reflexives in S. Slavonic

David Gil gil at EVA.MPG.DE
Sat Dec 5 20:30:36 UTC 1998

Dear colleagues,

A few days ago I asked if any speakers of Serbo-Croatian, Macedonian or
Bulgarian would be willing to answer a few questions.  The response was
excellent -- proving, once again, what a wonderful medium email is, and
what a useful list LINGTYP is.

Since some of the people who responded, and some other people too, were
curious as to why I was asking these questions, I promised I'd post a
summary on the list -- which is appended below.

Thanks to Zlatka Guentcheva, Marko Popovic, Ljuba Veselinova and Relja
Vulanovic for their prompt and helpful responses.



I am in the middle of writing a paper on a particular form in Riau
Indonesian, the word "sendiri".  This word has the following 7

(1) reflexive
     eg. "John shot HIMSELF"

(2) reciprocal
     eg. "John and Mary hugged EACH OTHER"

(3) deagentive
     eg. "John can solve the problem BY HIMSELF / WITHOUT HELP

(4) decomitative:
     eg. "John came to the party BY HIMSELF / ALONE

(5) "only"
     eg. "ONLY John came to the party"

(6) superlative
     eg. "John is the tallEST student in the class"

(7) emphatic / intensive
     eg. "The president HIMSELF / EVEN the president came to the party"

I am interested in finding examples from other languages of forms
sharing a similar semantic range, and had read about the form "sam-" in
Southern Slavonic languages -- hence my query.

Serbo-Croatian and Bulgarian each have three reflexive formatives,
"sebe", "se/si", and "sam-".  In a rare show of unanimity, all four
persons who responded -- two for Serbo-Croatian and two for Bulgarian,
characterized their distribution identically, as follows:

function (1) only

functions (1), (2)

functions (1), (3), (4), (5), (7), with the proviso that in (1), it
cannot mark the reflexive by itself, but only in conjunction with one of
the preceding two markers, as a reinforcing element.

David Gil

Department of Linguistics
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Inselstrasse 22, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany

Telephone: 49-341-9952310
Fax: 49-341-9952119
Email: gil at

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