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There has been a debate about a sentence in the PSAT test. The sentence is:

"Toni Morrison's genius enables her to create novels that arise from and express the injustices African Americans have endured."

Could the pronoun her be used to refer to the adjective, Toni Morrison's? .Do you think that this sentence is a gramatical glitch?

You can read the entire news at

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A51947-2003May13.html

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Wouldn it be better to rewrite the sentence as

"The genius of Toni Morrison enables her to create novels that arise from and express the injustices African Americans have endured."?

Do you think it is logical to call a possessive noun "Toni Morrison's" an adjective?

If it is an adjective, why it doesn't have a comparative and superative forms?...Just wonder.
Promega X's suggested version,

"The genius of Toni Morrison enables her to create novels that arise from and express the injustices African Americans have endured."

...with its unequivocal (proper) noun "Toni Morrison," would satisfy the fussiest grammarian.

Traditional grammar calls "Toni Morrison's" a "possessive adjective." Modern linguistic grammars call it the "possessive or genitive form of the noun."

The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language* does state that the subjective form of the pronoun may not be used to refer to a possessive noun:

?Without the support of Ann's mother, she would not have survived (not correct)

The same source, however, presents the following utterance as a (correct) example of reference using the objective form of the pronoun:

Without the support of Ann's mother, I wouldn't have been able to persuade her to seek medical help (Section 2.4.1, p. 1478)

This is the same usage as in the PSAT sentence. The English teacher who objected to this use was apparently not aware that modern grammars accept it as standard.

Does a word need to have a comparative and a superlative form to be an adjective? The test of an adjective is not whether it has a comparative and a superlative form. True, most adjectives are gradable, and can have a comparative and superlative form: something can be long, longer, or the longest of a set. But absolute adjectives like medical (treatment), economic (adviser), pregnant (women), or mental (calculations) do not have comparative or superlative forms.

Marilyn Martin

*Cambridge University Press, 2002
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Fikrat writes:

"Toni Morrison's (to me) is not an adjective, it's a proper noun in the Genitive case."

Yes, that's what is in the posting above. Here it is, again:

Traditional grammar calls "Toni Morrison's" a "possessive adjective." Modern linguistic grammars call it the "possessive or genitive form of the noun." (italics added)

Marilyn Martin
Last edited {1}

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