One self only
Isabelle Charnavel, Dominique Sportiche
May 2024

Versions 2 and Versions 3: minor mistakes in v1 corrected. English or French self-forms (her-self / elle-même) can be anaphors (and logophors) or intensifiers, a common crosslinguistic synchronic pattern (Gast and Siemund 2006), with well documented cases of diachronic genesis (König and Siemund 2005) suggesting that this pattern is non-accidental. In addition, English self and cognates in other languages (but not French même) can be prefixed to predicates (e.g., self-immolate) with correlated interpretive effects. Chomsky’s 1986 binding theory or Charnavel and Sportiche (2016) fails to explain why anaphors are anaphors, why e.g. there is a condition A they are subject to, and does not address the relation between reflexives and intensifiers. Alternatives (Cresswell 1973, Reuland 2011, Lechner 2012, Sauerland 2013, McKillen 2016) do try to address some of these questions but are unsatisfactory (see Sportiche 2022b). Unlike most previous work (but like Browning 1993, e.g.), we start from the requirement that a single lexical entry for self is to be postulated that organically explains the dual use of self-forms as reflexives and as intensifiers, and all their properties: we propose a lexical entry for self/même, attempting, in interaction with independent principles, to derive (i) why self forms like herself are anaphoric (or logophoric) reflexives, (ii) why they are subject to Condition A of the Binding Theory, (iii) why the reflexive interpretations of self predicates and of pronominal reflexives systematically differ, particularly in attitudes contexts, (iv) why they are used as intensifiers, (v) why qua intensifiers, they display particular distributional restrictions and interpretations (cf. e.g. Eckardt 2001, Gast 2006, Ahn 2010). The central idea is that self is a binary predicate with two arguments α and the pronoun β, and, as standard, a (quasi) identity function on its first argument (self (β ) ≈ β ). Relativizing α yields intensification; Moving it to a θ position yields reflexivization. In principle, this analysis extends to a wide variety of languages displaying the same homophony, and provides natural grounds for treating `Case Copying Reflexive’ found in languages like Malayam or Telugu (see Jayaseelan 1996, Messick and Ragotham 2024)
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/008118
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: NELS 53: Proceedings of the Fifty-Third Annual Meeting of the North East Linguistic Society
keywords: reflexives, intensifiers, anaphors, binding theory, condition a, semantics, syntax
previous versions: v2 [May 2024]
v1 [May 2024]
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