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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: May 2013

2 - Reflexivity and reflexive marking

Summary

Reflexive markers are expressions such as English myself, yourself, himself, and herself. As English reflexive markers are highly polysemous and compete with other expressions in the reflexive domain, we will distinguish very carefully between reflexive markers as form types and reflexive relations as a semantic concept. We will provide an overview of reflexive markers and reflexive relations in Section 2.1. This overview is based on well-known facts taken from the standard varieties. These will be contrasted with observations from non-standard varieties in Section 2.2, where we find astonishing differences both in terms of form and function. Our cross-linguistic comparison in Section 2.3 will provide a frame of reference for the interpretation of the observed phenomena.

Overview

We may define reflexive relations as the co-indexation of two constituents in a simple clause. In the typical case these constituents are the two arguments of a transitive predicate, i.e. subject and object. Co-indexation means that the two constituents are interpreted as referentially identical – they point to the same referent. In English we can use expressions such as himself to achieve this kind of co-indexation. Let us call the constituent that is co-indexed with the reflexive marker its ‘antecedent’. A typical example is shown in (1). We may indicate co-indexation by a subscript letter, or by listing the antecedent in brackets behind the reflexive expression.

(1) a. Johni sees himselfi in the mirror.

b. John sees himself (= John) in the mirror.

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Further reading
Gast, Volker and Siemund, Peter. 2006. Rethinking the relationship between self-intensifiers and reflexives. Linguistics 44(2). 343–81.
König, Ekkehard and Siemund, Peter. 2000c. The development of complex reflexives and intensifiers in English. Diachronica 17. 39–84.
Siemund, Peter. 2000. Intensifiers: A Comparison of English and German. London: Routledge.
Siemund, Peter. 2002. Reflexive and intensive self-forms across varieties of English. Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik 50(3). 250–68.
Siemund, Peter. 2003. Varieties of English from a cross-linguistic perspective: Intensifiers and reflexives. In Mondorf, Britta and Rohdenburg, Günter (eds.), Determinants of Grammatical Variation, 479–506. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Webelhuth, Gert and Dannenberg, Clare J.. 2006. Southern American English personal datives: The theoretical significance of dialectal variation. American Speech 81(1). 31–55.