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2.5.2. Inherently reflexive verbs

This section is devoted to inherently reflexive verbs, that is, fixed collocations of verbs and simplex reflexives like the third person pronoun zich. Prototypical examples are the collocations zich schamen'to be ashamed' and zich vergissen'to be mistaken' in the primeless examples in (549). The primed examples show that in these prototypical cases the reflexive pronoun cannot be replaced by any other element: replacement of zich by a complex reflexive like zichzelf'himself' or a referential expression like Marie gives rise to an ungrammatical result.

Example 549
a. Jan schaamt zich.
  Jan shames  refl
  'Jan is ashamed.'
b. Jan vergist zich.
  Jan mistakes  refl
  'Jan is mistaken.'
a'. * Jan schaamt zichzelf/Marie.
  Jan shames  himself/Marie
b'. * Jan vergist zichzelf/Marie.
  Jan mistakes  himself/Marie

Note in passing that examples like Jan schaamt/vergist zich zelf, with contrastive accent on zelf, are possible. Such cases do not involve the complex reflexive pronoun zichzelf, but the simplex reflexive zich, which is strengthened by the contrastive element zelf'himself', which can also be used with referential noun phrases; see Section N5.2.3.2, sub V for more discussion.
      The contrast between the examples in (549) and (550) show that the selectional properties of inherently reflexive verbs crucially differ from verbs taking a nominal or prepositional complement.

Example 550
a. Jan zag zichzelf/Marie/*zich op televisie.
  Jan saw  himself/Marie/refl  on television
b. Jan gaf zichzelf/Marie/*zich graag cadeautjes.
  Jan gave  himself/Marie/refl  gladly  presents
c. Jan wachtte op zichzelf/Marie/*zich.
  Jan waited  for himself/Marie/refl

The impossibility of using a simplex reflexive in object position or as part of a PP-complement might suggest that simplex reflexives cannot be used in argument position, but the examples in (551) show that this is wrong; zich clearly functions as an argument in these examples, given that it is used in the same function and position as the referential noun phrase Marie.

Example 551
a. Jan gooide [SC zich/Marie in het water].
  Jan threw  refl/Marie  into the water
b. De hond legde [SC het bot naast zich/Marie].
  the dog  put  the bone  next.to  refl/Marie
c. Jan liet [Clause mij op zich/Marie schieten].
  Jan let  me  at refl/Marie  shoot
  'Jan let me shoot at him/Marie.'

The contrast between the examples in (550) and (551) can be accounted for if we assume that simplex reflexives can be used in argument position as long as they are not bound by a co-argument. We will refer to this generalization as the no co-argument restriction on binding of simplex reflexives; see Section N5.2.1.5, sub III, for a more detailed discussion. The examples in (550) are ungrammatical with zich because zich and its antecedents are both selected (assigned a thematic role) by the main verb. The examples in (551), on the other hand, are acceptable because zich and its antecedent are selected by different lexical heads. In (551a), for example, zich is the external argument of the complementive in het water and is thus not a co-argument of its antecedent Jan, which is the external argument of the verb gooien'to throw'. And in (551b&c), the reflexive zich satisfies the no co-argument restriction because it is selected as the complement of, respectively, an adpositional head of a predicative PP and an embedded main verb.
      The observation that simplex reflexives cannot be bound by a co-argument has led to the suggestion that the element zich in inherently reflexive constructions like zich schamen is actually not an argument of the verb, but a reflexivity marker; see Everaert (1986) and Reinhart & Reuland (1993). If so, the no co-argument restriction will be satisfied by definition. That something like this may well be the case might be supported by the fact that the English renderings of the inherently reflexive constructions in (552a&b) do not require the expression of a reflexive; this would follow if the English reflexivity marker is phonetically empty.

Example 552
a. Jan wast zich.
  Jan washes  refl
b. Jan scheert zich.
  Jan shaves refl
a'. Jan is washing.
b'. Jan is shaving.

      We conclude these introductory remarks by mentioning two complications in the discussion of inherent reflexivity. The first complication will become immediately apparent when we compare the examples in (552) to those in (553); the fact that verbs wassen/to wash and scheren/to shave can also be combined with a complex reflexive or a referential expression shows that certain verb forms can be used both as an inherently reflexive and as a regular transitive verb.

Example 553
a. Jan wast zichzelf/Marie.
  Jan washes  refl/Marie 
b. Jan scheert zichzelf/Peter.
  Jan shaves himself/Peter
a'. Jan is washing himself/Marie.
b'. Jan is shaving himself/Peter.

Another complication is that the term inherent reflexivity is often used as an umbrella term for a large set of verbs and constructions that only have in common that a simplex reflexive must be used; we will discuss this in Subsection I and argue there that many alleged cases of inherent reflexivity are better analyzed as non-inherently reflexive constructions with a simplex reflexive in argument position. After that we can continue in Subsection II, with a more detailed discussion of the genuine cases of inherent reflexivity; this subsection will focus especially on the syntactic function of the simplex reflexive in these constructions, subsection III concludes with a discussion of a number of special cases.

[+]  I.  On the notion of inherent reflexivity

The notion of inherent reflexivity is often used as an umbrella term for a set of constructions that share the property that a simplex reflexive is obligatorily used. This subsection shows, however, that a number of cases normally subsumed under inherent reflexivity are in fact constructions in which the simplex reflexive occupies an argument position, and in which the obligatory use of the simplex reflexive is a reflection not of some syntactic property of the construction as such, but of our knowledge of the world.
      Consider the examples in (554), which all contain an adjectival complementive. If the simplex reflexive functions as the subject of the complementive, we expect two things: (i) the reflexive is an argument and can therefore be replaced by a referential noun phrase like Marie, and (ii) since the reflexive is an external argument of the adjective, the no co-argument restriction allows it to be bound by the subject of the clause. Example (554a) behaves exactly as predicted, but the examples in (554b&c), which have the exact same structure, are problematic.

Example 554
a. Hij eet [SC zich/Marie arm].
  he  eats  refl/Marie  poor
  'He makes himself/Marie poor by eating so much.'
b. Hij steelt [SC zich/$Marie rijk].
  he  steals  refl/Marie rich
c. Hij steelt[SC $zich/Marie arm].
  he  steals   refl/Marie  poor

The difference between (554a) and (554b&c) seems natural, however, when we take our knowledge of the world into account. Since one need not necessarily pay for one's own food, eating too much may result in high costs either for oneself or for someone else; this accounts for the fact that (554a) can be either reflexive or non-reflexive. The act of stealing, on the other hand, normally results in profit to oneself and loss to someone else, and this may account for the weirdness of the non-reflexive version of example (554b) and the reflexive version of example (554c). If this account for the distribution of reflexive/referential phrases in (554) is tenable, we can conclude that, from a syntactic point of view, there is nothing interesting going on in these examples.
      A similar line of reasoning may account for the "inherently reflexive" nature of the resultative constructions in (555), which all have a more or lesss idiomatic flavor. The activities denoted by the verbs in (555) may affect the mental or physical state of the person undertaking these actions, but not those of some other person; drinking, for example, does not make somebody else drunk.

Example 555
a. Hij werkt [SC zich/$Marie suf].
  he  works  refl/Marie  dull
  'He works himself to death.'
b. Hij drinkt [SC zich/$Marie zat].
  he  drinks  refl/Marie  drunk
  'He drinks such that he gets very drunk.'
c. Hij schrijft [SC zich/$Marie lam].
  he  writes  refl/Marie  lame
  'He writes until heʼs stiff.'
d. Hij rent [SC zich/$Marie rot].
  he  runs  refl/Marie  bad
  'He runs himself to the ground.'

Another case involves the verb voelen'to feel' in (556). Since this verb expresses here that the agent performs some introspective activity as the result of which he attributes some property to himself, the subject of the secondary predicate will necessarily be co-referential with the agent.

Example 556
a. Jan voelt [SC zich/$Marie ziek].
  Jan feels  refl/Marie  ill
  'Jan is feeling sick.'
b. Jan voelde [SC zich/$Marie genoodzaakt te verdwijnen].
  Jan felt  refl/Marie  obliged  to disappear
  'Jan felt obliged to disappear.'
c. Jan voelt [SC zich/$Marie een held].
  Jan feels  refl/Marie  a hero
  'Jan is feeling like a hero.'

More cases that may be susceptible to a similar explanation are given in (557), albeit that the actions denoted by the verbs are less well specified; examples like these can be used if there is a certain amount of shared knowledge between the speaker and the addressee about the actions performed by the agent Jan, if the speaker specifies these actions later in the discourse, or if the precise nature of these actions is not considered important.

Example 557
a. Jan toonde [SC zich/$Marie bereid weg te gaan].
  Jan showed  refl/Marie  willing  away  to go
  'Jan made it clear that he was willing to leave.'
b. Jan maakte [SC zich/$Marie druk over zijn werk].
  Jan made  refl/Marie  busy  about his work
  'Jan bothered about his work.'
c. Jan maakte [SC zich/$Marie uit de voeten].
  Jan made  refl/Marie  from the feet
  'Jan fled.'
d. Jan toonde [SC zich/$Marie een slecht verliezer].
  Jan showed  refl/Marie  a bad loser
  'Jan turned out to be a bad loser.'

The examples in (555)-(557) are "inherently reflexive" constructions of the same syntactic type; they all involve cases in which the simplex reflexive functions as the subject of an embedded predicate. Another syntactic type is illustrated by the more or lesss idiomatic examples in (558); in these examples the simplex reflexive also satisfies the no co-argument restriction on binding given that it is the complement of a complementive PP and thus not a co-argument of its antecedent, which functions as the external argument of the main verb.

Example 558
a. Marie heeft [SC dat leven achter zich] gelaten.
  Marie has  that life  behind  refl  let
  'Marie has passed that stage of her life.'
b. Marie neemt [SC de verantwoordelijkheid op zich].
  Marie takes  the responsibility  on refl
  'Marie takes on the responsibility.'
c. Zij schoven [SC de verantwoordelijkheid van zich] af.
  they  shoved  the responsibility  from refl  prt.
  'They denied responsibility.'

      Given that the no co-argument restriction correctly allows zich to appear in the constructions in (555)-(558), and since we can give a pragmatic explanation for the fact that use of a referential noun phrase is not acceptable in these examples, we may conclude that they are not very interesting from a syntactic point of view; we may in fact conclude from our discussion that, syntactically speaking, they are not even inherently reflexive constructions.

[+]  II.  The syntactic function of the simplex reflexive

If we adopt a strictly syntactic view regarding the notion of inherent reflexivity, and thus eliminate constructions of the type discussed in the previous subsection from our domain of inquiry, we may provisionally assume that simplex reflexives are not arguments in inherently reflexive constructions. This suggests that they are not needed in order to perform some semantic function, but rather to perform one or more syntactic functions. This subsection addresses the question of what these syntactic functions may be.

[+]  A.  Case absorption

Noun phrases must be assigned case by a case-assigner. In a transitive construction such as (559a), the subject and the direct object are assigned nominative and accusative case by what we have called tense and the verb, respectively. Example (559b) further shows that the direct object of the active construction becomes a derived DO-subject in a passive construction such as (559b). This is normally accounted for by assuming that passive participles are not able to assign accusative case to their internal argument, which therefore must be assigned nominative case by tense, which furthermore implies that the subject of the active construction is suppressed; see Section 3.2.1 for more details.

Example 559
a. Zij slaat hem.
  she  hits  him
b. Hij wordt geslagen.
  he  is  hit

Section 2.1 has argued that DO-subjects occur not only in passive constructions, but also with unaccusative verbs; such verbs are not able to assign accusative case to their internal argument either, which therefore has to be assigned nominative case by tense. This can be illustrated by means of the causative-inchoative alternation in (560): if the verb breken selects the auxiliary hebben'to have', as in (560a), it is a transitive verb and thus able to assign accusative case to its internal argument, but if it selects the auxiliary zijn'to be', as in (560b), it is an unaccusative verb so that accusative case is no longer available and the internal argument of (560a) must surface as the subject of the construction (and the subject of the corresponding transitive construction cannot be expressed).

Example 560
Causative-inchoative alternation
a. Jan breekt het glas.
  Jan breaks  the glass
b. Het glas breekt.
  the glass  breaks
a'. Jan heeft/*is het glas gebroken.
  Jan has/is  the glass  broken
b'. Het glas is/*heeft gebroken.
  the glass  is/has  broken

The examples in (561) show that a word-for-word translation of example (560b) into a language like French or Italian results in an ungrammatical construction; in order to obtain an acceptable result, the simplex reflexive se/si must be added. Burzio (1986: Section 1.5) claims that the simplex reflexive marks the subject of the construction as a derived DO-subject; see also Dobrovie-Sorin (2006) for a recent survey of the relevant literature.

Example 561
a. * Le verre brise.
  the glass  breaks
b. * Il vetro rompe.
  the glass  breaks
a'. Le verre se brise.
  the glass  refl  breaks
  'The glass breaks'
b'. Il vetro si rompe.
  the glass  refl  breaks
  'The glass breaks.'

      Although the Standard Dutch simplex reflexive cannot be used in the same way as the Romance reflexive markers se/si, it is worthwhile to note that Heerlen Dutch, a variety of Dutch spoken in Limburg, does employ the simplex reflexive in the same way as French and Italian; cf. Cornips (1994) and Cornips & Hulk (1996).

Example 562
Reflexive causative-inchoative alternation
a. Het glas breekt zich.
Heerlen Dutch
  the glass  breaks  refl
  'The glass breaks.'
b. Het glas heeft/*is zich gebroken.
Heerlen Dutch
  the glass  has/is  refl  broken
  'The glass breaks/has broken.'

For completeness' sake, note that Heerlen Dutch also has examples like Jan brak zich het glas, but in these examples the reflexive functions as a possessor (Jan broke his glass) or a benefactive (Jan broke the glass for himself); see also Subsection III.
      It is important to note that the Heerlen Dutch example in (562b) differs from Standard Dutch (560b) in that the verb does not select the auxiliary zijn, but hebben, which suggests that the verb retains its ability to assign accusative case. If this is really the case, we need to explain why the internal argument cannot be assigned accusative case, that is, why we are dealing with a DO-subject in (562). Burzio (1986: Section 1.5) and Everaert (1986) have argued that in inherently reflexive constructions like (561) and (562), the non-argument se/zich marks not only the presence of a DO-subject, but in fact forces the suppression of the regular subject of the corresponding transitive construction. The argument goes as follows. Since simplex reflexives can be used as arguments, they are ordinary noun phrases that must be assigned (accusative) case. Since verbs can assign accusative case to a single argument only, this means that the internal arguments in (561) and (562) can no longer be marked with accusative case, and hence must be assigned nominative case, as a result of which the subject of the corresponding transitive construction is suppressed (just like in passive constructions).
      When we now return to inherent reflexivity, the case absorption approach predicts that there are no inherently reflexive verbs taking a direct object, and it seems indeed to be the case that the vast majority of inherently reflexive verbs do not select a DP- but a PP-complement (if any). A representative sample of inherently reflexive PO-verbs is given in (563).

Example 563
Inherently reflexive PO-verbs: zich aansluiten bij'to join with', zich abonneren op'to subscribe to', zich afkeren van'to turn away from', zich bekommeren om'to worry about', zich beklagen over'to complain about', zich beperken tot'to confine oneself to', zich beraden op'to consider' zich bezinnen op'to reflect on', zich bemoeien met'to meddle in/with', zich inlaten met'to meddle in', zich keren tegen'to turn against', zich mengen in'to interfere in', zich neerleggen bij'to come to terms with', zich ontdoen van'to dispose of', zich schamen over/voor'to be ashamed about', zich schikken in'to reconcile oneself to', zich vergissen in'to be mistaken', zich vergapen aan'to gaze admiringly at', zich verontschuldigen voor'to apologize for', zich verzetten tegen'to resist', zich wagen aan'to venture in to'

There are a number of apparent counterexamples to the claim that inherently reflexive verbs do not take a direct object. Examples are: zich iets aantrekken van'to care about something', zich iets aanwennen'to make a habit of something', zich iets afwennen'to cure of', zich iets afvragen'to ask whether ...', zich iets herinneren'to remember something', zich iets permitteren'to afford something', zich iets toeëigenen'to take possession of something', zich iets verwerven'to acquire something', zich iets voorstellen'to imagine something', zich iets voor de geest roepen'to remember something'. It seems, however, that we are dealing not with accusative but dative reflexives in these cases, which will be discussed separately in Subsection III.

[+]  B.  Reflexive causative-inchoative alternation (Anti-causativization)

The inchoative constructions in (560b) and (562b) suggest that languages may in principle use two strategies to detransitivize causative verbs such as breken: either the verb is deprived of its capacity to assign accusative case, in which case the verb selects the perfect auxiliary zijn, or accusative case is absorbed by a simplex reflexive. This subsection shows that Standard Dutch in fact uses both strategies.
      Although Standard Dutch does not use simplex reflexives to mark causative-inchoative alternations of the type in (560), the examples in (564) and (565) show that there is a comparable alternation in which the simplex reflexive is used to obtain a detransitivizing effect; cf. Everaert (1984:52-3). Given our earlier conclusion on the basis of the Heerlen Dutch examples in (562) that this effect is due to accusative case absorption by the simplex reflexive zich, it does not come as a surprise that the reflexive inchoative construction takes the auxiliary hebben in the perfect tense.

Example 564
a. Jan verspreidde het gerucht.
  Jan spread  the rumor
b. Het gerucht verspreidde *(zich).
  the rumor  spread    refl
b'. Het gerucht heeft zich verspreid.
  the rumor  has  refl  spread
Example 565
a. Hij vormde een onderzoeksgroep.
  he  constituted  a research.team
b. Een onderzoeksgroep vormde *(zich).
  a research.team  constituted  refl
  'A research team was constituted.'
b'. Er heeft zich een onderzoeksgroep gevormd.
  there  has  refl  a research.team  constituted

The assumption that we are dealing with derived DO-subjects in the reflexive inchoative examples is supported by the fact that they are subject to the same selectional restrictions as the direct objects of the corresponding transitive constructions. The object of the transitive verb verspreiden in (566a), for instance, cannot refer to a single concrete entity; it is normally plural, or headed by a collective noun like menigte'crowd' or a propositional noun like gerucht'rumor'. Example (566b) shows that the subject of the corresponding reflexive construction is subject to the exact same restriction.

Example 566
a. Jan verspreidde de menigte/het gerucht/de mannen/*de man.
  Jan spread  the crowd/the rumor/the men/the man
b. De menigte/Het gerucht/De mannen/*De man verspreidde zich.
  the crowd/the rumor/the men/the man  spread  refl

The causative-inchoative alternations with and without a simplex reflexive certainly cannot be considered as idiosyncratically constrained alternatives, but may reflect some more principled difference between the two constructions. This is clear from the fact illustrated by (567) that they are sometimessimultaneously available.

Example 567
a. Eucalypta veranderde Paulus/zichzelf in een schildpad.
  Eucalypta changed  Paulus/herself  into a tortoise
b. Eucalypta verandert zich per ongeluk in een schildpad.
  Eucalypta changes  refl  by accident  into a tortoise
c. Paulus verandert (*zich) gelukkig niet in een schildpad.
  Paulus changes  refl  happily  not  into a tortoise

Furthermore, the two inchoative constructions differ in meaning. In the story alluded to ( Paulus en het levenswater by Jean Dulieu), the witch Eucalypta by mistake drinks her own transformation draught, which was originally intended for the goblin Paulus. The presence of the simplex reflexive in the inchoative constructions depends on the feature ±control, discussed in Section 1.2.3, sub IIIB: if the subject of the inchoative construction is (in principle) able to control the action, as in (567b), the simplex reflexive is preferably present, but if the subject is not able to control the action, as in (567c), the reflexive must be absent.
      The same condition may apply to the examples in (568): the use of the simplex reflexive in examples such as (568b) is preferred by many speakers because the subject of the clause is taken as the instigator of the event denoted by the verb, but disfavored in examples such as (568c) because the subject is typically taken as a patient. Judgments are subtle, however, and there are speakers that report example (568c) as fully grammatical with zich; cf. Everaert (1986:84). Some of our informants share this judgment but claim that the use of zich creates a "spooky" effect in the sense that it feels as if the curtain acts like an animate being, which would of course be in line with our suggestion above.

Example 568
a. Jan bewoog zijn arm/het gordijn.
  Jan moved  his arm/the curtain
b. Jan bewoog (zich).
  Jan moved  refl
c. Het gordijn bewoog (%zich).
  the curtain  moved     refl

However, there are also reflexive inchoative constructions such as (569b), in which the proposed semantic effect is clearly absent; despite the fact that the referent of the subject is not able to control the event, the reflexive must be realized in this example. It therefore remains an open question as to whether the semantic contrast between the (b)- and (c)-examples in (567) and (568) is really related to the absence or presence of the reflexive.

Example 569
a. Jan heeft het bad met water gevuld.
  Jan has  the bath  with water  filled
b. Het bad heeft *(zich) met water gevuld.
  the bath  has    refl  with water  filled
  'The bath has filled with water.'

We will nevertheless take the fact that the (b)- and (c)-examples in (567) and (568) differ in the way they do as evidence for the claim that the two types of inchoative constructions are different. Cross-linguistically, there also seem to be two strategies for obtaining a causative-inchoative alternation. The first way is referred to by Schäfer (2008:120) as anticausativization and involves some detransitivization morpheme, which is normally reflexive in nature. The second way is referred to as causativization, and involves some morpheme that introduces a causer argument. This element may be overt, but Pesetsky (1995) has provided evidence that this morpheme can also remain phonologically empty.

Example 570
a. Anticausativization: transitive → monadic
b. Causativization: monadic → transitive

The case absorption hypothesis proposed in Subsection A in fact amounts to saying that the reflexive inchoative construction is derived by anticausativization: the reflexive absorbs the accusative case of the verb, as a result of which the theme argument must be promoted to subject and the external argument of the verb can no longer be expressed. Since Section 3.2.3 will show that non-reflexive inchoatives are always regular unaccusative verbs, we may assume that they can be the input to a morphological process with a phonologically empty morpheme that adds an external causer argument to the argument structure of the input verb.
      An advantage of this approach is that it makes it possible to account for the fact that the two inchoative constructions may occur side by side without the need to postulate idiosyncratic constraints on the processes involved. The examples in (567), for example, can be accounted for by assuming that the verb veranderen is stored in the lexicon as an unaccusative verb, as in (567c). This verb can be the input of the causativization process, which derives the transitive version of the verb in (567a). This derived transitive verb can subsequently be used as the input for the anticausativization process that derives the inherently reflexive verb in (567b). Of course, this proposal does not imply that reflexive and non-reflexive inchoative verbs always co-exist; the fact that verspreiden'to spread' in (564)/(566) cannot be used as a non-reflexive inchoative verb could be accounted for by assuming that the inherently reflexive verb is stored as a lexical verb in the lexicon.
      For completenesssake, we may note that the difference between Standard and Heerlen Dutch in (571) may simply reflect a lexical difference between the two languages; whereas breken'to break' is stored as an unaccusative verb in Standard Dutch, it is stored as a transitive verb in Heerlen Dutch.

Example 571
a. Het glas breekt.
Standard Dutch
  the glass  breaks
b. Het glas breekt zich.
Heerlen Dutch
  the glass  breaks  refl

French and Italian, which also use the reflexive form in cases like these, can be taken to be similar to Heerlen Dutch but we should point out that these languages constitute a potential problem for the proposal outlined above. The problem is that the French and Italian inchoative construction in (561) takes the auxiliary être/essere'to be' rather than avoir/avere'to have' in the perfect tense, as is shown by the French perfect-tense example Le verre sʼest brisé'the glass has broken'. Although this is not the place to solve this problem, we want to suggest that this difference is related to the fact that se differs from (Heerlen) Dutch zich in that it cannot be used in argument position or to the fact that it cliticizes to the verb; this may void the need for case assignment, which may be empirically supported by the existence of so-called clitic doubling constructions in which a clitic doubles a syntactically present argument; see Anagnostopoulou (2006) for a recent overview. If so, the role of Romance si/se cannot be case absorption but must be something else; see Dobrovie-Sorin (2006) for relevant discussion.

[+]  C.  Reflexive psych-verb constructions

Many causative psych-verbs have inherently reflexive counterparts, which is illustrated by the sentence pairs in (572). Section, sub IV, has shown that the object experiencers from the primeless examples surface as the subjects of the inherently reflexive constructions in the primed examples.

Example 572
a. Dat boek irriteert hem.
  that book  annoys  him
  'That book annoys him.'
a'. Hij irriteert zich aan dat boek.
  he  annoys  refl  on that book
  'Heʼs annoyed at that book.'
b. Die uitslag verheugde haar.
  that result  rejoiced  her
  'That result delighted her.'
b'. Zij verheugde zich over die uitslag.
  she  rejoiced  refl  about that result
  'She rejoiced at that result.'
c. Dit argument verbaast haar.
  this argument  surprises  her
  'This argument surprises her.'
c'. Zij verbaast zich over dit argument.
  she  surprises  refl  about this argument
  'Sheʼs surprised about this argument.'

However, we cannot simply assume that the primed examples are derived from the primeless examples as a result of case absorption by the simplex reflexives. The reason is that promotion to subject is normally restricted to cases in which an external argument is present, and there are reasons for assuming that the subjects in the primeless examples in (572) are not external arguments; the most important of these is that external arguments only seem to occur with psych-verbs in a third alternant that is illustrated in (573); cf. Bennis (1986).

Example 573
a. Hij irriteerde hem met dat boek.
  he  annoyed  him  with that book
b. ? Hij verheugde haar met die uitslag.
  he  rejoiced  her  with that result
c. (?) Hij verbaasde haar met dit argument.
  he  astonished  her  with this argument

The case absorption approach will lead to a more or lesss correct result if we assume that the inherently reflexive constructions in the primed examples of (572) are derived from the transitive examples in (573): zich will absorb the accusative case of the verb and consequently the experiencer object must be promoted to subject (for which reason the causer subject in (573) must be suppressed). Observe, however, that this derivation cannot be syntactic in nature as this would leave unexplained why the met-PPs from the examples in (573) cannot be used in the inherently reflexive constructions in (572); we must therefore be dealing with a lexical process. Note, finally, that the case absorption approach correctly predicts that the simplex reflexive cannot be used in the causative psych-constructions in the primeless examples in (572); since accusative case must be assigned to the experiencer object, no case is available for the simplex reflexive, so that the requirement that every noun phrase be assigned case would be violated if it were present.

[+]  D.  Reflexive middle construction

This subsection discusses reflexive middle constructions, which seem to constitute another case in which the simplex reflexive acts as an accusative case absorber.

[+]  1.  Regular versus reflexive middle constructions

Regular middle constructions like this sweater washes easily are characterized by the fact that the direct object of the corresponding transitive constructions surfaces as the subject and by the obligatory presence of an evaluative adjective like easily. The examples in (574) show that French middles differ from English ones in that they normally take the form of inherently reflexive constructions.

Example 574
a. Il lave ce veston.
  he  washes  this waistcoat
b. Ce veston se lave bien.
  this waistcoat  refl  washes  well
  'This waistcoat washes easily.'

Example (575b) shows that middle constructions are also acceptable in Standard Dutch, but do not involve the simplex reflexive zich; see Section for a discussion of this non-reflexive middle construction. Example (575c) shows, however, that Dutch has another construction with comparable properties that does involve a simplex reflexive. This construction, which will from now on be referred to as the reflexive middle construction, typically involves the permissive verb laten'to let'.

Example 575
a. Jan wast het truitje.
  Jan washes  the sweater
b. Het truitje wast ?(*zich) gemakkelijk.
  the sweater  washes      refl  easily
c. Het truitje laat zich gemakkelijk wassen.
  the sweater  lets  refl  easily  wash
  'The sweater washes easily.'
[+]  2.  The Dutch reflexive middle construction

The transitive-reflexive middle alternation is very productive in Standard Dutch, and more examples are given in (576). Given that the internal arguments of the embedded transitive verbs are promoted to subject in the corresponding reflexive middle constructions, we may safely assume that the simplex reflexive absorbs the accusative case of these verbs.

Example 576
a. Marie bewerkt het hout.
  Marie carves  the wood
a'. Het hout laat zich gemakkelijk bewerken.
  the wood  lets  refl  easily  carve
  'The wood carves easily.'
b. Marie raadt de oplossing.
  Marie  guesses  the solution
b'. De oplossing laat zich gemakkelijk raden.
  the solution  lets  refl  easily  guess
  'The solution is easy to guess.'
c. Marie voorspelde de uitslag.
  Marie predicted  the score
c'. De uitslag laat zich moeilijk voorspellen.
  the score  lets  refl  hard  predict
  'The score is hard to predict.'

Example (577) provides some idiomatic examples: the embedded verbs in (577a&b) are only used (with the intended readings) in these constructions, in which the modifying element is the negative adverb niet'not'.

Example 577
a. Hij laat zich niet kisten.
  he  lets  refl  not  coffin
  'He isnʼt going to be cornered.'
b. Hij laat het zich niet aanleunen.
  he  lets  it  refl  not  against-lean
  'He doesnʼt put up with it all.'
c. Zij laat zich niet zien.
  she  lets  refl  not  see
  'She doesnʼt show up.'
[+]  3.  Apparent cases of the reflexive middle construction

We argued in the previous subsections that the Dutch reflexive middle construction is the result of case absorption of the accusative case of the embedded main verb by the simplex reflexive. Everaert (1986) suggests that the reflexive has the same case absorbing capacity in the primed constructions in (578), but these constructions differ from the reflexive middle constructions in (576) in that the verbs embedded under the permissive/perception verb are unaccusative and are therefore unable to assign accusative case. However, given that laten'let' and zien'to see' are able to exceptionally case mark the subject of their verbal complement (cf. Marie zag hem vallen'Mary saw him fall'), we may in principle assume that the simplex reflexive absorbs the case assigned by these verbs.

Example 578
a. Hij viel op de grond.
  he  fell  on the ground
  'He fell to the ground.'
a'. Hij liet zich op de grond vallen.
  he  let  refl  on the ground  fall
  'He dropped on the ground.'
b. Hij glijdt achterover.
  he  glides  backwards
  'Heʼs gliding backwards.'
b'. Hij laat zich achterover glijden.
  he  lets  refl  backwards  glide
  'Heʼs letting himself glide backwards.'
c. Hij gaat op vakantie.
  he  goes  on holiday
  'Heʼs going on holiday.'
c'. Hij zag zich nog niet op vakantie gaan.
  he  saw  refl  yet not  on holiday  go
  'He didnʼt expect to go on holiday.'

There are various reasons, however, to reject a case absorption approach for the primed examples in (578). First, it should be noted that a modifying adjective is not needed in these examples, unlike in the French example in (574b) and the Dutch examples in (576). Second, the examples in (579) show that the simplex reflexive can be replaced by a lexical noun phrase, which suggests that the reflexive acts as a regular argument of the embedded verb; cf. Van der Leek (1988).

Example 579
a. Hij liet de theepot op de grond vallen.
  he  let  the teapot  on the ground  fall
  'He dropped the teapot onto the ground.'
b. Hij laat Marie achterover glijden.
  he  lets  Marie  backwards  glide
  'He let Marie glide backwards.'
c. Hij zag Marie nog niet op vakantie gaan.
  he  saw  Marie  yet not  on holiday  go
  'He didnʼt expect Marie to go on holiday.'

Third, the subject of the primed examples in (578) must be animate: if these examples were really syntactically derived through case absorption by the reflexive, this would be surprising given that there is no such restriction on the reflexive middle constructions in (576).

Example 580
a. De theepot viel op de grond.
  the teapot  fell  on the ground
a'. * De theepot liet zich op de grond vallen.
  the teapot  let  refl  on the ground  fall
b. Het boek glijdt achterover.
  the book  glides  backwards
b'. * Het boek laat zich achterover glijden.
  the book  lets  refl  backwards  glide
c. De schemerlamp stond op het podium.
  the floor.lamp  stood  on the stage
c'. * De schemerlamp zag zich nog niet op het podium staan.
  the floor.lamp  saw  refl  yet not  on the stage  stand

The animacy restriction suggests that the matrix verb requires a subject that, in principle, is able to control the event described in the embedded clause. This would also account for the fact that the examples in (581) are odd.

Example 581
a. $ Jan liet zich sterven.
  Jan let  refl  die
b. $ Jan liet de ramp zich overkomen.
  Jan let  the disaster  refl  happen

An appeal to a selectional restriction imposed by the matrix verb to account for the unacceptability of the primed examples in (580), however, is not compatible with the case absorption analysis as this analysis implies that there is no semantic relation between the verb laten/zien and the derived subject. We therefore have to assume that the subject is simply an argument of these verbs. This is also consistent with our earlier conclusion on the basis of the examples in (579) that the simplex reflexive is an argument of the embedded verb, given that the no co-argument restriction then correctly predicts binding of zich by the subject of the construction to be possible. All in all, it seems that we can safely conclude that the suggestion that the examples in (578) are inherently reflexive constructions is incorrect.

[+]  4.  Reflexive middle construction based on nom-dat verbs

We conclude with a discussion of the alternation in (582), in which the primed examples might also be analyzed as reflexive middles but in which the main verb is not a transitive but a nom-dat verb; cf. Section 2.1.3. If a nom-dat verb is embedded under the permissive verb laten, the dative object shows up as the matrix subject and a simplex reflexive obligatorily appears. One way of accounting for this is by assuming that the simplex reflexive absorbs the dative case of the embedded nom-dat verb; as a result, this object must be assigned nominative case and therefore shows up as the matrix subject in the inherently reflexive construction. It is important to note that the simplex reflexive in the primed examples cannot be replaced by a referential expression, which shows in turn that nom-dat verbs normally cannot be embedded as such under the permissive verb laten.

Example 582
a. Die opmerking ontviel hem.
  that remark  escaped  him
a'. Hij liet zich/*Marie die opmerking ontvallen.
  he  let  refl/Marie  that remark  escape
  'He let the remark escape him.'
b. De teugels ontglipten hem.
  the bridles  escaped  him
  'The bridles slipped from his grasp.'
b'. Hij liet zich/*Marie de teugels ontglippen.
  he  let  refl/Marie  the bridles  escape
  'He let the bridles escape him.'

The examples in (583) show that DO-subjects of nom-dat verbs cannot appear as the subject of the construction as a whole. This is, of course, in accordance with the conclusion we reached in the previous subsection; the simplex reflexive cannot absorb the case of the DO-subject given that this case is not assigned by the embedded nom-dat verb but by the matrix verb laten.

Example 583
a. * Die opmerking liet zich hem ontvallen.
  that remark  let  refl  him  escape
b. * De teugels lieten zich hem ontglippen.
  the bridles  let  refl  him  escape

The assumption that the primed examples in (582) are derived by dative case absorption may be problematic given that it is often assumed that dative case is an inherent case, which therefore cannot be absorbed; case absorption is only possible with structural cases like accusative. Sections 2.1.4 and argue extensively, however, that dative case must be treated in a similar fashion as accusative case, that is, as a structural case, and Subsection IIIA, will discuss another inherently reflexive construction that potentially involves dative case absorption.

[+]  E.  Conclusion

The previous subsections have shown that, in at least a subset of inherently reflexive constructions, the simplex reflexive can be considered a non-argument that has the capacity to absorb case. The main verb in these constructions will therefore not be able to assign accusative case to its internal argument, which must therefore be promoted to subject. The discussion has shown that this case absorption approach applies not only to single verbs but also to the more complex reflexive middle construction involving the exceptionally case marking verbs laten'to let' and zien'to see'. We further suggested that case absorption is not restricted to accusative case, but may also involve dative case.

[+]  III.  Some special cases

This subsection discusses some special inherently reflexive constructions, beginning with cases with a dative simplex reflexive. After that, we will discuss a number of inherently reflexive constructions that are derived by means of prefixation. We conclude with a special type of resultative construction.

[+]  A.  Dative reflexives

Example (584a) shows that dative noun phrases normally cannot appear as simplex reflexives in simple clauses, whereas (584b) shows that this is easily possible if they are part of clauses embedded under the permissive verb laten'to let' (provided, at least, that the subject of the embedded clause is not overtly present); italics indicate co-reference.

Example 584
a. Jan gaf *zich/zichzelf een boek.
  Jan gave  refl/himself  a book
b. Jan liet zich/??zichzelf een boek geven.
  Jan let  refl/himself  a book  give
  'Jan let someone give him a book.'

This contrast is, of course, what we would expect on the basis of the no co-argument restriction on the binding of simplex reflexives. The simplex reflexive in (584a) is selected by the same verb as its antecedent and therefore bound by a co-argument. In example (584b), on the other hand, the matrix subject is not an argument of the embedded verb so that the reflexive is not bound by a co-argument. With this in mind, consider the examples in (585).

Example 585
a. Hij herinnert zich de afspraak niet.
  he  remembers  refl  the appointment  not
  'He doesnʼt remember the appointment.'
b. Hij kan zich die uitgave niet veroorloven.
  he  can  refl  that expense  not  afford
  'He canʼt afford that expense.'
c. Hij stelde zich Bas voor als clown.
  he  imagined  refl  Bas  for  as clown
  'He imagined Bas as a clown.'

The examples in (585) are inherently reflexive constructions, as is clear from the fact that the simplex reflexive does not function as an argument of the verb: it cannot be replaced by a lexical noun phrase like Marie and in its English rendering a reflexive need not be used. If this line of reasoning is correct and inherently reflexive constructions indeed involve case absorption, we can conclude that simplex reflexives are not only capable of absorbing accusative case, but that they can also absorb dative case; see the discussion of example (582) in Subsection IID, for a similar conclusion.

[+]  B.  Inherently reflexive verbs prefixed with over- and ver-

There are at least three productive (semi-)morphological processes that may derive inherently reflexive verbs from regular simplex verbs: prefixation with over-, prefixation with ver-, and extension of the verb with the particle in. The semantic effects of these processes can be inferred from the glosses.

Example 586
a. Zij over-werkt zich.
  she  overworks  refl
  'Heʼs overstraining.'
a'. Hij over-schreeuwt zich.
  he  over-shouts  refl
  'He overstrains his voice.'
b. Hij ver-spreekt zich.
  he  mis-speaks  refl
  'He made a slip of the tongue.'
b'. Zij ver-rijdt zich.
  she  mis-drives  refl
  'She takes the wrong turn.'
c. Jan leest zich in.
  Jan  reads  refl  IN
  'Jan is doing preliminary reading.'
c'. De atleet loopt zich in.
  the athlete  runs  refl  IN
  'The athlete is doing a warm-up.'

The examples in (587) show that if the input verb is transitive, the original direct object appears as a prepositional object (Everaert 1986); this suggests, again, that simplex reflexives absorb accusative case.

Example 587
a. Els over-eet zich aan de appels.
cf. Els eet de appels
  Els over-eats  refl  on the apples
  'Eva is gorging herself on the apples.'
b. Jan ver-tilt zich aan de kist.
cf. Jan tilt de kist
  Jan mis-lifts  refl  to the trunk
  'Jan strains himself in lifting the trunk.'
c. Hij koopt zich in de zaak in.
cf. Hij koopt de zaak
  he  buys  refl  in the business  in
  'He is buying a partnership in the business.'
[+]  C.  Idioms

There are a number of idiomatic constructions such as (588), which are of a resultative nature. These constructions differ from the inherently reflexive resultative constructions discussed in Subsection I in that the agent of the action does not get assigned a certain property as a result of the activity denoted by the verb, but becomes the "possessor" of the entity denoted by the verb: Jan will have a lump, an accident or a delirium as the result of the activity of laughing, eating or drinking, respectively. The constructions in (588) would be consistent with the no co-argument restriction on the binding of simplex reflexives if the strings in square brackets were phrases headed by some empty element comparable to the verb hebben'to have'; at this moment we do not have any evidence to substantiate such a claim, however, and we therefore leave these examples as a problem for the current proposal.

Example 588
a. Jan lacht [zich een bult/kriek].
  Jan laughs  refl  a lump/kriek
  'Jan splits his sides with laughing.'
b. Jan eet [zich een ongeluk].
  Jan eats  refl  an accident
  'Jan is overeating.'
c. Jan drinkt [zich een delirium].
  Jan drinks refl  a delirium
  'Jan drinks himself into a delirium.'
[+]  IV.  Summary

The previous subsections have discussed inherently reflexive constructions. We argued that the syntactically relevant property of this set of verbs is that the reflexive does not function as an argument. This implies that we have to restrict the set of inherently reflexive constructions by excluding a number of constructions from this set that were previously included. We further reviewed some arguments in favor of the claim that the syntactic function of the simplex reflexive is to absorb accusative case (as a result of which the internal argument of the verb must be promoted to subject; cf. Burzio (1986) and Everaert (1986)). We also discussed some data that suggest that case absorption is not restricted to accusative case but may also involve dative case.

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