LINGUIST List 12.3064

Sat Dec 8 2001

Sum: Binding Phenomena

Editor for this issue: Marie Klopfenstein <>


  1. Ahmad R. Lotfi, Reflexivity by surrogacy

Message 1: Reflexivity by surrogacy

Date: Fri, 7 Dec 2001 00:53:18 -0800 (PST)
From: Ahmad R. Lotfi <>
Subject: Reflexivity by surrogacy

Dear linguists,

What follows is a summary of responses to my query 12.2888
concerning anaphors in English and Persian posted on LINGUIST
on Nov 19, 2001 plus a preliminary abstract of the paper
I'm going to write on the phenomena. I invite colleagues to
make further comments on my observations and also on the
abstract itself. In case you are interested in a joint project
on similar phenomena in other languages, please contact me at
<> or <>. I wish to thank
all those who contributed with their judgements and insightful
comments. I also wish to apologise in advance if I've missed
some names or mails.

I. Query

I was interested to know if the phenomenon I call "reflexivity
by surrogacy" occurs in other languages esp. in English or not:

Reflexivity by Surrogacy
 The anaphor is bound to a missing antecedent via a
 surrogate that is semantically a part of the

 Man xodemun-o behtar az digaraan midunam
 I ourselves-DO better than others know-1st-sing.-pres
 (I consider ourselves to be better than others)

In this example, 'man' (I) is the surrogate for the anaphor
'xodemun' (ourselves) without 'maa' (we) being present in the
sentence. This seems to necessitate revising the original
formulation of Principle A of the Binding Theory according
to which anaphors are bound in their local domains.

Then I asked English-speakers to consider the English sentence
(1a) below, which is grammatical:

1.a. We saw ourselves on television.
 (Situation: Two brothers of mine and I see ourselves in
 a news report on television)

My questions:

(1) What should I say in English if my brothers are not with
 me when I watch the news report?

1.b. I saw ourselves on television.

1.c I saw us on television.

(2) How do they say it in other languages?

II. Summary of responses

Jeff Lilly <>:

>To this native speaker of American English, 1.b definitely
>sounds odd. I think "I saw us on television" is much better.
>It would be most natural if I were calling my brothers after
>the show, to let them know what I'd seen.
- --------------
Toby Paff <tobypaffPrinceton.EDU>:

>'I saw us on television' ... precisely the first thing I would
>say in the context you mentioned.
>'I saw ourselves on television' ... I would not say this at all;
>it sounds odd at best. 
- --------------
Jeff Runner <>:

>My (native US English) judgments are that (1c) is highly
>preferred and I doubt anyone would use (1b). I don't know if
>you're familiar with Reinhart & Reuland (1993) but their
>approach to binding *might* give you a way to think about this;
>interestingly, it'll force a different approach for the two
- --------------
Caren Brinckmann <cabrCoLi.Uni-SB.DE>:

>examples from German are somewhat helpful.
>First situation: Two brothers of mine and I see ourselves in
>a news report on television.
>a. Wir haben uns selbst im Fernsehen gesehen.
> we have self in television seen
> ("We saw ourselves on television")
>One can also leave out "selbst", which only puts an emphasis
>on the reflectivity of the sentence:
>b. Wir haben uns im Fernsehen gesehen.
> we have in television seen
> ("We saw ourselves on television")
>I asked a few native speakers of German, but couldn't get a
>general preference. So it seems more like a matter of taste
>whether one prefers a or b.
>Personally, I prefer a, because in German, the reflexive
>pronoun "uns" is often used instead of "einander" ("each
>other"). So one could construct another (but somewhat
>strange) meaning for b:
> "We saw each other on television."
>Second situation: What should I say in German if my brothers
>are not with me when I watch the news report?
>c. Ich habe uns im Fernsehen gesehen.
> I have in television seen
> ?? I have in television seen
>"uns" is a reflexive pronoun as well as a personal pronoun
>(first person plural, accusative or dative). So in principle
>both analyses are possible.
>But if we add "selbst" (which emphasises the reflectivity of
>a sentence), the sentence becomes ungrammatical (or at least
>d. *Ich habe uns selbst im Fernsehen gesehen.
> I have self in television seen
>Therefore, I think that the second reading of c is
- ------------
Lameen Souag <>:

>I'm pretty sure in Arabic only "I saw ourselves" is
>grammatical, but my Arabic intuitions are a bit rusty
>from long-term underuse, so don't take my word for it.
- ------------
Ilhan <>:

>In Turkish, it's okay to say both
>ben televizyon-da bizi gordum
>I television-LOC us-ACC saw
>ben televizyon-da kendimizi gordum
>I TV-LOC ourselves-ACC saw
- ------------
Nathan Sanders <>:

>1.b sounds completely terrible to me. I'm sure someone
>somewhere could say it, but I can't. It almost sounds
>like some sort of overcorrecttion, in the same vein as
>"You can give the resume to myself or the secretary"
>(I hear these sorts of sentences all the time, especially
>from regular people appearing on TV on game shows, reality
>shows, etc.).
>1.c sounds completely grammatical to me. It could be used
>when talking to anyone, including a group that contains the
>other memebsr of "us" (my brothers).
- --------------
Karen Ward:

>I cannot accept either 1.b and 1.c in my dialect (45-year-old
>female, lived in the Portland, Oregon area of the Western USA
>until recently).
>1.b is flat out unacceptable. I can't make it work at all.
>1.c is acceptable to me as an informal utterance, but I'm
>uncomfortable with it for writing or formal speaking. I would
>prefer expressing the idea without reflexives, e.g., "we were
>on TV," or with a singular reflexive, e.g., "I saw myself and
>my bothers on TV."
- --------------
Mariano de Viernay Carles-Tolra:

>I can give you one example of confirmed construction in Spanish:
>"En Suzuka nos vi al m�ximo nivel que jam�s tuvimos."
>"in Suzuka ourselves(reflexive clitic 1rst person plural) saw
>(to see:1rst person singular) at-the highest level that [we]
>ever had (to have:1rst person plural)"
>So it would stand -in my English (?)- for:
>"In Suzuka I saw ourselves at the highest level (of performance)
>that we ever had"
>The example above is the only case that I could find in a corpus of
>more than 200 000 000 millions words of Spanish. I did not find any
>example of a construction like "... vi a nosotros..." (... I
>saw us...) nor "... nos vi a nosotros... " (that would use both
>the reflesive clitic and "us").
>So, as a resume, in Spanish we use a reflexive clitic, equivalent
>in meaning to "ourselves" before the verb
- ------
Ash Asudeh:

>I am of Persian descent, but a native English (rather than
>Farsi) speaker. As such, I have no judgements about the Farsi
>sentence (which is intriguing, as it casts doubt on various
>assertions about binding, particularly those of Chomsky and
>Lasnik (1995)), but the English sentence 1b is ungrammatical
>according to my judgements, while 1c is perfectly grammatical.
>"We saw me on television." is not too good, but I don't find
>it as bad as "I saw ourselves on television."
- ------------
Nino Amiridze <>:
>The same is happaning also in Georgian, my native language.
>1.b. I saw ourselves on television.
>1.c I saw us on television.
>Georgian allows only the 1.b but not 1.c version:
>(2) Georgian
>me chven-i tav-i davinaxe ekran-ze
>I(ERG) our-NOM head-NOM I.saw.him/her/it/them screen-on
>"I saw us on the screen (of the TV)"
>The reflexive is tav- preceded by a possessive pronoun.
> > On the other hand, in Persian (1d and 1e) are both ungrammaticl:
> > 1.d We saw me on television. (Maa man-o dar television didim)
> > 1.e We saw myself on television. (Maa xodam-o ... didim)
> 1.d is ungrammatical. 1.e is very unnatural. No one will
> say that.
- ----------------
Marc Picard:
>In French, you'd have to say Je nous ai vus � la t�l�vision
>(1.c). The equivalent to (1.b), i.e., J'ai vu nous-m�mes �
>la t�l�vision, is ungrammatical.
- ----------------
Goncalo Vilas-Boas:
>The phenomenon you report in Persian exists more or less
>in other languages. This is a case of logophor. You may
>consult a text by Reuland and Reinhart in the volume on
>"Long distance anaphora" edited by Koster and Reuland
>(C.U.Press) and other bibliography indicated there.
>Ana Brito (Portugal) 

III. Paper abstract:

Reflexivity by Surrogacy
Ahmad R. Lotfi
Azad University (Esfahan, IRAN)

Reinhart and Reuland (1993) (henceforth R&R) propose that
a reflexive-marked predicate must be reflexive (Condition A),
and a reflexive predicate must be reflexive-marked (Condition
B). They also make a distinction between two classes of
anaphoric NPs: reflexivising anaphors like the Dutch anaphor
zichself, and nonreflexivising ones like the Dutch zich. The
morphologically complex SELF anaphor reflexivises the predicate
it is an argument of. The morphologically simplex SE anaphor,
on the other hand, requires a long-distant antecedent, hence
not bound to a coargument. If the predicate of a local SE is
lexically reflexive, however, Condition B is not violated as
it does need overt reflexive marking by SELF anymore. Lidz
(2001) argues that the distinction between SELF and SE anaphors
is semantic rather than syntactic. SE anaphors are "pure
reflexives" identical with their antecedents while SELF anaphors
are "near-reflexives" in the sense that they are mere
representations of their antecedents. He proposes Condition R
according to which if the thematic roles of the predicate are
coindexed (lexically reflexive), the predicate will be
semantically reflexive, too (and vice versa). Reuland (2001)
finds Condition R not better than a new primitive condition
added to an already existing version of the binding theory:
no Condition R is needed as his revised Condition B rules out
a sentence in which the predicate is reflexive but not reflexive

Binding data from Modern Persian afford an empirical evaluation
of both R&R's "predicate-centred binding theory" and Lidz's
Condition R.

(1) Man-i xodemuno-I (/*maa-ro) tu television didam.
 (-i and -I "sub-indexed")
 I ourselves-DO/us-DO in television saw-1st-sing.
 "I saw us on television"

(2) U-i be xodeshun-I (/*una) gol-zad. 
 he to themselves/them goal-hit-3rd-sing.
 "He kicked the ball into their own goal"

The anaphors in (1) and (2) cannot be logophoric because each of
them is an argument of the predicate rather than an NP embedded
inside an argument. They must be closer to near-reflexives in
the sense that each of them is an entity related to and similar
to the antecedent but not identical with it. Despite that, in
each case the thematic roles are not coindexed (contra Condition
R) though one is necessarily "sub-indexed" to the other.
Moreover, reflexivity in such cases is not a property of the
predicate either (contra R&R's theory). I hypothesise that in
such cases reflexivity is licensed by surrogacy, that is, in
each sentence the anaphor is bound to a missing antecendent
via a surrogate that is semantically a part of the antecedent.
It is then the semantics of the nominals rather than that of
the predicate that makes such cases reflexive.


Lidz, Jeffrey. 2001. Condition R. Linguistic Inquiry 32:123-140.

Reinhard, Tanya, and Eric Reuland. 1993. Reflexivity. Linguistic
Inquiry 24:657-720.

Reuland, Eric. 2001. Primitives of binding. Linguistic Inquiry
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