Reflexive and Reciprocals in Spanish and Catalan
Nieto Bou, J.
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Across languages, two main strategies lead to reflexivity and reciprocity: a lexical meaning of the verb or a grammatical operation. The former strategy is available to a semantically restricted set of predicates, that can denote reflexivity and reciprocity on their own (e.g., Alex and John kissed, Alex shaved). The latter strategy can produce reflexivity and reciprocity by means of a grammatical element (e.g., Alex and John thanked each other, Alex criticized himself). In languages like English, there is an overt distinction between the two strategies. Other languages, like Spanish and Catalan do not show an overt distinction between both strategies as solely one construction is available. Spanish and Catalan use the clitic ‘se’ to generate reflexive and reciprocal interpretations with transitive verbs in finite clauses. The usability of ‘se’ constructions that are expressed differently in other languages raises two major questions: first, based on their surface structure, it is not clear whether Catalan and Spanish have a lexical strategy to produce reflexivity and reciprocity. Second, the emergence of both reflexive interpretation and reciprocal interpretation for the same surface form when the subject is plural raises the question whether the relation between reflexivity and reciprocity is of ambiguity or vagueness. In this thesis we will argue that lexical reflexive and lexical reciprocal entries are available in both Catalan and Spanish lexicons, and that the relation between reflexive and reciprocals interpretations is of ambiguity, not vagueness. To answer the first question, we will first review the main attributes that characterize the two lexical strategies cross-linguistically. We will concentrate on the realization of these two strategies in Catalan and Spanish. By means of a specific set of diagnostics (including the discontinuous reciprocal construction, singular group noun phrases, the causative construction, the absolute construction, and their + sin + infinitive ‘ go without + infinitive’ construction) we will identify which verbs in the Catalan and Spanish lexicons have a lexical reciprocal or lexical reflexive entry. To answer the second question, and taking into consideration3 the existence of lexical entries in both languages, we will explore whether Catalan and Spanish constructions are vague or ambiguous between reflexivity and reciprocity. We will provide empirical evidence by means of two questionnaires in favor of ambiguity by showing that constructions do not generally allow a so-called mixed reading(partly reciprocal, partly reflexive interpretation), unlike what the literature claims for Romance languages (Cable, 2014; Murray, 2008, 2015). Furthermore, we will consider lexical reflexivity as a possible confound lexical reflexives, due to their intrinsic meaning, which allows a non-identity between the agent and the patient, might allow mixed readings to emerge. Therefore, we will also argue that lexical reflexivity needs to be accounted for when considering vagueness as an explanation for the overlap between reflexive and reciprocal constructions in Romance languages.