"early" ex. of initial "myself"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Thu May 3 17:47:51 UTC 2007

Of course you're right, Arnold. I replied to Wilson's post because it was the handiest one in the thread.   Not that I need any excuse to reply to Wilson.


  "Arnold M. Zwicky" <zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU> wrote:
  ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: "Arnold M. Zwicky"
Subject: Re: "early" ex. of initial "myself"

On May 3, 2007, at 9:04 AM, Jon Lighter wrote:

> Earlier still:
> 1875 J. A. Lawson _Wanderings in the Interior of New Guinea_
> (London: Chapman & Hall)52: Myself and Danang were not so fortunate...

this are excellent examples, but they're not examples of the sentence-
initial "attitude particle" use that wilson and i were (most
recently) talking about. we were talking about things like:

Me, I wouldn't ever go there.
Myself, I wouldn't ever go there.
Me myself, I wouldn't ever go there.

here we get sentences that begin with "myself", but they're nothing
at all like your examples or the ones we talked about earlier, which
all had coordinate subjects with "myself" as the first conjunct.

> ... Just why the use of initial _myself_ should be so vilified is
> far from clear, unless it stem (note rare and classy subjunctive)
> from a pious belief that _myself_ "can only be emphatic or
> reflexive, G-dd-mi-t !"

no doubt. in both of these types, "myself" is anaphoric, with an
antecedent within its clause. the Cambridge Grammar of the English
Language calls these "basic reflexives" -- and then has a lengthy
discussion of "override reflexives" of several different types.

but there's a terminological problem here. in line with CGEL, and
essentially all of the technical literature, i use the term
"reflexive" to refer to a class of pronouns (of the form Xself or
Xselves). above, you're using the term to refer to a *use* of these
pronouns, and that's just confusing. at the very least, we need to
distinguish anaphoric reflexives from others; the coordinate-subject
examples we've been looking at are in the "other" category.

i'm not sure where the dogma came from that reflexives have to be
anaphoric (in some handbooks, anaphoric with an antecedent in the
same clause). it might be just another case of taking the label to
be a definition: "reflexive" means 'bending back on', so there has to
be an antecedent. that's just silly, but i've seen worse. and
there's no justification, historically or in current usage, for
insisting that reflexives must always be (same-clause) anaphoric.


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