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Intensifiers and Reflexive Pronouns in English and Mandarin Chinese

A Contrastive Study


Lin Wang

The book is a study on intensifiers and reflexive pronouns between two languages (English and Mandarin Chinese) and the first one drawing a complete picture in this domain. It provides the full uses of self, zìjĭ and běnrén. In the case of běnrén, here for the first time the full use of this pronoun in Mandarin Chinese is analysed. It is also the first book that uses contrastive study to talk about intensifiers and reflexive pronouns, which reveals many hidden characteristics of the intensifiers and reflexive pronouns that otherwise cannot be seen. It is based on the most distinctive research of the latest 30 years in the linguistic field.
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0. Introduction


Based on recent findings in typology, this study is dedicated to a comprehensive and in-depth contrastive analysis of intensifiers and reflexive pronouns in English and in Mandarin Chinese. In accordance with this aim, the three key terms of the title, reflexive pronouns, intensifiers, contrastive analysis, require detailed comments and explanations.

Following the lead of work done by König, Siemund, Gast etc. (1991, 2000a, b, c, 2002), I will keep the term ‘reflexive pronoun’ (anaphor) for the reflexive use, but use the term ‘intensifier’ for the emphatic use of formally identical expressions in the two languages1. For the purpose of my contrastive study of English and Mandarin Chinese, the term ‘identity expression’ is used as a comparative concept and cover term for both languages:

The conflation and identity of reflexive pronouns with either intensifiers or middle markers is a wide-spread phenomenon in the world’s languages. As studies have revealed in the relevant map in the World Atlas of Language Structures (WALS:, the relationship between reflexive pronouns and intensifiers can be taken as one of the criteria in distinguishing types of languages. In a wide variety of languages, reflexive pronouns and intensifiers are not formally differentiated and can only be distinguished on the basis of distributional, prosodic ← 25 | 26 → and semantic criteria; whereas in some other languages, reflexive pronouns and intensifiers are formally differentiated and intensifiers can be used to reinforce reflexive pronouns. In English, for example self-forms can be used both as reflexive pronouns...

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