Date: Tue, 4 Nov 1997 13:28:05 EST


Subject: Re: reflexives

In connection with the below:

Just a short observation, since the long answer would take a dissertation (or

two): grammarians find it useful to distinguish reflexives from other

anaphoric expressions on formal grounds. In English, reflexives all have the

form "X-self"; other (pronominal) expressions may occur in the same syntactic

frame with the same referential interpretation (i.e., as coreferential to the

antecedent), but are not reflexive if they do not have the "X-self" shape.

That way we can talk about whether a given speaker or a given dialect allows or

requires a reflexive in a context like "I'm gonna get {me/myself} a beer" or

"John complained to me about that story about {him [= John]/himself}".

Briefly, reflexives and non-reflexive pronouns tend to show up in comple-

mentary distribution (where you get one, you don't get the other) as markers of

coreference, the distinction defined by whether the anaphor and antecedent are

in the same minimal domain, e.g. within the same clause (I shaved {myself/*me},

I want you to shave {me/*myself}). But various other semantic and stylistic

factors play a role as well, as the cases below (and the variation governing

them) show. A recent discussion in American Speech is worth consulting:

Parker et al. (1990), "Untriggered reflexive pronouns in English", Am. Sp.

65: 50-69. Hope this helps.

----------------------------Original message----------------------------

In a message dated 11/2/97 3:15:45 PM, you wrote:

In response to the request for information concerning dialect differences

and reflexives, I can say that I've certainly found people from my region

(Memphis) and maybe from the South in general to use reflexives in more

contexts and sometimes in more forms than people from other regions of

this country. I myself frequently say things like "Get you some," "I'm

gon eat me a ton of X tonight," or "Order you whatever you want," where

speakers of a different dialect might not have a reflexive at all or else

might have yourself or myself instead of me or you. These are my

perceptions, but I don't know of any references on the subject.

Carrie Leigh Crockett

Sociolinguistics, Georgetown


I have noticed this too.... Michael Lane, a southerner from Arkansas, might

say, "fix you some greens?" Is that what you mean? Since I am not a trained

linguist, I am interested in knowing how you define a reflexive. Any short

answers on that subject appreciated.