Note that the s-genitive is realized with case marking (clitic 's or possessive pronoun1) rather than a preposition, and the case-marked NP in the s-genitive alternates with the object of the preposition in the of-genitive. (This may feel unintuitive: annotators looking at the s-genitive construction are often tempted to focus on the role occupied by the head noun rather than the case-marked noun.)
The s-genitive and of-genitive are particularly associated with Possessor (which applies to a canonical form of possession) and the more general category Gestalt; both supersenses are illustrated above #001, #003. In addition, both genitive constructions can mark participant roles and other kinds of relations, including Whole and SocialRel relations. When the s-genitive is used, the function is always either Gestalt (most cases) or Possessor (when the possession is sufficiently canonical). While overlapping in scene roles with the s-genitive, of is considered compatible with some additional functions, including Whole, Source, and Theme; thus of-genitives with such roles do not need to be construed as Gestalt or Possessor:
The literature on the genitive alternation examines the factors that condition the choice of construction; important factors include the length and animacy of the possessed NP. In addition, of participates in certain constructions that are not really possessives—e.g. this sort of sweater (Species).
Some difficult cases are clarified below.
In relation to an act of travel, the person is treated as a (possibly non-volitional) participant in a motion event. Otherwise, a person in relation to an associated place is Gestalt.
Cannot readily be paraphrased with their because children is not referential, but rather refers to a kind. This construction has been termed the descriptive genitive (Quirk et al., 1985, pp. 322, 327–328). ↩