  • Van linden, An. 2019. Nominalization in Harakmbut. In Roberto Zariquiey, Masayoshi Shibatani & David W. Fleck (eds.), Nominalization in Languages of the Americas [Typological Studies in Language 124], 455–490. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  • Gentens, Caroline, Maria Sol Sansiñena, Stef Spronck & An Van linden (eds.). 2019. Irregular perspective shifts and perspective persistence. Discourse-oriented and theoretical approaches [Special Issue]. Pragmatics 29 (2).
  • D’Hertefelt, Sarah & An Van linden. 2017. Independent conditional clauses with argumentative function in Dutch. Text & Talk 37(5): 587–614.
  • Van linden, An, Kristin Davidse & Lennart Matthijs. 2016. Miracles and mirativity: From lexical it’s a wonder to grammaticalised it’s no wonder in Old English. Leuvense Bijdragen – Leuven Contributions in Linguistics and Philology 99–100: 385–409.
  • Van linden, An. 2015. Comparative modals: (Dis)similar diachronic tendencies. Functions of Language 22 (2): 192–231.
  • Van linden, An & Freek Van de Velde. 2014. (Semi-)autonomous subordination in Dutch: Structures and semantic-pragmatic values. Journal of Pragmatics 60: 226–250.
  • Van der Auwera, Johan, Dirk Noël & An Van linden. 2013. Had better, ’d better and better: Diachronic and transatlantic variation. In Juana I. Marin-Arrese, Marta Carretero, Jorge Arús Hita & Johan van der Auwera (eds.), English Modality: Core, Periphery and Evidentiality, 119–154. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.
  • Van linden, An & Jean-Christophe Verstraete. 2011. Revisiting deontic modality and related categories: A conceptual map based on the study of English modal adjectives. Journal of Pragmatics 43: 150–163.
  • Van linden, An. 2010. The rise of the to-infinitive: Evidence from adjectival complementation. English Language and Linguistics 14 (1): 19–51.
  • Van linden, An. 2010. From premodal to modal meaning: Adjectival pathways in English. Cognitive Linguistics 21 (3): 537–571.
  • Van linden, An & Jean-Christophe Verstraete. 2008. The nature and origins of counterfactuality in simple clauses: Cross-linguistic evidence. Journal of Pragmatics 40: 1865–1895.