On Agree without agreement as a source of reflexive voice constructions

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Switch-reference has recently been argued to be the result of clausal functional heads entering into Agree with two nearby noun phrases, creating pointers to those noun phrases but not actually copying their morphosyntactic features. Instead, the semantic component interprets the pointers as referential dependency holding between pointed-to noun phrases. This article applies this analysis to reflexive voice constructions in which a feature-invariant affix appears on the verb to indicate that the (highest, direct) object is referentially dependent on the (thematic) subject of the same clause. First it surveys the properties that such constructions should have if reflexive voice is maximally like switch-reference. Then it argues that the Bantu language Lubukusu has just such a construction, the verbal affix i partnering with the overt anaphor omweene to create reflexive clauses. Dravidian reflexive voices are presented as another possible case. Finally, it turns to reflexive and reciprocal voice constructions in Shipibo (Panoan), which seem to have a detransitivizing effect. However, no major detransitivizing account fits all the facts. Rather, reflexive voice in Shipibo is like Lubukusu, except that the anaphor is phonologically null and deficient in phi-features, failing to trigger ergative case on the subject for that reason. True detransitivization may happen in some languages with reflexive voice, but not in all, and it will take considerable care to sort out which are which.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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