A Unified Approach to Reflexivization in Semitic and Romance

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The paper proposes a unifi ed analysis of refl exivization, applicable equally to Semitic languages and to Romance languages. We contrast our account with previous ones that have distinguished between refl exivization of the sort found in Semitic, which is clause-bound, can be the input to nominalization, and is sensitive to the semantics of the verb, and refl exivization of the sort found in Romance which applies across clauses, is not the input to nominalization and is insensitive to the semantics of the verb. Th ese analyses take refl exivization of the Semitic type to be a "lexical" operation, and Romance refl exivization to be a "syntactic" operation, though in both cases, refl exivization is characterized as an operation applying to the thematic roles of the verb. Consonant with the view that all valence changing operations apply to a uniform domain, we argue that refl exivization in Semitic and in Romance can be given a uniform analysis as an operation of exactly the same type in exactly the same local domain. Th e "syntactic" residue found in Romance can be shown not to be refl exivization at all, but to be better analyzed as anaphoric binding. Th e confusion is due to the syncretism between refl exive morphology and reflexive anaphors, in turn the result of a language change whereby pronouns morphologize. We address the issues which have precluded Romance refl exive clitics from being analyzed as anaphors.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)75-105
Number of pages31
JournalBrill's Journal of Afroasiatic Languages and Linguistics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2009 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden.


  • anaphoric binding
  • lexicon
  • reciprocal
  • reflexive
  • reflexivization
  • syntax
  • thematic identification


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