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The Syntax of Lexical Reciprocal Constructions

Peter Hurst


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Many languages are able to productively form two types of reciprocal constructions from a transitive base: a monadic construction which groups the participants in the relation in the subject NP while losing an object NP; and a dyadic construction which creates a symmetric situation by placing one participant in a subject NP and another in a comitative phrase (also with the corresponding loss of an object). I show that the syntax of these constructions in Swahili (as well as in many other languages) can be understood as a natural consequence of speakers reanalysing a comitative phrase in a monadic reciprocal construction as an argument. My analysis builds upon recent work within LFG and is not only sensitive to these constructions' diachronic development from a basic transitive verb, but also provides insight into a variety of features these constructions share cross-linguistically. Furthermore, this analysis predicts the syntactic behaviour of many naturally symmetric verbs in English (such as dance, quarrel etc.).

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