How is this feature instantiated?

In French there are two ways of indicating possession, one with the preposition ‘de’ and another with the preposition ‘a’. So one can say the book is Jean’s by le livre est de Jean or le livre est a Jean. The difference is that the first distinguishes ownership, i.e. Jean’s as opposed to Pierre’s. The second establishes or defines ownership, i.e. the book is Jean’s i.e. Jean has a book, this book.
As I read up on this, it recalled to me the Latin distinction between the genitive case and the dative case to indicated possession, the former distinguishing who owns something and the latter establishing ownership. This is why you say in Latin mihi nomen est Pat – to me the name is Pat b/c I’m not distinguishing who has the name Pat, I am labeling the person Pat.

This sparks interest that some languages make such distinctions and some don’t. To me, this is a semantic concept floating in one language which changed over centuries into another language and this concept was passed on . The intriguing question to me is how was this done since the morphological instantiation of this concept is entirely different between the two languages. Latin is a case language using the two cases to make this distinction in types of possession but French uses two different prepositions, de and a. The a no doubt derives from Latin ad. As far as I know, there is no use of ad comparable to the use of French a. (I should research that – ad me, ad te, ad Caesarem, etc.) So the inchoate French brought over the idea of two different sorts of possession but then instantiated it a quite different morphological manner. So where was this concept during the transition? In someone’s head? In the ether?

A note on usage: the word ‘instantiate’ is not common and I like what it can do. However, in looking in several on-line dictionaries I did not find definitions that fit how I am using it except in Merriam-Webster: “to represent (an abstraction) by a concrete instance. And notice that ‘instance’ is a form of the verb instantiate. But M-W highlight

Oxford offers: “(of a universal or abstract concept) be represented by an actual example.” I like that one, too. But in both of these, the ‘actual example’ and ‘concrete instance’ is a little weak b/c what I mean is it is manifested. Drawing also from French, I would compare it to liaison in which a final consonant goes unpronounced until it precedes a word beginning with a vowel [in a constrained set of cases]. As I wrote elsewhere, where does an illiterate French speaker learn to produce or ‘pop up’ that consonant? But the comparison is not too good b/c the liaison case probably has a well-established track back through time whereas I see a break between the Latin case system and the French prepositional phrase.


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