Syntactic and pragmatic theories of Chinese reflexives

Darcy Sperlich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This article introduces new Mandarin Chinese data on ziji ‘self’ namely it has been overlooked that ziji is able to take the collective suffix –men to form zijimen. This observation is gleaned from written material found in the mainstream Chinese news media, as well as among general Chinese websites. In evaluating this new reflexive data, there are two major theoretical traditions, syntactic and pragmatic, to consider. Assessing recent Minimalist anaphoric theories shows that there are challenges presented for these syntactic theories’ mechanisms when applied to zijimen. In the field of pragmatics however, this new form presents little challenge to the revised neo-Gricean pragmatic theory of anaphora. Moreover, this new data sheds light on the distributivity problem of ziji, leading to a new pragmatic analysis. Consequently, in spite of recent syntactic advances in anaphoric theory, the best answer to Chinese reflexive pronouns is still a pragmatic one.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-36
Number of pages15
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • Binding
  • Chinese
  • Long-distance
  • Reflexive
  • Ziji
  • Zijimen


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