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In the English language specifically, a reflexive pronoun will end in ‑self or ‑selves, and refer to a previously named noun or pronoun (myself, yourself, ourselves, themselves, etc), and intensive pronouns, used for emphasis, take the same form.
In generative grammar, a reflexive pronoun is an anaphor that must be bound by its antecedent (see binding). In a general sense, it is a noun phrase that obligatorily gets its meaning from another noun phrase in the sentence. Different languages have different binding domains for reflexive pronouns, according to their structure.
In Indo-European languages, the reflexive pronoun does not refer to root verbs unless 2 verbs are right next to each other, or separated by a comma Proto-Indo-European. In some languages, the distinction between the normal object and reflexive pronouns exists mainly in the third person: whether one says "I like me" or "I like myself", there is no question that the object is the same person as the subject; but, in "They like them(selves)", there can be uncertainty about the identity of the object unless a distinction exists between the reflexive and the nonreflexive. In some languages, this distinction includes genitive forms: see, for instance, the Danish examples below. In languages with a distinct reflexive pronoun form, it is often gender-neutral.
A reflexive pronoun is normally used when the object of a sentence is the same as the subject. Each personal pronoun (such as I, you, he and she) has its own reflexive form:
These pronouns can also be used intensively, to emphasize the identity of whoever or whatever is being talked about:
Intensive pronouns usually appear near and or before the subject of the sentence.
Certain verbs have reflexive pronouns in some languages but not in English:
The list of such verbs:
Non-reflexive use of reflexive pronouns is rather common in English. Most of the time, reflexive pronouns function as emphatic pronouns that highlight or emphasize the individuality or particularity of the noun. Gramatically, the position of reflexive pronouns in this usage is either right after the noun the pronouns are emphasizing or, if the noun is subject, after-verb-or-object position is also possible. For example, "Why don't you yourself do the job?", "Why don't you do the job yourself?", or "I want to fix my phone itself; I will not fix your watch as well."
Some speakers use reflexive pronouns without local linguistic antecedents to refer to discourse participants or people already referenced in a discourse: for example, "Please, forward the information to myself, Anything else for yourself today?". Within the linguistics literature, reflexives with discourse antecedents are often referred to as logophors. Standard English allows use of logophors in some contexts: for example, "John was angry. Embarrassing pictures of himself were on display." However, within Standard English, this logophoric use of reflexives is generally limited to positions where the reflexive does not have a coargument. The newer non-standard usage does not respect this limitation. In some cases, reflexives without local antecedents may be better analyzed as emphatic pronouns without any true reflexive sense.
It is common in some dialects of English to use standard object pronouns to express reflexive relations, especially in the first and sometimes second persons, and especially for a recipient: for example, "I want to get me some supper." While this was seemingly standard in Old English through the Early Modern Period (with "self" constructs primarily used for emphatic purposes), it is held to be dialectal or nonstandard in Modern English.
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The antecedent can be reiterated before the reflexive pronoun; this can be used to refer to an antecedent that's not the subject:
Like English, the reflexive can also be used to emphasize the antecedent:
The reflexive can also be the subject of an embedded clause.
Also unlike English, the reflexive can refer to antecedents outside of the embedded clause. Because of this, it may be ambiguous whether the antecedent refers to the subject of the main clause or the embedded clause, in which case it may be necessary to reiterate the antecedent:
The reflexive pronoun in Cantonese Chinese, jihgéi, cognate to Mandarin zìj? (and thus also written as ), also follows the same rules. This was also the case in Classical Chinese, which simply used ? (Old Chinese: *k).
In Danish, there is also a difference between normal and reflexive genitives, the latter being used only in the singular:
In the latter case, sin is a case of a reflexive possessive pronoun, i.e. it reflects that the subject in the phrase (Anna) owns the object (the book).
The Esperanto third-person reflexive pronoun is si, or sia for the possessive (to which can be added -j for plural agreement and -n for direct object).
In French, the main reflexive pronoun is 'se', with its indefinite form soi.
There are also intensifying reflexive pronouns, such as moi-même, toi-même, lui-même/elle-même/soi-même, nous-mêmes, vous-mêmes and eux-mêmes/elles-mêmes, similar in meaning (but not often used) to myself, yourself, etc.
French also uses reflexive verbs to express actions that somebody is doing to themselves. Many of these are related to daily routine. For example,
In German, the reflexive case is not distinguishable from the accusative and dative cases except in the third person reflexive. As discussed above, the reflexive case is most useful when handling third person because it is not always clear that pronouns refer to the same person, whereas in the first and second persons, it is clear: he hit him and he hit himself have different meanings, but I hit me and I hit myself mean the same thing although the former is nonstandard English.
Because the accusative and dative cases are different, the speaker must know whether the verb is reflexive accusative or reflexive dative. There are very few reflexive dative verbs, which must be memorised to ensure that the correct grammar is used. The most notable one is (sich) weh tun (to hurt oneself): Ich tue mir weh. (I hurt myself.) See also German pronouns.
The reflexive pronouns are as such:
|Singular and plural|
The reflexive pronoun refers to the third person:
The reflexive pronouns in Italian are:
Reflexive pronouns are usually employed when the direct object in a sentence is also its subject, thus reflecting the action as expressed in the verb on the subject itself.
This pronoun allows the building of three kinds of reflexive verbal forms: proper, non-proper (or ostensible), and reciprocal.
Notice that the sentence I wash myself could also be translated in Italian as "io lavo me stesso", that stresses the reflexiveness way more than English.
The complete list of intensifying reflexive pronouns is:
In the Japanese language, jibun and jibunjishin ? are reflexive pronouns that correspond roughly to 'herself' and 'himself'. They differ from English in some ways; for example, jibun and jibunjishin do not have to agree in gender or number where English reflexives do. Jibun can further be bound locally or long distance where English reflexives must always occur locally. Although both English and Japanese pronouns must be c-commanded by their antecedents, because of the syntactic structure of Japanese, long distance binding is allowed.
In Korean, jagi () and jasin () are used as reflexive pronouns that refer to 'myself', 'himself', 'herself', and 'ourselves'. Jagijasin ?(?) is also a reflexive pronoun but it usually corresponds only to the first person (myself).
In the 1st and 2nd person, Latin uses the ordinary oblique forms of the personal pronouns as reflexive pronouns. In the 3rd person, Latin uses the special reflexive pronoun se, which is the same for all genders and numbers, and declined in all cases except the nominative and the vocative.
|Singular or Plural|
An alternative full form, , is used for emphasis.
In Polish the oblique reflexive pronouns is si? and it declines as above. It is used with 1st, 2nd and 3rd person:
It has been grammaticalized to a high degree, becoming also a marker of medial and/or anticausative voice:
Similarly, the dative sobie gained an additional, volitional/liberative meaning, usually used in informal speech:
Moreover, the phrase i sobie has been lexicalized and means "to leave" (cf. French s'en aller):
Polish also has a possessive reflexive pronoun swój (swoja, swoje). It assumes the gender of the possessed object, not that of the possessor.
Not using a reflexive pronoun might indicate the other party's possession of the object:
The intensive meaning is done by the pronoun sam (inflecting for case, gender and number):
|Nominative||sam m||samo n||sama f||sami v pl||same nv pl|
Usually inflected si? is added in obliques:
Emphatically the accusative can be replaced with dative:
There are two ways to make a reflexive sentence in Portuguese. The first way is by attaching the reflexive pronoun (me, te, se, nos - also vos) to the verb. The second way is by also attaching the words "mesmo/a(s)" or "próprio/a(s)", masc/fem. (plural) (="self"), immediately after the verb to add stress/intensity :
The pronoun ? sebya universally means "oneself"/"myself"/"himself", etc. It is inflected depending on the case.
When used to indicate that the person is the direct object of the verb, one uses the accusative form, sebya. (It does not have a nominative form.)
Emphasized forms are "sam sebya" - masculine, "sama sebya" - feminine, "sami sebya" - plural. However, the word "sam" usually comes after the noun it is emphasizing.
This sentence underlines that the subject inflicted the wounds while in the previous example, "sebya" merely indicates that the subject was wounded.
In addition, the reflexive pronoun sebya gave rise the reflexive affix -sya (-) used to generate reflexive verbs, but in this context the affix indicates that the action happened accidentally:
There are certain stylistic differences between the three usages, despite being rendered in the same way in English.
When the person is not a direct object of the verb, other cases are used:
Russian has a reflexive possessive as well.
Because of the existence of reflexive forms, the use of a non-reflexive pronoun indicates a subject that is different from the object. If it is impossible, the sentence is invalid or at least irregular:
In Uzbek, the pronoun "o'zi", with the pronunciation of [?z?], refers to "oneself" and, to create a person specific forms, it requires certain affixes:
myself - "o'zi" + "-mni" => "o'zimni" [?z?mn?]; to myself - "o'zi" + "-mga" => "o'zimga" [?z?mg?]; from myself - "o'zi" + "-mdan" => "o'zimdan" [?z?md?n];
yourself - "o'zi" + "-ngni" => "o'zingni" [?z?ngn?]; to yourself - "o'zi" + "-ngga" => "o'zingga" [?z?ng?]; from yourself - "o'zi" + "-ngdan" => "o'zingdan" [?z?ngd?n];
himself/ herself/ itself - "o'zi" + "-ni" => "o'zini" [?z?n?]; to himself/ herself/ itself- "o'zi" + "-ga" => "o'ziga" [?z?g?]; from himself/ herself/ itself- "o'zi" + "-dan" => "o'zidan" [?z?d?n];
ourselves - "o'zi" + "-mizni" => "o'zimizni" [?z?m?zn?]; to ourselves- "o'zi" + "-mizga" => "o'zimizga" [?z?m?zg?]; from ourselves - "o'zi" + "-mizdan" => "o'zimizdan" [?z?m?zd?n];
yourselves - "o'zi" + "-ngizni" => "o'zingizni" [?z?ng?zn?]; to yourselves - "o'zi" + "-ngizga" => "o'zingizga" [?z?ng?zg?]; from yourselves - "o'zi" + "-ngizdan" => "o'zingizdan" [?z?ng?zd?n];
themselves - "o'z" + "-larini" => "o'zlarini" [?zl?r?n?]; to themselves- "o'z" + "-lariga" => "o'zlariga" [?z?l?r?g?]; from themselves- "o'z" + "-laridan" => "o'zilaridan" [?z?l?r?d?n];
myself - "o'zi" + "-m" => "o'zim" [?z?m]
yourself - "o'zi" + "-ng" => "o'zing" [?z?ng]
himself/ herself/ itself - "o'zi" + "-" => "o'zi" [?z?]
ourselves - "o'zi" + "-miz" => "o'zimiz" [?z?m?z]
yourselves - "o'zi" + "-ngiz" => "o'zingiz" [?z?ng?z]
themselves - "o'z" + "-lari" => "o'zlari" [?zl?r?]
Basically, the suffixes change based on the preposition used:
The words that modify the reflexive pronoun do show gender and number:
The enclitic form of the reflexive pronoun, se, has been grammaticalized to a high degree:
In Spanish, the reflexive pronouns are: me/nos (first person singular/plural), te/os (second person) or se (third person). In Latin America, "os" is not used, being replaced by "se" for the pronoun "ustedes". For clarity, there are optional intensifying adjuncts for reflexive pronouns, accompanied by "mismo/a" (masculine and feminine forms for "self"). They are not strictly adjuncts: "sí mismo/a" (instead of "se"), "ti mismo/a" (in the Río de la Plata region, it is replaced by "vos mismo/a") but "mi mismo": they usually postpend the genitive.
Examples with "wash oneself":
Note that the indirect object "le"/"les" do not override "se" in the reflexive.
In Vietnamese, the reflexive pronoun is mình whose meaning can be myself, herself, himself, themselves etc. depending on the number/gender of its antecedent.