LINGUIST List 11.1256

Mon Jun 5 2000

Sum: English Reflexives

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Makoto SHIMIZU, Sum:English reflexives

Message 1: Sum:English reflexives

Date: Mon, 5 Jun 2000 11:54:18 +0900
From: Makoto SHIMIZU <>
Subject: Sum:English reflexives

For Query: Linguist 11.1130

I recently asked about English reflexives. I put the original
message here:

- ----------------------------------------------
I've been doing some research on the English reflexives
and came across the following type:

Here the river divides (itself) into two branches.

The meaning of the sentence is, more or less, similar
with or without the reflexive.

I would much appreciate it if you could direct me to
any related references or give me similar examples.
- ----------------------------------------------

Twelve people responded to my posting. I am grateful to all
of them.

Bill Morris argued that my example is that of middle voice,
rather than reflexive deletion. I assume that Bruce Moren
has a similar opinion. In his opinion, it is situated
somewhere in between the transitive and the intransitive
reading...He also gave me the following examples.

	John broke the machine.
	The machine broke.
	The machine broke itself.

	The girl rolled the boy downhill.
	The boy rolled downhill.
	The boy rolled himself downhill.

	The nurse moved the patients across the room.
	The patients moved across the room.
	The patients moved themselves across the room.

	The woman closed the door.
	The door closed.
	The door closed itself.

	The woman opened the door.
	The door opened.
	The door opened itself.

Bruce feels that my example is related to "ergative verbs"
or "ergative predicates". Michael Lewis too argued that
the case is not reflexive deletion but a question of agency
 -- or, in Halliday's terms, ergativity. He directs me to:

M.A.K. Halliday (1974): An Introduction to Functional Grammar
 (2nd edition), London: Edward Arnold

Mariangela Spinillo claimed that the reflexive cannot be
syntactically dropped since the verb 'divide' is transitive.

Jasper Holmes thinks that without the reflexive the following
example is ambiguous:

_Mark shaves (himself)._
_Mark and Tony have the barbers on the High Street.
Mark shaves and Tony does the hair._

Jasper recommended:

Levin 1993, _English verb classes and alternations_.

Susan Fischer gave me examples such as:

Shave/shave oneself
bathe/bathe oneself

As for expressions like behave (oneself), adjust (oneself)
etc, Raphael Salkie suggested me that I see:

K. Schibsbye, A modern English grammar (2nd edn.). Oxford,
OUP, 1970. Pp.198-200.

It seems to Hans Boas that the reflexive in my example "is
used as an emphatic (?) reflexive that serves some sort of
discourse function to make the speaker aware of something
important (emphasis)."

Alex Kravchenko mentioned his paper:

"The reflexive mystery: redundancy or functionalism?" in
"Philologicheskiye Nauki" (Philological Science). - 1995,
#4. - Moscow, Vysshaya Skola Publishers.

It's written in Russian, but it has an English reference list.

As for data searching, Gerald Nelson recommended the British
component of the International Corpus of English (ICE-GB).

Hans Boas recommended a search engine written by professor

Fernando Bermudez gave me similar examples in Spanish.
Johanna Laakso pointed out that there is a similar phenomenon
in Finnish, too.

Again, I would like to thank those who responded to my posting.

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