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Wiktionary:Votes/pl-2007-07/Exclusion of possessive case

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Exclusion of Modern English regularly-formed possessive cases from CFIEdit

  • Voting on: The proposed exclusion of entries for Modern English possessive case forms of words formed by the addition of the enclitic ’s or its postsibilant form (such as mother’s and teachers), which are not otherwise idiomatic (as in the cases of Hobson’s choice and McDonald’s, which are idiomatic), from the English Wiktionary. This exclusion does not extend to the irregularly-formed possessive forms of pronouns (such as whose and its). Possessive forms, if necessary, shall be included in nounal (or other) inflexion lines as unlinked emboldened words, as per the example of brother given hereinafter:
    brother (plural brothers, brethren; possessive brother’s)
  • Vote created: Williamsayers79 08:51, 4 July 2007 (UTC)
  • Discussion: Just to update everyone, the wording above should have been more specific. My focus was on excluding Modern English possessives from the CFI. I like Rod's idea of have the option to show possessives using {{en-noun}}. I don't thnik we should have them as entries though since, as stated elsewhere, they are not inflected forms. This vote was not intended to exclude terms such as Hobson's choice since the possessive form is as much a part of that idiom as the words themselves are.--Williamsayers79 13:03, 5 July 2007 (UTC)
    Can anyone point me to the discussion explaining that a Modern English possessive noun is not considered an inflected form? (I don't necessarily disagree, but would like to read the explaination.) Rod (A. Smith) 18:33, 5 July 2007 (UTC)
    I don't remember where exactly the discussion is, but the reason is actually fairly simple: -'s (or its variant -') attaches to an entire nominal phrase, not necessarily to a noun. Examples that demonstrate this include "{the Queen of England}'s son" (not "the Queen of {England's son}"), "{the woman I was talking to}'s husband" (not "the woman I was talking {to's husband}"), and "I can't decide whether to stay or to go; going's advantages over staying are numerous, but all fairly minor." —RuakhTALK 06:06, 6 July 2007 (UTC)

Do we need to start a fresh vote with more specific explanation of the proposal?--Williamsayers79 13:03, 5 July 2007 (UTC)

I shouldn't think so if the vote text is reworded promptly and those who had voted notified of the change. We're still in the first couple of days of the vote. --EncycloPetey 17:40, 5 July 2007 (UTC)
  • I think the example given above is counter to the issue raised; i.e. how to represent inflection lines for terms ending in sibilants (or other such cases where it is not obvious to English-language learners.) How are multiple possessives represented? Would that (modification of the most-used template {{en-noun}}) be a separate vote in and of itself? Considering the regional differences and the various style-guide differences, I'm beginning to be convinced that we actually do need entries for all of these (bot-entered, of course.) --Connel MacKenzie 20:34, 5 July 2007 (UTC)
    Multiple legitimate possessive forms can be represented in a similar way to how multiple verb inflexions are presently represented (with ors and region tags). Style guide and other prescriptions can be explained in usage notes. Modifying {{en-noun}} is implicit in this proposal, but if that runs contraconsensually, another vote can be arranged to hammer it out. † Raifʻhār Doremítzwr 21:14, 5 July 2007 (UTC)
  • Regarding changes to {{en-noun}} - I believe that modifying the template is a good idea to show possessive forms automatically, however this should be handled by an optional parameter since there is not much merit in showing possessive cases for all nouns, just the ones where is likely that they will be of interest to dictionary users e.g. mother, father, William, Janess as they would regularly be used in a possessive context.--Williamsayers79 07:49, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
Is an exception to be made for the pronoun “one’s”?Edit

At 10:35am on the 12th day of July in 2007 (UTC), Raifʻhār Doremítzwr wrote:
A few voters here (namely Beobach, DAVilla, and Ruakh) have asked that an exception be made to allow the possessive pronoun one’s an entry. To reduce our “volume of legislation”, I think it best that this point be concluded during this vote, rather than being dealt with in a pertaining but separate discussion elsewhere (such as in WT:RFD as suggested by Beobach (“…we ought to make an exception for one’s, but if we choose not to revise this vote to make that exclusion, I think we can handle that by voting keep when/if it appears on the RFD page”)). I invite these three named voters to make points to support such an exception here:

The problem with including possessives of nouns and of non-personal pronouns is that English does not actually have possessive forms of such words. In English, the affix -'s (or its variant -') attaches to an entire phrase, not to any specific word. Hence, to include an entry for "everyone's" would be to ignore the fact that the possessive of "everyone I know" is "everyone I know's", not *"everyone's I know"; and to include an entry for "Grandma's" would be to ignore the fact that the possessive of "Grandma and Grandpa" is "Grandma and Grandpa's". The personal pronouns are different, however; we can't take "my" as "me + -'s + mutations", because we can't say *"Grandma and my relationship". With most of the personal pronouns, this difference is made obvious either by the phonology ("my", "thy", "his", "her", "our", "your", and "their" don't even sound like the corresponding personal pronoun + -'s) or by the spelling ("its" and "whose" are pronounced like "it's" and "who's", but written differently). With "one's", however, it's written as though it were a noun or non-personal pronoun; but it's not. You can say "One who honors his ancestors will be honored by his descendants", but not *"One who honors his ancestors' souls' soul will be honored by his descendants." One's is a single word, that's come to be written as though it were a word and a clitic. —RuakhTALK 16:19, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
There is enough qualified support here to where I think this can be handled as a special case in RFD if it comes up. DAVilla 20:52, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
Yes, but this should be dealt with now so that our policy is decided in only one place. Fortunately, a literal reading of the proposal makes it inapplicable to one’s: “The proposed exclusion of entries for Modern English possessive case forms of words formed by the addition of the enclitic ’s or its postsibilant form …” — if, as Ruakh claims, one’s is not formed with that enclitic, but rather otherwise, and only looks as if it were formed thus, then this proposal for exclusion does not apply to the possessive pronoun one’s. :-) † Raifʻhār Doremítzwr 00:57, 14 July 2007 (UTC)
Is The grandfather who honors his ancestors' souls' soul will be honored by his descendants correct? This discussion has mildly confused me, so it's no longer apparent to me. My initial reaction is 'no, it would have to be constructed somewhat periphrastically in each case', ie the soul of [one / the grandfather] who honours his ancestors' souls will be honoured by his descendants. (Then again, I'm not sure how relevant that question is.) Where are our resident Old English experts? — ‘John's’ comes from a {‘Johnes’ + elision}-type phenomenon, so if there was ever a ‘ones’-type word in Old English, to give ‘one's’ after elision, that could clear up (at least etymologically) whether ‘one's’ is formed with the ‘clitic’ (ie, elision of the genitive) or a separate method... — Beobach972 05:24, 15 July 2007 (UTC)


  1.   Support Williamsayers79 08:55, 4 July 2007 (UTC)
  2.   Support Thryduulf 10:46, 4 July 2007 (UTC)
    clarification: I support this being applied to modern English entries only. Thryduulf 20:19, 4 July 2007 (UTC)
    clarification 2: I fully support the revised proposal; I do like the idea of possessives in the inflection line. Although not normally linked, there should ideally be provision in the template to link to those that do have entries (e.g. its), or should these be linked in the derived terms section like idiomatic phrases containing the possessive? Thryduulf 21:03, 5 July 2007 (UTC)
    Well, since words in templates are usually written without linking double brackets, linking could be arranged by the usual method of including such double brackets for those words that require their own entries. † Raifʻhār Doremítzwr 21:07, 5 July 2007 (UTC)
    That was far too simple for me to have thought of... <rolls eyes> Thryduulf 08:03, 6 July 2007 (UTC)
  3.   Support † Raifʻhār Doremítzwr 13:17, 4 July 2007 (UTC)
  4.   Support DAVilla 14:49, 4 July 2007 (UTC) It's a simple matter to enforce a "no possessive-case-of defintions" rule. The possessive case when either or ’s will do, or when it's unclear which is preferred, can be handled as a usage note. However, I would also have supported an option to keep only those pages. DAVilla 15:41, 4 July 2007 (UTC)
    •   Support, provided we're only talking about Modern English, and provided we're not talking about the genitives of personal pronouns (including one's). —RuakhTALK 17:13, 4 July 2007 (UTC)
      With the examples given, I think that was the intent, but I'd like confirmation. DAVilla 17:58, 4 July 2007 (UTC)
      Now confirmed, except that the change to the vote has omitted the possessive of some pronouns (particularly one's) which I think should be included. However, this is a minor point. DAVilla 10:25, 8 July 2007 (UTC)
  5.   Support, provided 1. we're only talking about English; and 2. the possessive form doesn't have a separate meaning of its own (can't think of any good examples now). Widsith 08:40, 5 July 2007 (UTC)
  6.   Qualified support per Widsith (i.e. only English and allowance for separate meanings and perhaps other irregularities). -- Visviva 11:40, 5 July 2007 (UTC)
    Full support for the revised version. -- Visviva 15:01, 7 July 2007 (UTC)
  7.   Support Raifʻhār Doremítzwr's version. (I'd actually prefer that there also be an exception for one's, which is the only personal pronoun that we use the apostrophe in, but whatever. This way is quite fine.) —RuakhTALK 04:09, 6 July 2007 (UTC)
  8.   Support now. bd2412 T 04:20, 6 July 2007 (UTC)
  9.   Support EncycloPetey 07:29, 6 July 2007 (UTC)
  10.   Support — Beobach972 03:23, 7 July 2007 (UTC) (I agree with Ruakh that we ought to make an exception for one's, but if we choose not to revise this vote to make that exclusion, I think we can handle that by voting keep when/if it appears on the RFD page. — Beobach972 03:20, 7 July 2007 (UTC))
  11.   Support Ptcamn 20:05, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
  12.   Support H. (talk) 08:44, 12 July 2007 (UTC) with the following caution: 1) I do not think it is useful to add the possessive form of every noun entry and 2) for certain forms, the entries should be allowed, e.g. when pronunciation is peculiar etc.
    Redrawn, since people have brought me into doubt whether I interpreted the vote correctly. Therefore, my plea would be for our dear Raifhar to clarify the vote by using clear language. Maybe for once you could refrain on your pompous style and use words that the average non-native speaker can understand.
    To summarize: I see no use in including the said entries, but certain cases can be worth their own entry. OTOH, meta:Wiki is not paper. H. (talk) 13:46, 27 July 2007 (UTC)
    1. William Sayers proposed that the display of possessive forms in nounal inflexion lines ought to be dealt with by “an optional parameter”, which would, as you advocate, prevent the addition of “the possessive form of every noun entry”.
    2. This vote would disallow that. However, as I have proposed hereinafter, for counter-intuitively pronounced possessive forms, such pronunciation information ought to be given in the base noun’s entry (by analogy with faux pas). † Raifʻhār Doremítzwr 10:16, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
      The second qualification to this "support" vote means the wording above was misinterpreted. If (2) is a genuine concern of User:Hamaryns (which it seems to be,) then this should be an "oppose" vote. --Connel MacKenzie 08:24, 27 July 2007 (UTC)
  13.   Support We don't need to show possessive forms except in particular cases (such as Jesus' ), and these can easily be handled in a usage note, as has already been suggested. — Paul G 14:19, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
    That is an incorrect assumption. The MW software won't find Jesus on an external search of Jesus' (for example, a link from Wikibooks or Wikipedia) if this vote passes. --Connel MacKenzie 08:15, 27 July 2007 (UTC)
    1. Who would link from a possessive form of anything?
    2. In the same way that the “Did you mean…?” function offers words’ alternative capitalisations, could it not also be relied upon to add an apostrophe and suggest that? † Raifʻhār Doremítzwr 13:24, 27 July 2007 (UTC)
  14.   Supportmsh210 19:51, 16 July 2007 (UTC)


  1.   Oppose Connel MacKenzie 18:22, 4 July 2007 (UTC) I think a blanket prohibition is a mistake. Certainly, the pronunciation is not always obvious. --Connel MacKenzie 18:22, 4 July 2007 (UTC)
    Stronger opposition - no wording change was made for the exception cases, where even native speakers have difficulty (Jesus', etc.) Note: the rewrite includes three or four words that don't seem to even be words in English; it is pointless jargon abuse. --Connel MacKenzie 20:34, 5 July 2007 (UTC)
    What are you blethering on about? What about “Possessive forms, if necessary, shall be included in nounal (or other) inflexion lines as unlinked emboldened words”? –You could stick “Jesus’” et cetera there. Furthermore, for the really weird cases, this proposal says nothing about ruling out the use of usage notes and regional difference tags (such as (US) or (UK)). The tone of the new proposal may be formal, but all of the words used therein are bona fide English ones. Just what is your problem? † Raifʻhār Doremítzwr 21:01, 5 July 2007 (UTC)
    Still only able to resort to personal attacks eh? Your prohibition does preclude valid entries; we don't link shit that doesn't pass WT:CFI. So I can only assume you mean to nominate valid (existing) entries for deletion, as the result of this vote. There certainly is no means to accommodate pronunciation of them, in your scheme. Given your exquisite display of bad faith, my vote has almost no possibility of switching now. Well done. --Connel MacKenzie 04:25, 6 July 2007 (UTC)
    Pride getting in the way of acknowledging the truth again I see. Counterintuitive pronunciations (that is, other than “sum-of-parts” according to the pronunciatory rules given in the entry for “’s”) of possessive forms can be given in the pronunciation section of the word in question (in a manner similar to the way in which the different pronunciations of the singular and plural forms of faux pas are given in its entry). Of course I shall nominate existing possessive-form entries for deletion — where’s the sense in having this vote to exclude new ones if the old ones are allowed to remain? In short, obviously, this poll is intended to have retroäctive effect. † Raifʻhār Doremítzwr 13:46, 6 July 2007 (UTC)
    Can you say anything without a personal attack? I guess not, considering your erroneous arguments presented. No, faux pas is not supposed to have those pronunciations; if it has other pronunciations listed, it is an error. Considering your inability to recognize truth, it is quite amusing to see you claiming that (of all things) as justification for personal attacks. --Connel MacKenzie 15:14, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
    Faux pas is both singular and plural; however, its singular and plural forms are pronounced differently. I believe that the way in which the entry presently gives transcriptions for the different pronunciations is ideal. If you disagree, please propose a way in which the transcriptions of the different pronunciations of morphologically invariant nouns ought to be given. † Raifʻhār Doremítzwr 19:10, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
    I apologize for assuming bad faith - I assumed (when I wrote that) that you had added a nonstandard plural to faux pas. That is a particularly bad example to use in this situation, as our normal rules provide for that situation already. But what you are proposing is quite different. You are proposing including the pronunciation of different spellings on the same page, quite in contrast to existing practice. --Connel MacKenzie 00:51, 14 July 2007 (UTC)
    No problem; I’ve been assuming bad faith on your part quite a bit recently (for which I also apologise), so I can’t really complain. Umm… yes, I am proposing a departure from existing practice, which is why this vote was called. However, I don’t see the problem with this proposal. In any case, as it looks as if it will pass, wouldn’t it be better to try to think of an as-good-as-it-gets solution, rather than decrying a situation which you see as less than ideal? † Raifʻhār Doremítzwr 01:08, 14 July 2007 (UTC)
    Also of note: this "proposal" does not indicate the exact wording changes to WT:CFI suggested. Therefore, all the "support" votes are at best fanciful, at a minimum, misguided. The proposal also relies on changes to {{en-noun}} which may be unworkable — that template has previously been the subject of enormous debate and should not be flippantly presumed to be capable of something it cannot do. --Connel MacKenzie 15:14, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
    Regarding your comments about {{en-noun}}, If when you say it might not be cable of showing the possessives, you are referring to technical constraints then surely it would be a simple matter for someone to produce a mockup to test this - if it turns out not to be possible (which I personally think unlikely) then we will have to find an alternative method of showing the possessives, perhaps via a second template {{en-possessive}}.
    Then why has no one created such a mock-up? --Connel MacKenzie 00:51, 14 July 2007 (UTC)
    I don't know. I haven't done it as I don't have sufficient understanding of the comlpex code, but I can't speak for others. Thryduulf 08:43, 14 July 2007 (UTC)
    Indeed, there has been so much deceptive on-the-fly proposal changing that I doubt any of the changed votes are valid - most seem to indicate that {{en-noun}} changes are a done-deal. You are now suggesting that not only is that not true, but completely orthogonal to those changed votes? --Connel MacKenzie 00:51, 14 July 2007 (UTC)
    Regarding past discussions about the template, I will place a note at template talk:en-noun regarding the potential for this vote to result in changes; as those interested in the template should have that page on their watchlist and may wish to comment here in the light of that.
    I've placed the said note now, and additionally posted a note to the talk page of everyone who has ever edited the template page, or who has edited the template talk page in the past 13 months (the first page of history) drawing their attention to this vote. Thryduulf 17:31, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
    Thank you. I know {{en-verb}} had a quite a few different names originally, but {{en-noun}} had only three or four previous variants. WT:BPA has a lot of discourse on that topic. --Connel MacKenzie 00:51, 14 July 2007 (UTC)
    Thirdly, this vote is not about whether to show possessives in the inflection line via {{en-noun}}, but about whether regular modern English possessive forms should have individual entries or not. If it is determined that they should not, then several people have expressed the opinion that the possessive form should be shown on the headword's entry. Should others express a contrary opinion (which they are free to), then further discussion is warranted. If this vote determines that entries for regular modern English possessive forms are acceptable, then I personally think it would make sense to link to the possessive form's entry from the main entry, either through modification of the {{en-noun}} template or via some other mechanism. Thryduulf 17:09, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
    Actually, without the exact wording mentioned anywhere, I can't say for certain what this vote is for. Presumably it is to go against convention of having separate entries for separate spellings, to prevent from being a universal resource that one can look up any spelling, to check validity. For example, it would be useful to be able to check whether Jesus' or Jesus's is considered valid. This proposal seems to imply that neither one should be returned as valid spellings, from --Connel MacKenzie 00:51, 14 July 2007 (UTC)
    Neither would be returned as entries if this vote passes. If however the supplementary suggestions are implemented, then one would look up Jesus and see from that page what the correct possessive form(s) is/are. This is much the same way as if you do not know what the plural of a word is, e.g. louse, then you look up that word and you can see that the plural is lice or louses, with the definition lines giving details on which plural is applicable for which sense. Thryduulf 08:43, 14 July 2007 (UTC)
      Oppose EncycloPetey 19:27, 4 July 2007 (UTC) Though if the vote were limited to English possessives I would support it. Prohibiting all possessives means we would eliminate all Slavic words ending in -ski, as well as some significantly important Dutch words. --EncycloPetey 19:27, 4 July 2007 (UTC)
    I'm hardly brave enough to do it at the moment, but seeing all the objection, would you care to just go ahead and change the vote and give it a full month rather than watch it die and have to recreate it? I think you and I agree, anyway, but we are interpreting it differently. DAVilla 01:05, 5 July 2007 (UTC)
    As William started the vote, I'll leave it to him to decide how to proceed. I tried to state specifics so that he could modify the desscription of the vote if it came to that. --EncycloPetey 01:51, 5 July 2007 (UTC)
      Oppose Rod (A. Smith) 20:28, 4 July 2007 (UTC) The wording of this vote does not clearly state that the prohibition is on possessive forms of (modern) English nouns only, nor does it allow for exceptions in the case of known irregular (semi-regular?) possessives. Some singular nouns ending in s add only an apostrophe with no extra syllable (examples from Fowler's 2nd Edition: Mars' hill, Venus' Bath, Achilles' thews, Jesus') but most singular nouns ending in s have regular possessives with an extra syllable (also from Fowler's: Charles's Wain, St. James's Street). If we eliminate English possessives as entries, we should show the singular and plural possessive forms via {{en-noun}}. Rod (A. Smith) 20:28, 4 July 2007 (UTC)
      Oppose — Beobach972 21:01, 4 July 2007 (UTC) (Oppose for the reasons Rod and EncycloPetey have outlined. Also, I think Rod's idea to show possessive forms via {{en-noun}} is brilliant, whether we prohibit the entries or not. — Beobach972 21:01, 4 July 2007 (UTC))
    Comment: I assume that the possessive of the plural form was only omitted by error. So, how would château look?
    château (plural châteaus or châteaux, singular possessive château’s, plural possessive châteaus’ or châteaux’)   ? (Note: I'm not referring to the last two forms given, which could also be châteaus’s or châteaux’s, I am referring to the order, wording, etc. However, given those many forms, would it have to be   château (plural châteaus or châteaux, singular possessive château’s, plural possessive châteaus’ or châteaus’s or châteaux’ or châteaux’s)   ?) — Beobach972 21:16, 5 July 2007 (UTC)
    Well, for æsthetic reasons I’d like to see the plural possessive dealt with by the plural noun entry (but I’m not dead against seeing it given in the entry for the singular form too). Otherwise your proposed order seems sensible — I only note that the plurals and possessives ought to be separated by a semi-colon rather than a comma and that whether a listed possessive is singular or plural ought to be indicated by an abbreviation (sg or pl), rather than the full word (singular or plural). † Raifʻhār Doremítzwr 21:25, 5 July 2007 (UTC)
    Sounds like a plan. :) — Beobach972 03:20, 7 July 2007 (UTC)
  2.   Oppose \Mike 22:13, 4 July 2007 (UTC) I have often a very hard time knowing when to use 's and when to use only ' in English; I have repeatedly missed that information in en:wikt. I agree with Rod there. Also, would this suggestion also apply to other languages or not? (edit: I agree with Connel that pronunciation could be useful there)
  3.   OpposeSaltmarsh 04:55, 5 July 2007 (UTC)
    •   Oppose. The vote has now been clarified, and is still too broad for my taste. Firstly, I think an exception needs to be made for the personal pronouns (my, mine, your, etc., plus one's and whose); secondly, it's still not clear to me whether this would cover, say, to's ("the woman I was talking to's son was very annoying"), as it should; and thirdly, an exception should be made for possessives that are used non-possessively outside of idioms, such as Harper's or McDonald's. (I'm not sure if any such currently meet CFI, but if they do, we shouldn't be excluding them just because they're possessives.) —RuakhTALK 18:03, 5 July 2007 (UTC)
  4.   Oppose Robert Ullmann 23:41, 5 August 2007 (UTC) badly written, restarted, clearly not concensus.


#   Abstain bd2412 T 19:45, 5 July 2007 (UTC) I'd like to see a somewhat more narrowly drawn rule - one that specifically excludes possessive cases of common names and nouns (like "bottle's" in "The bottle's cap is too tight"). I suppose there are a few cases where we should be able to include it, but those cases should be clearly defined. Cheers! bd2412 T 19:45, 5 July 2007 (UTC)

  1.   Abstain Rod (A. Smith) 17:08, 7 July 2007 (UTC) The new wording alleviates most of my concerns. I'd prefer to allow entries for irregular possessive nouns (i.e. singular possessives that just add the apostrophe and have the same pronunciation as the lemma), but since those forms are explicitly allowed in the lemma's entry, I withdraw my opposition. Rod (A. Smith) 17:08, 7 July 2007 (UTC)
    The proposal doesn't explicitly allow them in the lemma's entry; one of the proponents suggested a technical method of doing so (which I still believe is not tenable.) --Connel MacKenzie 08:13, 27 July 2007 (UTC)