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The Journal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 229–252 | Cite as

Reflexive choice in Dutch and German

  • Petra Hendriks
  • John C. J. Hoeks
  • Jennifer Spenader
Original Paper

Abstract

Standard Dutch and German have two reflexive forms: a weak form (zich in Dutch and sich in German) and a strong form (zichzelf in Dutch and sich selbst in German). The choice between the two reflexive forms in Dutch has been explained by the selectional restrictions of the verb, distinguishing between three verb classes: inherently reflexive verbs, accidentally reflexive verbs and transitive verbs. The same three verb classes can be distinguished in German, suggesting that the factors governing reflexive choice in Dutch and German are similar. However, several studies have pointed out that Dutch zich is more restricted in its use than German sich. We used a forced-choice task to test adult Dutch and German participants on their preference for the weak versus strong reflexive form with various verb classes and sentence types. Comparing similar sentences across the two languages, we observe an overall preference for the strong reflexive in Dutch but an overall preference for the weak reflexive in German. Looking at the participants’ reflexive choices within each language, we found effects of verb class, syntactic structure (transitive versus ECM constructions) and semantic features. Whereas the semantic feature habituality did not affect reflexive choice in either language, intentionality did so in Dutch only, and tense and possibly focus affected reflexive choice in both languages. These observations seem problematic for the syntactically motivated dual-entry account of reflexive choice, but are consistent with the likelihood account.

Keywords

Reflexives Verb class ECM construction Habituality Intentionality 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Petra Hendriks
    • 1
  • John C. J. Hoeks
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jennifer Spenader
    • 3
  1. 1.Center for Language and Cognition GroningenUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.BCN Neuroimaging CenterUniversity of Groningen / University Medical Center GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive EngineeringUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands

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