There are, in general, three ways to indicate possession in latin (or greek). The genitive, dative (in mihi est constructions) and the verb "to have." The proto-language from which latin and greek are both derived from lacked a verb for have, and each language (e.g. Hittite, Sanskrit, Old Irish, Gothic, Latin, Greek, etc) developed a verb seperately. Both Latin and Greek metaphorically mapped the concept of "holding" (greek echo, latin habeo) onto the conceptualization of possession.
The lack of a verb for possession in proto-indo-european has led many linguists to theorize that at one point the proto-language was typologically "active/stative" in structure, meaning it lacked transitivity as a feature. As "to have" is by its very nature transitive, an "active" language could not have such a verb. A common way for active languages to express possession is through a stative verb like (to be) and matching an inanimate noun with an animate (e.g. latin manus mihi est). The dative of possession is seen as a syntactic remnant from the "active" stage of pre-indo-european. On this topic, see especially Lehmann's The Theoretical Bases for Indo-European Linguistics, Bauer's Archaic Syntax in Indo-European: The Spread of Transitivity from Latin to French, Gamkrelidze & Ivanov's Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans, Drinka's chapter in Language change and typological variation "Alignment in Early Proto-Indo-European," and various papers by Lehmann and Klimov.
Last edited by oberon
on Wed Oct 14, 2009 5:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.