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Strategies of Reflexivisation and the Meaning of Predicates

A Contrastive Analysis of English, German, and French


Andreas Frühwirth

Reflexive situations play a vital role in people’s lives and are consequently often encoded by specific grammatical devices. Many languages have more than one such strategy of reflexivisation at their disposal. The present study provides substantial evidence for its major claim that the preference for a particular strategy is motivated by that meaning component of the predicate which may be called ‘directedness’. A large number of data from English, German, and French are analysed contrastively and in great detail. The relevance of predicate directedness is also largely confirmed by data from related areas of reflexivity. Two implicational hierarchies emerge: a scale of directedness, and a hierarchy among German, French, and English regarding the weight of preferred reflexive strategies.
Contents: Defining reflexivity – Strategies of reflexivisation in English, German, and French – Iconicity, economy, and markedness – Marked and unmarked contexts – Predicate directedness as motivation for strategy choice – Implicational hierarchies – Reflexivity of motion predicates – Prototypicality in the reflexive domain.