Verbal strategies for expressing reciprocity – the case of Hebrew

Elitzur A. Bar-Asher Siegal*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper delves into the semantics of the reciprocal construction recognized in the literature as “verbal” or “lexical” reciprocals. A common assumption is that predicates of this construction inherently encode a symmetric meaning, often marked morphologically in many languages. This paper advocates for a crucial distinction between two types of predicates: rec-predicates (e.g., the Hebrew verb hitnašek ‘kiss’) – a class of predicates that do not inherently denote symmetry but carry an underspecified meaning, so that in specific defined contexts, they can induce a symmetric reading. In contrast, sym-predicates (e.g., the Hebrew attribute zehe ‘be identical’) – this class of predicates inherently encodes symmetric relations. Drawing upon Winter’s (2002) typology of verbs, it is posited that rec-predicates are dyadic, taking two atoms as their arguments, while sym-predicates are monadic, with a single argument denoting a set. The analysis in this paper adopts Bar-Asher Siegal’s (2020) methodology for identifying strategies expressing reciprocity and is substantiated with a survey of the various syntactic structures in which the relevant predicates manifest, along with their diverse interpretations. The paper critically examines previous analyses of these predicates, scrutinizing both empirical and theoretical challenges encountered by these analyses. With a specific focus on verbal strategies for expressing reciprocity in Hebrew, the study, informed by the shared characteristics identified in previous research, suggests that the conclusions drawn for Hebrew may be applicable to other languages as well.

Original languageAmerican English
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2024

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