[Ads-l] Inquiring about "myself"

Salikoko Mufwene mufw at UCHICAGO.EDU
Thu Nov 24 19:10:20 UTC 2022

As a non-native speaker I have been wondering whether English has a 
dedicated reflexive pronoun in the first place. Doesn't English what 
some languages do in recruiting a word/morpheme with an independent 
lexical meaning to be also used for a reflexive function? Several 
languages do this. My perception is that in English the basic function 
of -/self/-selves/ compounds is emphatic. Somebody tried to convince me 
decades back in the syntax classes that the /-self/-selves/ forms used 
for a reflexive function//are pronounced without a stress or with a weak 
one. I hear all uses the same way, with a stress, unless lack of stress 
means lack of emphasis. I don't hear weak/unstressed pronunciations. 
 From the point of view of language typology my hunch is that English is 
one of those languages without a dedicated reflexive pronouns and the 
current discussion is a non-issue.


On 11/24/2022 6:48 PM, Amy West wrote:
> I'm betting that there's a really nice entry on this in the M-W Dicty 
> of English Usage/Usage Dicty.
> Why yes, yes, there is: from pp. 509-512 in my copy.
> In sum:
> "The evidence should make it plain that the practic of substituting 
> /myself/ or other reflexive pronouns for ordinary personal pronouns is 
> not new -- these examples range over four centuries -- and is not 
> rare. It is true that many of the examples are from speech and 
> personal letters, suggesting familiarity and informality. But the 
> practice is by no means limited to informal contexts. Only the use of 
> /myself/ as sole subject of a snentence seems to be restricted; all 
> our examples are from older poetry."
> Gil goes on to cite an article by Frank Parker et al. (1990), 
> "Untriggered Reflexive Pronouns in English", from some rag called 
> /American Speech /for some additional points:
> "Noam Chomsky suggests that compounds like /Harry and myself/ block 
> the assignment of a case by a governing verb or preposition to the 
> individual constituents of the phrase, so that if they are pronouns 
> they may be nominative or objective or may even be reflexives."
> (Eh, I think it's just that the reflexive is a marked option: a choice 
> that the speaker can use for emphasis.)
> "You will observe that almost all the instances of first and second 
> person reflexive pronouns here occur in contexts where the speaker or 
> writer is referring to himself or herself or the listener or reader as 
> a subject of the discourse, rather than as a participant in it."
> ". . . in spite of what the critics may think, this use of the first 
> and second person reflexives is a common and standard, though not 
> mandatory, feature of the language."
> (Thank you, Gil!)
> ---Amy West
> On 11/24/22 00:00, ADS-L automatic digest system wrote:
>> Date:    Wed, 23 Nov 2022 16:08:52 -0500
>> From:    Jonathan Lighter<wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
>> Subject: Re: Inquiring about "myself"
>> I can't be definitive, but I began noticing this decades ago. Indeed,
>> Oxford takes it back to Old English. A clear example comes from John 
>> Bunyan
>> in 1674:  "Your artificial squibbling suggestions to the world about
>> myself."
>> You've probably also noticed the opposite tendency: saying "for me" 
>> rather
>> than "for myself."  (E.g., "I'm buying this one for me.") Possibly this
>> has become much more common in the past twenty or thirty years, but 
>> that's
>> just my impression. Oxford doesn't quite include it, but it does 
>> afford one
>> roughly comparable example from the 16th century: "Thinking to me 
>> [i.e., to
>> myself] they meant to gone us by."
>> Except for vocabulary, ordinary people in the past undoubtedly spoke 
>> rather
>> more like we do than literature suggests.
>> JL
>> On Wed, Nov 23, 2022 at 3:39 PM Virginia Euwer 
>> Wolff<veuwerwolff at gmail.com>
>> wrote:
>>> A question for ADS scholar/authorities: "Myself" as subject and/or 
>>> object
>>> in everyday sentences? It's seeming to proliferate.  Recent examples
>>> (November 2022): "If you have questions, speak to myself or members 
>>> of the
>>> committee." "Myself and members of the choir will give a concert on..."
>>> Does it reappear in cycles? Thank you for any replies at 
>>> Thanksgiving time.
>>> Virginia Euwer Wolff
>>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>>> The American Dialect Society -http://www.americandialect.org
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

Salikoko S. Mufwenes-mufwene at uchicago.edu
The Edward Carson Waller Distinguished Service Professor of Linguistics and the College
Professor, Department of Race, Diaspora, and Indigeneity
Professor, Committee on Evolutionary Biology
Professor, Committee on the Conceptual & Historical Studies of Science
Professor, Committee on African Studies
University of Chicago                  773-702-8531; FAX 773-834-0924
Department of Linguistics
1115 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637, USA

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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