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On the Status of Clitic Reflexives and Reciprocals in Italian and Serbian

Maja Miličević


This paper discusses the status of Italian and Serbian clitic reflexives and reciprocals with respect to the phenomenon of split intransitivity. Assuming an analysis that treats clitics as non-argumental markers of the verb's derived intransitivity, numerous proposals have been put forward as to whether clitic reflexives and reciprocals are unaccusative or unergative. The issue still appears as problematic in the literature, due to the fact that compelling empirical evidence is available for both views.

As a solution to this problem, we adopt the approach of Alsina (1996), according to whom both verbal arguments remain implicitly present in the clitic forms, making reflexives and reciprocals behave as unaccusative in some contexts, and as unergatives in others. In addition, we look at patterns of reflexive and reciprocal marking of intransitive verbs in Italian and Serbian, and we show that reflexives are more closely related to non-derived unaccusatives, while reciprocals have a closer relation to non-derived unergatives. This is formally captured in the framework of Correspondence Theory (Ackerman and Moore, 2001), in an analysis indicating that in reflexive-marked forms there is a progressive loss of agentivity, while the reciprocal-marked forms are characterised by a gradual decrease in patienthood.

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