Chapter

A new perspective on the historical development of English intensifiers and reflexives

Uffe Bergeton and Roumyana Pancheva

in Grammatical Change

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199582624
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731068 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199582624.003.0006
A new perspective on the historical development of English intensifiers and reflexives

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This chapter gives an innovative account of a distinctive property of the reflexive paradigm in English within Germanic: the absence of morphologically simplex reflexives like German sich, Dutch zich. It argues that the complex pronoun+self pattern in English originates from the combination of a null pronoun plus the intensifier pro+self: [Ø [pro+self ]]. The spread of this intensified pattern was propagated through ‘anti-reflexive’ predicates, which pragmatically disfavour reflexive complements, such as threaten, afflict. Anti-reflexive predicates required intensified reflexives, while corpus searches in Old and Middle English show that inherently reflexive predicates did not, supporting the claim that the pro+self pattern spread from the former source.

Keywords: simplex reflexives; Germanic; null pronoun; intensifiers; anti-reflexive predicates

Chapter.  5837 words. 

Subjects: Historical and Diachronic Linguistics

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