The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LingLunch 2/26 - Byron Ahn

Speaker: Byron Ahn (Boston University)
Title: Giving Reflexivity a Voice
Time: Thurs 2/26, 12:30-1:45
Place: 32-D461

Reflexive anaphora is not a homogeneous category whose members are licensed in a single uniform way. This talk highlights the formal properties of Local Subject-Oriented Reflexivity (LSOR), in which a reflexive anaphor’s antecedent must be the local subject. In languages across the world, LSOR is subject to a number of syntactic constraints, and is expressed differently from other types of reflexivity.

I show that the attested range of morphosyntactic configurations for LSOR arise from the same basic structural source. In particular, LSOR derivations involve two atoms of reflexivity:

(i) a semantic reflexivizer (associated with a unique grammatical Voice head, REFL), and
(ii) a reflexive anaphor which syntactic movement (triggered by that same REFL Voice)

Moreover, the same two atoms are reflexivity are active in English. For this reason, English also exhibits the same LSOR/non-LSOR split, though the difference manifests in the prosodic component: LSOR anaphors in English do not bear phrasal stress (while non-LSOR anaphors do). This is derived with a Nuclear Stress Rule based upon syntactic hierarchy (and not linearization) that is couched in a multiple spell-out architecture of grammar (e.g., Cinque 1993 and Zubizarreta 1998).

Local Subject-Oriented Reflexivity is implicated as a central aspect of reflexivity, across languages, and when such a distinction is not entirely (morphologically) apparent, closer investigation can elucidate it. Finally, LSOR, its grammatical properties, as well as its possible morphosyntactic instantiations, simply fall out from the general architecture of Language.