Skip to content
BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Mouton February 3, 2021

Profile of reflexives in Hill Mari

  • Irina Burukina ORCID logo EMAIL logo
From the journal Folia Linguistica


The paper provides a detailed examination of reflexive strategies in the Kuznetsovo dialect of Hill Mari (Mari, Uralic) filling in an existing gap in the description of anaphoric elements in Uralic languages. Firstly, I focus on simple lexical reflexives derived from the stem (ə̈)škə̈-. Having examined their morphosyntactic and binding properties, I adopt several typological classifications and approach the Hill Mari data from a cross-linguistic perspective comparing them to anaphors in other Uralic languages. Secondly, I consider other reflexive strategies employed in Uralic languages, such as complex (reduplicative) reflexive pronouns and reflexive detransitivization of a predicate, and I demonstrate that these scenarios are unavailable in the variety of Hill Mari under discussion.

1 Introduction

The present paper aims to provide a detailed examination of reflexive strategies in the Kuznetsovo dialect of Hill Mari (Mari, Uralic), contributing to the discussion of reflexivity in Uralic languages most prominently presented in Volkova (2014), where anaphors in Tegi Khanty, Meadow Mari, Komi-Zyrian, Besermyan Udmurt, and Shoksha Erzya are considered. With regard to Hill Mari, only a few sentences with reflexive (ə̈)škə̈- pronouns can be found in the existing grammars, such as Majtinskaja (1964), Savatkova (2002), Alhoniemi (2010), and Krasnova et al. (2017), and no thorough description of the properties of these items has yet been given. Hence, my goal is to close this gap in the exploration of anaphoric elements in Uralic languages, thereby making a step towards a comprehensive cross-linguistic study of reflexivity.

Firstly, I will discuss the morphosyntactic properties of dedicated reflexive pronouns built on the stem (ə̈)škə̈- as in (1), comparing them, on the one hand, to referential nominal phrases in Hill Mari and, on the other, to reflexive pronouns in other Uralic languages.[1]

Tə̈n’ škə̈m-et-ə̈m jarat-et.
you refl-poss.2sg-acc love-npst.2sg
‘You love yourself.’
Tə̈n’ ške giš-än-et šajə̑št-at.
you refl about-lat2-poss.2sg talk-npst.2sg
‘You talk about yourself.’

Secondly, I will consider other reflexive strategies employed in Uralic languages along with simple reflexive pronouns, such as complex reflexive pronouns and reflexive detransitivization of a predicate.[2] Complex reflexives, that is, reduplicative anaphors built on the model REFL/PRON + REFL,[3] are attested in Meadow Mari, Erzya, Moksha, Nenets, i.a.;[4] an example from Meadow Mari is given in (2).

Kažne šken-žə-m ške jörat-a.
every refl-poss.3sg-acc refl like-npst.3sg
‘Everyone likes himself.’
(Volkova 2014: 66)

The so-called reflexive Voice (i.e., syntactic reflexive detransitivization; see Section 5.2) can be found, for instance, in Estonian: compare the pairs kord u ma ‘repeat’ (intransitive) – kord a ma ‘repeat something’, eemald u ma ‘withdraw’ (intransitive) – eemald a ma ‘withdraw something’, etc., where reflexive variants are derived using the suffix -u- (Kask 1966). As will be shown in this paper, these two strategies are not attested in Hill Mari. Firstly, I will demonstrate that combinations of two juxtaposed škə̈-/ške pronouns that occasionally appear in Hill Mari texts and that may seem to be a complex reduplicative reflexive should, in fact, be analyzed as a chance co-occurrence of a reflexive pronoun and a lexical intensifier, often syntactically unrelated to each other. Secondly, following Belova and Dyachkov (2019), I will argue that Hill Mari intransitive verbs with reflexive interpretations are inherent and do not result from a productive syntactic derivation.

Before we proceed, a few words should be said about the framework adopted in the paper. As stated at the very beginning of this section, the main purpose of this work is to examine various properties of reflexives in Hill Mari. I adopt the general terminology coined by Chomsky (1981) within the Government and Binding framework and currently used within the Minimalist theory; however, I refrain from discussing the general nature of reference and mechanisms of binding attempting to remain as ‘theory-neutral’ as possible, but I believe that the Hill Mari data can further help to support and confirm particular formal analyses of anaphoric pronouns.

As I intend to incorporate the description of Hill Mari reflexives into the general discussion of reflexivity across the world’s languages, I adopt the following two typological classifications of anaphoric elements: (i) the formal typology of reflexives based on their morphosyntactic distribution developed by Déchaine and Wiltschko (2017), and (ii) the typology of pronouns based on their syntactic behavior and requirements imposed on antecedents proposed by Kiparsky (2002). The classifications will be described in more detail in Section 3.3 below.

The rest of the paper is structured as follows. Section 2 describes the morphosyntactic behavior of Hill Mari reflexives, while Section 3 focuses on their binding properties examining the antecedent and locality restrictions. Sections 4 and 5 discuss reflexivity in Hill Mari within a broader context, drawing data from other Uralic languages. In particular, Section 4 considers simple anaphoric pronouns and Section 5 is devoted to complex reflexives and reflexive detransitivization. Section 6 concludes the paper.

2 Morphosyntactic properties of ške/škə̈- reflexives

This section describes the morphosyntactic properties of Hill Mari lexical ške/škə̈- reflexives and demonstrates that these items pattern with personal pronouns and possessed nominal phrases. This becomes relevant in the second part of the section, where I approach the Hill Mari data from the point of view of the Déchaine and Wiltschko’s (2017) typology for reflexive markers.

2.1 Paradigm

Reflexive pronouns in Hill Mari are represented by the following items derived from the same lexical root: (i) the agreeing škə̈(m)- forms, which bear possessive and case morphology and are used in most of the argumental positions, and (ii) the non-agreeing invariant ške, often described as the nominative form (Alhoniemi 2010; Savatkova 2002), which appears with postpositions and as a prenominal possessive modifier (3).[5]

Tə̈n’ škə̈m-et-ə̈m už-at.
you refl-poss.2sg-acc see-npst.2sg
‘You see yourself.’
Mə̈n’ mešäk-ə̈m ške do-k-em šə̑pš-al-ə̑n-am.
I sack-acc refl to-ill2-poss.1sg pull-att-pst2-1sg
‘I pulled the sack towards myself.’

The paradigm of the reflexive forms is given in Table 1.

Table 1:

The paradigm of ške / škə̈- forms.[6]

Unmarked (nominative) Accusative Genitive Dative
1SG ške škӛm-em-ӛm škӛm-em-ӛn š(kӛ)-län-em
2SG škӛm-et-ӛm škӛm-et-ӛn š(kӛ)-län-et
3SG škӛm-žӛ-m škӛm-žӛ-n š(kӛ)-län-žӛ
1PL škӛm-nä-m škӛm-nä-n š(kӛ)-län-nä
2PL škӛm-dä-m škӛm-dä-n š(kӛ)-län-dä
3PL škӛm-ӛštӛ-m škӛm-ӛštӛ-n š(kӛ)-län-ӛštӛ

A few remarks should be made regarding the paradigm. First, as identified in the table above, the nominative form ške is always unmarked.[7] Thus, when it is used as a complement of a PP, the possessive marker appears on the postposition (compare, for instance, [3b] and [4]).

*Mə̈n’ mešäk-ə̈m škə̈m-em do-kə̑ šə̑pš-ə̑l-ə̑n-am.
I sack-acc refl-poss.1sg to-ill2 pull-att-pst2-1sg
‘I pulled the sack towards myself.’

Second, škə̈m- is the morphologically marked non-nominative stem that is immediately followed by a possessive marker. A possessive suffix on reflexives obligatorily precedes accusative and genitive case markers and follows the dative marker; in this respect, reflexives resemble personal pronouns and possessed nominal phrases although the latter allow more variation in the dative (5).[8]

Tə̈n’ škə̈m-et-ə̈m / *škə̈-m-et už-at.
you refl-poss.2sg-acc refl-acc-poss.2sg see-npst.2sg
‘You see yourself.’
Tə̈n’ š ( kə̈ ) -län-et / * škə̈m-et-län knigä-m näl-ə̈n-ät.
you refl-dat-poss.2sg refl-poss.2sg-dat book-acc take-pst2-2sg
‘You bought yourself a book.’
Tə̈n’ mäm-nä-m / *mäm-əm-nä / täng-et-ə̈m /
you we-poss.1pl-acc we-acc-poss.1pl friend-poss.2sg-acc
*täng-ə̈m-et už-at.
friend-acc-poss.2sg see-npst.2sg
‘You see us / your friend.’
Tə̈n’ mä-län-nä / *mä-nä-län / täng-län-et /
you we-dat-poss.1pl we-poss.1pl-dat friend-poss.2sg-dat
täng-et-län knigä-m näl-ə̈n-ät.
friend-dat-poss.2sg book-acc take-pst2-2sg
‘You bought us / your friend a book.’

Third, similarly to personal pronouns and animate nouns, reflexives prohibit locative and caritive markers, which can be used with referential inanimate nominal phrases (compare [6a] and [6b] to [6c]).[9]

*Pet’a škə̈m-ə̈škə̈-žə̈ / škə̈m-žə̈-škə̈ kə̈zə̈-m šə̑r-al-ə̑n.
Petja refl-ill-poss.3sg refl-poss.3sg-ill knife-acc thrust-att-pst2
Intended: ‘Petja thrust the knife into himself.’
*Pet’a Oleg-ə̈š / šarə̑k-ə̑š kə̈zə̈-m šə̑r-al-ə̑n.
Petja Oleg-ill sheep-ill knife-acc thrust-att-pst2
Intended: ‘Petja thrust the knife into Oleg / a sheep.’
Pet’a pušängə̈-škə̈ kə̈zə̈-m šə̑r-al-ə̑n.
Petja tree-ill knife-acc thrust-att-pst2
‘Petja thrust the knife into a tree.’

2.2 Reflexive pronouns vs. DPs

Building upon their (2002) discussion of various sub-types of personal pronouns distinguished by their structural size, Déchaine and Wiltschko (2017) propose that reflexive markers in the world’s languages also form a heterogeneous group differing in terms of their morphosyntactic behavior and structural properties. The two most widespread types of reflexives are so called D-reflexives, whose distribution is similar to that of referential nominal phrases (DPs), and clitic-like φ-reflexives. DP-like reflexives can be found in Germanic languages (for instance, English self anaphors), while anaphoric clitics are common, for example, in Romance languages (for instance, se in French and Spanish and si in Italian).

Reflexive pronouns in Hill Mari pattern with English self reflexives in that their distributional properties are parallel to those of referential nominal phrases.[10] Firstly, reflexives in Hill Mari can both saturate various arguments and function as predicates; compare (7a) to a similar example in (7b), where the predicate is a deictic pronoun.[11]

Mə̈n’ ške / *škə̈m-em a-m ə̑l.
I refl refl-poss.1sg neg.npst-1sg be
‘I am not myself.’
Mə̈n’ tə̈n’ ə̑l-am.
I You be-npst.1sg
‘I am you.’

Secondly, reflexives allow various kinds of modifiers, including postpositive adjuncts, appositive constructions, adjectival and nominal modifiers, as seen in (8).

(Ti fotokartočka-štə̑) už-am [škə̈m-em-ə̈m pi dono].
this photo-in see-npst.1sg refl-poss.1sg-acc dog with
‘(On this photo) I see myself with a dog.’
Mə̈n’ [ škə̈m-em-ə̈m sämə̈rə̈k-ə̈m] už-am.
I refl-poss.1sg-acc young-acc see-npst.1sg
‘I see myself young.’
Mə̈n’ [sämə̈rə̈k škə̈m-em-ə̈m ] už-am.
I young refl-poss.1sg-acc see-npst.1sg
(i) ‘I see myself young.’
(ii) ‘I, being now young, see myself.’
Mə̈n’ [ škə̈m-em-ə̈m ə̑žar platjə̑-n-ə̑m] už-am.
I refl-poss.1sg-acc green dress-gen-acc see-npst.1sg
‘I see myself in a green dress.’
Mə̈n’ [ə̑žar platjə̑-n škə̈m-em-ə̈m ] už-am.
I green dress-gen refl-poss.1sg-acc see-npst.1sg
(i) ‘I see myself in a green dress.’
(ii) ‘I, in a green dress, see myself.’

Thirdly, a constituent headed by a reflexive can be independently negated (9); parallel examples with a sentential negation are given in (10). Note that, although agə̑l can appear in a broad range of contexts, it can only be used as a constituent negator and never accompanies finite verbs (except for desideratives; see Kirillova 2017 for discussion). Thus, the examples in (9) support the idea that anaphoric pronouns in Hill Mari do not form a morphosyntactic complex with the main predicate.

Mə̈n’ tə̈gə̈r-ə̈štə̈ [škə̈m-em-ə̈m agə̑l] už-ə̑n-am.
I mirror-in refl-poss.1sg-acc neg see-pst2-1sg
‘In the mirror I saw not myself.’
Tə̈n’ olma-m [ š(kə̈)-län-et agə̑l] näl-ə̈n-ät.
you apple-acc refl-dat-poss.2sg neg take-pst2-2sg
‘You took an apple not for yourself.’
Mə̈n’ tə̈gə̈r-ə̈štə̈ škə̈m-em-ə̈m š-ə̈m už.
I mirror-in refl-poss.1sg-acc neg.pst1-1sg see
‘I did not see myself in a mirror.’
Tə̈n’ olma-m š(kə̈)-län-et š-ə̈c näl.
you apple-acc refl-dat-poss.2sg neg.pst1-2sg take
‘You did not take an apple for yourself.’

This property also unites reflexive pronouns and referential possessed DPs. In this, the anaphor škə̈- differs from reflexive clitics common in other languages: anaphor clitics in Spanish, for instance, form a single morphophonological unit with the predicate and cannot scope independently under negation, as shown in (11).

Pedro no se vio en el espejo.
Pedro neg refl.3.acc see.pst.3sg in det mirror
‘Pedro did not see himself in the mirror.’
Not available: ‘In the mirror Pedro saw not himself.’

Further evidence that reflexive pronouns in Hill Mari are not clitics is provided by the fact that, similarly to other nominal arguments, they can be separated from the predicate and the rest of the clause in focus constructions, as in (12).

Tə̈n’ [škə̈m-et-ə̈m vele] jarat-et.
you refl-poss.2sg-acc only love-npst.2sg
‘You love only yourself.’
Tə̈n’ [Maša-m vele] jarat-et.
you Maša-acc only love-npst.2sg
‘You love only Maša.’

Finally, reflexives and referential nominal phrases in Hill Mari can be coordinated (13a). This provides additional support for the claim that škə̈- anaphors are full DPs since clitics and structurally smaller elements cannot coordinate with larger phrases (Kayne 1975); unsuccessful attempts to construct a parallel example in Spanish are provided for comparison in (13b) and (13c).

Fotokartočka-štə̑ Pet’a [škə̈m-žə̈-m vätə̈-žə̈-m]
photo-in Petja refl-poss.3sg-acc and wife-poss.3sg-acc
‘In the picture Petja saw himself and his wife.’
*Pedro se vio y {a su mujer / el gato}.
Pedro refl saw and prep his wife det cat
Intended: ‘Pedro saw himself and his wife / the cat.’
*Pedro vio se y {a su mujer / el gato}.
Pedro saw refl and prep his wife det cat
Intended: ‘Pedro saw himself and his wife / the cat.’

To summarize, ške/škə̈- anaphors are similar in their behavior to referential DPs and personal pronouns and are morphosyntactically independent from the predicate unlike reflexive clitics and affixes in many languages.[12] Although from a typological perspective it is rather common for reflexives that are derived using the pattern REFL + POSS to behave as full DPs, there is no strict one-to-one correspondence. For instance, the Russian reflexive pronoun sebja also patterns with referential DPs in its behavior while morphologically it does not contain a possessive agreement marker (Testelets 2001). At the same time, POSS-i’ anaphors in Kaqchikel (a Mayan language spoken in Guatemala) resemble English and Uralic pronouns on the surface but are similar to Spanish reflexive clitics in their syntactic distribution (Burukina 2019). In the next section I focus on the binding properties of ške/škə̈- reflexives, that is the antecedent and locality restrictions. This will allow us to determine the status of Hill Mari reflexives according to the typology of reflexive pronouns developed by Kiparsky (2002) (discussed in detail in Section 3.3).

3 Binding properties of ške/škə̈- reflexives

3.1 Antecedents

In many genetically and geographically unrelated languages, including, for example, Inuit (Eskimo–Aleut; Bittner 1994), Shona (Atlantic-Congo; Storoshenko 2009), and Russian (Slavic; Testelets 2001), reflexives are subject-oriented, that is, they can be bound only by a subject antecedent and are often restricted to the direct/indirect object position (see, for example, the reflexive affix in Shona [Bantu] and reflexive clitics in French [Déchaine and Wiltschko 2017]). As will be demonstrated in this section, Hill Mari škə̈- reflexives can occur in all structural positions suitable for ordinary nominal phrases, except for the clausal subject position, and normally can be bound by any c-commanding co-argument. In exempt positions[13] (i.e., where there is no c-commanding co-argument, as is the case within postpositional phrases or nominal phrases) reflexives allow co-reference with almost any locally available pragmatically suitable member in a sentence, the only restriction being the word order: the antecedent must linearly precede the anaphor.[14] In what follows I will consider the reflexive-antecedent combinations in more detail one by one, providing examples.

3.1.1 Reflexives with co-arguments

The most typical context for a reflexive pronoun is when an internal argument syntactically realized as a direct or indirect object, is co-indexed with the external argument (the subject), as seen in (14).

Mə̈n’ škə̈m-em-ə̈m tə̈gə̈r-ə̈štə̈ už-am.
I refl-poss.1sg-acc mirror-in see-npst.1sg
‘I see myself in a mirror.’
Mə̈n’ škə̈-län-em cüdej-em.
I refl-dat-poss.1sg surprise-npst.1sg
‘I am surprised by myself.’

The question arises whether a direct object can be an antecedent to an anaphoric indirect object or vice versa. Unfortunately, in Hill Mari there are no inherently ditransitive predicates suitable for examining the relation between these two arguments because the translation equivalents for such English ditransitive verbs as show, demonstrate, or introduce typically used in the diagnostic, are derived causative verbs. The one non-derived verb puaš ‘give’ is not typically used in situations where the Theme and the Recipient refer to the same person (as in #I gave Mary to herself); however, idiomatic examples with a reciprocal pronoun suggest that co-reference can be established between a pronoun and a linearly preceding antecedent, with a direct object binding the indirect object evaluated as being more acceptable (15).

Svjaščennik sämə̈rə̈k-vlä-m ikänäikt-ə̈štə̈-län pu-en.
priest young-pl-acc each.other-poss.3pl-dat give-pst2
‘The priest gave the young couple to each other.’
?? Svjaščennik ikänäikt-ə̈štə̈-län sämə̈rə̈k-vlä-m pu-en.
priest each.other-poss.3pl-dat young-pl-acc give-pst2
‘The priest gave the young couple to each other.’
? Svjaščennik sämə̈rə̈k-vlä-län ikänäikt-ə̈štə̈-m pu-en.
priest young-pl-dat each.other-poss.3pl-acc give-pst2
‘The priest gave the young couple to each other.’
*Svjaščennik ikänäikt-ə̈štə̈-m sämə̈rə̈k-vlä-län pu-en.
priest each.other-poss.3pl-acc young-pl-dat give-pst2
‘The priest gave the young couple to each other.’

As for derived predicates, both inherently intransitive and transitive verbs can be causativized. In the first case, the Causee is marked accusative and behaves as an ordinary direct object in that it can be bound by the subject, see (16).

Vrač škə̈m-žə̈-m ə̈lə̈ž-t-en.
doctor refl-poss.3sg-acc revive-caus-pst2
‘The doctor revived himself.’

If an inherently transitive verb is causativized, the dative Causee can be bound only by the subject (Causer) but not by the direct object,[15] complying with the c-command requirement, as shown in (17).

Ivan k škə̈-län-žə̈ *i/k Maša-m i anž-ə̑kt-en.
Ivan refl-dat-poss.3sg Maša-acc look-caus-pst2
‘Ivan showed Maša to himself.’
Not available: ‘Ivan showed Maša to herself.’
Ivan k Maša-m i škə̈-län-žə̈ *i/k anž-ə̑kt-en.
Ivan Maša-acc refl-dat-poss.3sg look-caus-pst2
‘Ivan showed Maša to himself.’
Not available: ‘Ivan showed Maša to herself.’

The dative DP referring to a Causee can itself be an antecedent to an anaphoric direct object, see (18). These examples are often ambiguous between the ‘Causee antecedent’ and the ‘Subject antecedent’ readings if a possessive marker on the reflexive matches both participants.

Ivan k Maša-lan i škӛm-žə̈-m i/k anž-ə̑kt-en.
Ivan Maša-dat refl-poss.3sg-acc look-caus-pst2
‘Ivan showed herself / himself to Maša.’
Ivan k škə̈m-žə̈-m ?i/k Maša-lan i anž-ə̑kt-en.
Ivan refl-poss.3sg-acc Maša-dat look-caus-pst2
Only: ‘Ivan showed himself to Maša.’

3.1.2 Reflexives in exempt positions

The two typical contexts for a reflexive without a co-argument are in the complement position of a postposition and as a possessor within a nominal phrase; in the latter case, either a genitive- agreeing form škə̈m-POSS-n or the invariant ške can be used.[16] An anaphor in an exempt position can be co-referent with any of the main predicate arguments; a few examples are given in (19)–(21). As further illustrated in (21), potential interpretational ambiguity is usually resolved via the choice of the possessive marker on the anaphor.


Subject antecedent

a. Mə̈n’ mešäk-ə̈m ške do-k-em šə̑pš-al-ə̑n-am.
I sack-acc refl to-ill2-poss.1sg pull-att-pst2-1sg
‘I pulled the sack towards myself.’
b. Ol’eg škə̈m-žə̈-n / ? ške sə̑ravač-ə̑m jam-d-en.
Oleg refl-poss.3sg-gen refl key-acc be.lost-caus-pst2
‘Oleg lost his key.’

Direct object antecedent

a. Mə̈n’ Pet’a-m ške giš-än-žə̈ a-m jaratə̑.
I Petja-acc refl about-lat2-poss.3sg neg.npst-1sg like
‘I dislike Petja because of him.’
b. Maša-m škə̈m-žə̈-n äkä(-žə̈) saga už-ə̑n-am.
Maša-acc refl-poss.3sg-gen older.sister-poss.3sg near see-pst2-1sg
‘I saw Maša next to her older sister.’

Indirect object antecedent

a. Mə̈n’ Pet’a-lan Ške giš-än- žə̈ / giš-än- em
I Petja-dat refl about-lat2-poss.3sg about-lat2-poss.1sg
‘I told Petja about him / myself.’
b. Maša-lan škə̈m-žə̈-n knigä(-žə̈)-m pu-en-äm.
Maša-dat refl-poss.3sg-gen book-poss.3sg-acc give-pst2-1sg
‘I gave Maša her (own) book.’

In addition to this, a reflexive pronoun in an exempt position can be co-referent with a DP within another postpositional/nominal phrase, see (22).

Mə̈n’ Vanja i giš-än ške i veldə̈k-šə̈ šajə̑št-ə̑n-am.
I Vanja about-lat2 refl because.of-poss.3sg tell-pst2-1sg
‘I told about Vanja because of him.’
Maša i saga škə̈m-žə̈-n i knigä(-žə̈)-m už-ə̑n-am.
Maša near refl-poss.3sg-gen book-poss.3sg-acc see-pst2-1sg
‘I saw her book next to Maša.’
[Maša-n i toštə̑ madə̑š-vlä(-žə̈)-m] [ škə̈m-žə̈-n i
Maša-gen old toy-pl-poss.3sg-acc refl-poss.3sg-gen
šə̑žar(-žə̑)-lan] pu-en-ə̈t.
younger.sister-poss.3sg-dat give-pst2-3pl
‘They gave Maša’s old toys to her sister.’
[Maša-n i šə̑žar(-žə̑)-lan] [ škə̈m-žə̈-n i toštə̑
Maša-gen younger.sister-poss.3sg-dat refl-poss.3sg-gen old
madə̑š-vlä(-žə̈)-m] pu-en-ə̈t.
toy-pl-poss.3sg-acc give-pst2-3pl
‘They gave Maša’s sister her old toys.’

The only restriction in case of an exempt position is the linear precedence of an antecedent; compare for instance (22a) and the ungrammatical (23), where the antecedent follows a reflexive pronoun.[17]

*Mə̈n’ ške giš-än-žə̈ Vanja veldə̈k šajə̑št-ə̑n-am.
I refl about-lat2-poss.3sg Vanja because.of tell-pst2-1sg
Intended: ‘I told about Vanja because of him.’

3.2 Locality

The binding domain for škə̈- reflexives and their antecedents is restricted to a minimal clausal constituent with an overt subject. In Hill Mari, several types of clause-like constituents can be embedded: (i) finite complement clauses with overt complementizers, (ii) infinitival complement clauses, (iii) nominalized clausal constituents with genitive or nominative embedded subjects, (iv) non-finite and finite adjunct clauses. Among them, argumental infinitival constituents with a covert subject are transparent, that is a reflexive in an embedded clause can have its antecedent in the matrix clause. Constituents that have an overt subject – embedded finite clauses, nominalizations, and adjunct clauses – are opaque. This is illustrated below.

A reflexive pronoun embedded in a non-finite clause can be bound either by the local (implicit) subject, denoted here as Ø, or the matrix (explicit) one (24).

Pet’a k Maša-lan i i škə̈m-žə̈-m i/k anž-al-aš]
Petja Maša-dat refl-poss.3sg-acc see-att-inf
‘Petja permitted Maša to look at herself/him.’
Pet’a k Maša-lan i i škə̈m-žə̈-n i/k / ? ške i/k
Petja Maša-dat refl-poss.3sg-gen refl
täng-vlä(-žə̈)-m sə̈gə̈r-äl-äš] jad-ə̑n.
friend-pl-poss.3sg-acc call-att-inf ask-pst2
‘Petja asked Maša to call her/his friends.’

Nominalized and adverbial clauses with an overt subject are opaque for anaphor binding; thus, in (25) the matrix subjects cannot be antecedents for the embedded reflexives and the sentences receive unambiguous interpretations.

Ivan k äšə̈ndär-ä [Pet’a-n i / Pet’a i
Ivan remember-npst.3sg Petja-gen Petja
škə̈m-žə̈-m i/*k uvažajə̑-mə̑(-žə̑)-m].
refl-poss.3sg-acc respect-nmlz-poss.3sg-acc
‘Ivan remembers that Petja respects himself.’
Not available: ‘Ivan remembers that Petja respects him.’
[Maša i škə̈m-žə̈-m i/*k šel-mə̈kə̈] Ol’ga k
Maša refl-poss.3sg-acc hit-cvb Olga
sə̈gə̈r-äl-Ø kolt-en.
cry-att-cvb send-pst2
‘Olga cried out when Maša hit herself.’
Not available: ‘Olga cried out when Maša hit her.’
% Ol’ga k sə̈gə̈r-äl-Ø kolt-en [Maša i škə̈m-žə̈-m i/*k
Olga cry-att-cvb send-pst2 Maša refl-poss.3sg-acc
‘Olga cried out when Maša hit herself.’
Not available: ‘Olga cried out when Maša hit her.’

The same is true for all finite clauses: arguments, adjuncts, and relative clauses, which are also opaque for binding, see (26).

Pet’a k Jura-lan j keles-en [što Maša i škə̈m-žə̈-m i/*j/*k
Petja Jura-dat say-pst2 that Maša refl-poss.3sg-acc
vele jarat-a].
only love-npst.3sg
‘Petja said to Jura that Maša loves only herself.’
Maša k sə̈gə̈r-äl-Ø kolt-en [kə̑nam Pet’a i
Maša cry-att-cvb send-pst2 when Petja
škə̈m-žə̈-m i/*k sev-äl-ə̈n].
refl-poss.3sg-acc hit-att-pst2
‘Maša cried out when Petja hit himself.’
Tə̈n’ ə̈də̈rämäš-ə̈m už-ə̑n-at [kə̑də̑ tə̈n’ə̈-m /
you woman-acc see-pst2-2sg that you-acc
* škə̈m-et-ə̈m päl-ä].
refl-poss.2sg-acc know-npst.3sg
‘You saw a woman who knows you.’

It may appear that occasionally Hill Mari reflexives, similarly to self reflexives in English, may allow co-reference with a non-local overt subject; consider, for instance, (27), where the matrix subject binds the embedded pronoun despite the presence of the local overt subject.

Mə̈n’ keles-en-äm što Pet’a jarat-a mə̈n’-ə̈m /
I tell-pst2-1sg that Petja love-npst.3sg I-acc
škə̈m-em-ə̈m (vele).
refl-poss.1sg-acc only
‘I said that Petja loved only me.’

Note however, that in sentences parallel to (27), the pronoun škə̈- should be analyzed as emphatic (an intensifier) rather, and not as anaphoric. In (28) the emphatic pronoun škə̈m-em-ə̈m is a focused constituent and can be accompanied by the particle vele ‘only’. If another constituent is focused, the pronoun škə̈- can no longer be used; for instance, in (28), the constituent ‘only Petja’ is emphasized as the only focus and, thus, škə̈m-em-ə̈m cannot be interpreted as an intensifier; the anaphoric reading is also unavailable in this case.

Mə̈n’ keles-en-äm što Pet’a vele mə̈n’-ə̈m /
I say-pst2-1sg that Petja only I-acc
* škə̈m-em-ə̈m jarat-a.
refl-poss.1sg-acc love-npst.3sg
‘I said that only Petja loves me.’

3.3 ške/škə̈- in the typology of pronouns

To address the Hill Mari data from a typological perspective, I adopt the typology of pronouns based on their syntactic properties developed by Kiparsky (2002). Kiparsky follows Faltz (1977) and suggests that the binding properties of reflexives and reciprocals vary along at least the following two dimensions: (i) the size of the domain within which they must be bound, and (ii) the nature of the antecedent in the clausal domain. Importantly, these two characteristics are lexical properties of individual anaphors, not a syntactic parameter of the language as a whole, and thus may differ for distinct groups of pronouns.

As for the first parameter, Kiparsky identifies a hierarchy of five successively more inclusive antecedent domains; the category of a pronoun is determined by the maximum domain in which its antecedent may be found. Firstly, there are referentially independent vs. referentially dependent pronouns. The former can introduce a new entity into the discourse, for instance via deictic use (as in It is me!), while the latter must have at least a discourse antecedent. Secondly, referentially dependent pronouns are divided into reflexives and non-reflexives, depending on whether they require a syntactic antecedent. Thus, non-reflexives are allowed with a context antecedent in such examples as John i is here. I saw him i . Thirdly, reflexive pronouns may be finite-bound, that is, requiring an antecedent within the same finite clause, or non-finite-bound, that is, allowing an antecedent beyond the finite clause they are located in. Finally, among the finite-bound pronouns locally vs. long-distance bound are distinguished. The former must be bound by a constituent in the first accessible subject domain while the latter are not subject to this requirement.

In addition to this, the second parameter – the nature of the antecedent – splits each of the above mentioned categories in two, based on the obviation property [+/− Obviative] ([+/− O]). The Obviation principle is formulated as follows: “coarguments have disjoint reference” (Kiparsky 2002: 180); see also similar definitions in Hellan 1983, 1988; Sells 1986; Farmer and Harnish 1987). For instance, English personal pronouns are [+Obviative] since in examples similar to John k hit him i/*k , the pronoun and the co-argumental DP cannot share the referent. In contrast, English reflexives are [-Obviative]: co-reference between arguments of a predicate is enforced if one of them is a reflexive pronoun (John k hit himself *i/k ). This yields altogether 10 types of pronominal elements (29).


The typology of pronouns (Kiparsky 2002: 205)

Within this typology, Hill Mari škə̈- reflexives occupy the same position as the Russian reflexive sebja. On the one hand, they are referentially dependent, reflexive, finite-bound but long-distance, in a sense that non-finite clauses with an obligatorily implicit subject are transparent for binding. On the other hand, Hill Mari agreeing škə̈- anaphors are non-obviative, i.e., they allow co-reference between co-arguments, for instance, a Causee and a Theme in ditransitive constructions (see [18] above). The invariant ške reflexive is almost impossible to characterize in terms of obviation since it is used mostly in exempt positions, without co-arguments; see, however, an example in footnote. 16, reproduced in (30), where a possessive ške is bound by another dependent of the same head noun.

Pet’a-n škə̈m-žə̈-n / ? ške fotografij-žə̑
Petja-gen refl-poss.3sg-gen refl photo-poss.3sg
‘Petja’s picture of himself’

Having established this, I will proceed by comparing the properties of škə̈- reflexives to those of anaphors in other Uralic languages, expanding the cross-linguistic comparison of reflexive strategies presented in Volkova (2014).

4 Simple anaphoric pronouns in other Uralic languages

The purpose of this section is to provide a brief yet thorough overview of anaphoric pronouns used in Uralic languages of different branches. The next section is devoted to the two other reflexive strategies, namely complex reflexives and verbal reflexivization.

4.1 Morphosyntax

Agreeing reflexives are common in Uralic languages. Consider, for example, es’-POSS reflexive forms in Erzya and Moksha (the two Mordvin languages), maga-POSS reflexive pronouns in Hungarian, itse-POSS reflexives in Finnish, xər°q-POSS anaphoric items in Nenets, ač’/aš’/as-POSS reflexives in Udmurt.[18] A common belief is that reflexives in different Uralic languages are often derived from similar lexical roots that can be traced back to a proto-Uralic word meaning ‘shadow, soul’ (Majtinskaja 1964). This pattern is not unique among the world’s languages: as pointed out by König and Siemund (1999), most lexical reflexives stem from words denoting different body parts and related notions. A similar observation has also been made by Schladt (2000), whose typology distinguishes between eight main lexical sources for reflexives, including body-part nouns, nouns denoting a person or personality and nouns meaning ‘soul, spirit’. In Table 2, I provide partial paradigms of agreeing reflexives in several Uralic languages belonging to different branches to bring out the general pattern and to capture the cross-linguistic microvariation within the language family.

Table 2:

Reflexive pronouns in Uralic languages.[19]

1sg.nom 1sg.acc 1sg.dat/part
Hill Mari (Mari) ške



Meadow Mari (Mari)[20] ške(n-em)


refl-poss.1sg-acc /



refl-dat-poss.1sg /


Erzya[21] (Mordvin) es’


Finnish (BF) *itse-



Hungarian (Ugric) maga-m



Komi-Zyrian (Pechora)(Permic) ač’-ym



Besermyan Udmurt[22](Permic) ač’-im


refl-poss.1sg-acc /

% as-lə̑-me


refl-dat-poss.1sg /

% as-mə̑-lə̑

Sami (Sami) *iehča-


Tundra Nenets (Samoyedic)[23] xərəq-n°

∼ xər°q-n’i

(xər°q-n’i) pix°də-m’i

refl-1sg refl-acc /

(xər°q-n’i) s’iqm’i

refl-1sg I.acc
xər°q-n’i n’a°n’i

refl-1sg I.dat.1sg

As evident from the data presented above, Hill Mari anaphors closely follow the general pattern: REFL + POSS + CASE. One easily perceived language-specific parameter is the number of cases and availability of number marking (consider, for instance, the absence of dative and partitive in Sami).

Further microvariation is attested with regard to morpheme ordering. As discussed in Section 2 of this paper, Hill Mari anaphors require a strict order of morphemes: agreement markers must precede accusative/genitive case markers but obligatorily follow the dative marker. At the same time, as shown in the table above, in Meadow Mari (the Sernur-Morkin variety) reflexive pronouns are reported to allow some variation in morphemic order in the dative (Volkova 2014). I do not have an immediate explanation for this variation, but it is important to acknowledge it. It should also be noted that the microvariation in the ordering of morphemes in anaphors matches that of the ordering of morphemes in personal pronouns. As was shown in (5d), 1pl and 2pl pronouns in Hill Mari do not allow the poss-dat/dat-poss alternation. However, in Meadow Mari such pairs of forms as mə-lan-na we-dat-poss.1pl / mem-na-lan we-poss.1pl-dat and tə-lan-da / ten-da-lan are attested.[24] The three languages that stand out from the general system are Estonian and two Ugric languages – Mansi and Khanty. Estonian makes no person distinction and exploits no possessive markers for reflexives; for instance, the forms enese, ennast, eneste, and endid can be used with any singular / plural antecedents, respectively, regardless of their person characteristic. As to Mansi and Khanty, neither has dedicated lexical reflexives. In Mansi, intensified forms of personal pronouns can be used as anaphors bound by a local antecedent; consider the following paradigms as an example (Table 3).

Table 3:

Mansi personal/emphatic pronouns.

Personal pronoun Emphatic pronoun Emphatic as reflexive
aːm am-ki am-ki-naː-m [25]
1sg 1sg-emph 1sg-emph-na-poss.1sg
‘I’ ‘I myself’ ‘(me) myself’
taːn taːn-ki taːn-ki-naː-nəl
3pl 3pl-emph 3pl-emph-na-dat
they’ ‘they themselves’ ‘to (them) themselves’

Khanty also allows locally bound pronominals; in contrast to Mansi, no emphatic marker is present (Nikolaeva 1995; Rombandeeva 1973; Volkova 2014).

Učitel i łuveł i/k išək-s-əłłe.
teacher he.acc praise-pst-sg.3sg
‘The teacher praised him/himself.’
Nemχojat i łuveł i/k ănt išək-ł-əłłe. he.acc neg praise-npst-sg.3sg
‘No one praises himself/him.’ (Volkova 2014: 24)

The exact reasons behind this variation remain to be adequately addressed in future work. For the purposes of the present research it suffices to emphasize that the reflexive pronouns in Hill Mari fall in with the general Uralic pattern and to mention the exceptions among Uralic languages.

4.2 Binding properties

In Section 3.2 I discussed syntactic properties of Hill Mari škə̈- reflexives and demonstrated that they are long-distance non-obviative anaphors requiring a syntactic antecedent within the minimal clause containing an overt subject. Since most traditional grammars of Uralic languages do not consider reflexives in detail, it is hard to provide a comprehensive comparison of anaphors in Hill Mari with their counterparts in terms of their syntactic properties. Fortunately, there exists a study by Volkova (2014), which compares reflexives in five Uralic languages within the formal generative framework; those are Khanty (the Shuryshkary dialect), Komy-Zyrian (the Pechora dialect and the Izhma dialect), Udmurt (the Besermyan Variety), Meadow Mari (the Sernur-Morkin dialect), and Erzya (the Shoksha dialect). Volkova’s findings alongside with information on the Hill Mari data are summarized in Table 4.

Table 4:

Binding properties of reflexive pronouns in Uralic languages.

Hill Mari Meadow Mari Komi Zyrian Besermyan Udmurt Erzya
Reflexive stem škə̈(m)- ške(n)- as- as- es’-
Subject- oriented No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Binding domain Clause with an overt subject Finite clause Finite clause Clause with a subject Clause with a subject
Exempt positions Allowed Allowed Allowed Allowed Allowed

As can be seen in the table, Hill Mari mostly patterns with other Uralic languages with respect to the binding properties of its lexical reflexives, with two differences. Firstly, in (32) and (33) I reproduce Volkova’s examples for Meadow Mari and Besermyan Udmurt showing that reflexives in these languages, unlike in Hill Mari, can only have subject antecedents.

Meadow Mari
?? Petr mem-na-m ška-lan-na onč-əkt-a.
Peter we-poss.1pl-acc refl-dat-poss.1pl look-caus-npst.3sg
Intended: ‘Peter shows us to ourselves.’
?? Petr mə-lan-na ške-na-m onč-əkt-a.
Peter we-dat-poss.1pl refl-poss.1pl-acc look-caus-npst.3sg
Intended: ‘Peter shows us to ourselves.’
Petr mem-na-m mə-lan-na onč-əkt-a.
Peter we-poss.1pl-acc we-dat-poss.1pl show-npst.3sg
‘Peter shows us to ourselves.’
(Volkova 2014: 71)
Besermyan Udmurt
Ataj i vož’ma-t-i-z və̑n-ez-lə̑ j -s-e i/*j .
father watch-tr-pst2-3 brother-poss.3-dat refl-poss.3-acc
‘The father showed himself to the brother.’
Ataj i vož’ma-t-i-z və̑n-ez-lə̑ j so-je *i/j .
father watch-tr-pst2-3 brother-poss.3-dat he-acc
‘The father showed to the brother himself.’
(Volkova 2014: 119)

Secondly, recall that škə̈- reflexives in Hill Mari are finite-bound but non-local. This is also true for reflexives in Meadow Mari (34) and Komi-Zyrian while anaphors in Besermyan Udmurt (35), a language closely related to Komi-Zyrian, and in Erzya have a smaller binding domain – that is a minimal clause with any (overt or covert) subject.

Meadow Mari non-local reflexives
Üdər i rveze j de-č’ j ška-lan-že i/j pört-əm
girl boy near-el refl-dat-poss.3sg house-acc
əšt-aš] jod-ən.
make-inf ask-pst2
‘The girl asked the boy to build her/himself a house.’
(Volkova 2014: 71)
Besermyan Udmurt local reflexives
Ivan i kos-i-z kə̑šno-jez-lə̑ j j * asə̑-z-e i /
Ivan tell-pst2-3 wife-poss.3-dat refl-poss.3-acc
so-je i sajka-t-ə̑nə̑].
he-acc rise-caus-inf
‘Ivan told his wife to wake him up.’
(Volkova 2014: 120)

Thus, we have observed that Hill Mari, on the one hand, follows the pattern of binding behavior most common within the Uralic language family; on the other, the behavior of reflexive pronouns in Hill Mari still differs from that of lexical anaphors in several other Uralic languages, including Meadow Mari (the sister language), which suggests an important direction for future research.[26] In the next section I continue comparing Hill Mari to other Uralic languages, focusing on the two reflexive strategies reported as being common for the family: complex reflexives and reflexive detransitivization.

5 Other reflexivizing strategies

5.1 Complex reflexives

According to Volkova (2014), Meadow Mari (the closest relative of Hill Mari) allows complex (reduplicative) reflexive pronouns, derived using the pattern ške(n)- ške (36).[27]

Student-vlak ška-lan-əšt ške kusarəše-vlak-əm
student-pl refl-dat-poss.3pl refl interpreter-pl-acc
ojər-en nal-ən-ət.
choose-cvb take-pst2-3pl
‘The students chose the interpreters for themselves.’ (Volkova 2014: 66)

The complex anaphor ške(n)- ške is subject-oriented; unlike simple anaphors (škenže) it is strictly local and must always be bound by a co-argument (37). In addition to this, the reflexive ške(n)- ške cannot be used in non-co-argument position, for instance in a postpositional phrase.

Üdər i rveze j de-č’ j ška-lan-že
girl boy next-el refl-dat-poss.3sg
ške *i/j pört-əm əšt-aš] jod-ən.
refl house-acc make-inf ask-pst2
‘The girl asked the boy to build himself/*her a house.’ (Volkova 2014: 68)

At the same time, speakers of Hill Mari always interpret sentences with the equivalent sequence škə̈(m)- ške as a combination of an agreeing reflexive and an invariable ške intensifier (38).

Mə̈n’ mešäk-ə̈m ške do-k-em ?? ( ške )
I sack-acc refl to-ill2-poss.1sg refl
‘I pulled the sack towards myself.’
Commentary: ‘A weird example. It is obvious that the speaker pulled the sack himself, and there is no need to emphasize this.’
Mə̈n’ škə̈m-em-ə̈m ške tə̈gə̈r-ə̈štə̈ už-ə̑m.
I refl-poss.1sg-acc refl mirror-in see-pst1.1sg
‘I myself saw myself in the mirror.’
Commentary: ‘As if I used to be blind and now I can see.’

Note that the reverse sequence ške škə̈(m)- is allowed and should also be analyzed as an occasional combination of the emphatic pronoun and an agreeing reflexive, each of them interpreted separately. This is shown by ambiguous readings of examples similar to (39): here, an invariant intensifier can be interpreted either as adverbial, related to the matrix subject, or as adnominal with the anaphor as an antecedent.

Mə̈n’ ( ške ) škə̈m-em-ə̈m tə̈gə̈r-ə̈štə̈ už-ə̑m.
I refl refl-poss.1sg-acc mirror-in see-pst1.1sg
(i) ‘In the mirror I myself saw myself.’
(ii) ‘In the mirror I saw me myself.’
Tə̈n’ ( ške ) ške giš-än-et kogo-n
you refl refl about-lat2-poss.2sg big-adv
šukə̑-n šajə̑št-at.
much-adv talk-npst.2sg
(i) ‘You yourself talk a lot about yourself.’
(ii) ‘You talk a lot about you yourself.’

Volkova demonstrates that, in the case of Meadow Mari, ške(n)- ške is indeed a single anaphoric unit without an additional emphatic meaning; this is further confirmed by the fixed order and obligatory adjacency of the parts of an item. The word order issue has already been addressed above; both škə̈(m)- ške and ške škə̈(m)- receive similar interpretations: reflexive + intensifier. As for the adjacency, both sequences can be discontinuous (40) with no change in meaning.

Mə̈n’ škə̈m-em-ə̈m tə̈gə̈r-ə̈štə̈ ške už-Ø-ə̑m.
I refl-poss.1sg-acc mirror-in refl see-pst1-1sg
‘In the mirror I myself saw myself.’
Mə̈n’ ške tə̈gə̈r-ə̈štə̈ škə̈m-em-ə̈m už-Ø-ə̑m.
I refl mirror-in refl-poss.1sg-acc see-pst1-1sg
‘In the mirror I myself saw myself.’

The only context where ške škə̈(m)- is opaque for intervention is when the intensifier is interpreted as adnominal since in such cases it generally serves as a modifier within a nominal phrase while itcannot be separated from its head by a matrix constituent, as shown in (41).

Mə̈n’ ške (*tə̈gə̈r-ə̈štə̈) škə̈m-em-ə̈m už-Ø-ə̑m.
I refl mirror-in refl-poss.1sg-acc see-pst1-1sg
‘I saw me myself.’
Mə̈n’ ške (*tə̈gə̈r-ə̈štə̈) načal’n’ik-ə̑m už-Ø-ə̑m.
I refl mirror-in boss-acc see-pst1-1sg
‘I saw the boss himself.

Taking these data into account, I argue that, unlike in Meadow Mari, in Hill Mari neither the sequence škə̈(m)- ške nor ške škə̈(m)- can be analyzed as a complex reduplicative anaphor; both sequences should be decomposed into a reflexive and an intensifier, each pertaining its normal distribution and contributing its meaning. Thus, only simple reflexive pronouns are available in this language.

5.2 Reflexive detransitivization

Another reflexive strategy common among Uralic languages is to detransitivize a verb to create a reflexive predicate; that is, to assign two of the thematic roles of the verb to one of its arguments. This technique is exploited, for instance, in Estonian, Khanty, Mansi, Komi Zyrian, and Besermyan Udmurt;[28] several examples are given in (42).

kordama ‘repeat something’ – kord- u -ma ‘repeat’ (intransitive)
eemaldama ‘withdraw something’ – eemald- u -ma ‘withdraw’ (intransitive)
l’oχəttɨ ‘wash something’ – l’oχət- ɨjł- ‘wash oneself’
eŋχəstɨ ‘undress someone’ – eŋχəs- ɨjł -tɨ ‘undress oneself’
Komi-Zyrian (Izhma dialect)
os’kyny ‘praise someone’ – os’j- ys ’-yny ‘praise oneself’
br’it’itny ‘shave someone’ – br’it’it- č ’-yny ‘shave oneself’
Besermyan Udmurt
kal’l’anə̑ ‘hang something’ – kal’l’a- š k -ə̑nə̑ ‘hang oneself’
kə̑l’ə̑nə̑ ‘undress someone’ – kə̑l’- k -ə̑nə̑ ‘undress oneself’
ə̑bə̑nə̑ ‘shoot someone’ – ə̑b- k -ə̑nə̑ ‘shoot oneself’

As reported by Volkova (2014), this detransitivizing strategy is also used in Meadow Mari; the suffixes -əlt- and -alt- serve as morphological exponents of reflexivity. Compare (43a) and (43b): unlike in the first case, where the Agent and the Theme are distinct, in the second case, both roles are assigned to the same argument, ‘Ivan’.

Ivan el-na-m aral-en.
Ivan country-poss.1pl-acc defend-pst2
‘Ivan defended our homeland.’
Ivan saj-ən aral-alt-ən.
Ivan good-adv defend-detr-pst2
‘Ivan defended himself well.’ (Volkova 2014: 63)

The question arises whether a similar syntactic strategy is productive in Hill Mari. At first glance, the answer seems to be positive: similar pairs of transitive – reflexive predicates can be found in Hill Mari, as seen in (44).

Vas’a mə̑šk- ə̑lt -ə̑n.
Vasya wash-med-pst2
‘Vasya washed himself.’
Vas’a od’ejal dono leved- ält -ə̈n.
Vasya blanket with cover-med-pst2
‘Vasya covered himself with a blanket.’

Despite the surface similarity between the Hill Mari and Meadow Mari examples above, I follow Belova and Dyachkov (2019) and contend that syntactic reflexive detransitivization is not operative in Hill Mari and that verbs similar to those in (44) should be considered inherently reflexive (i.e., their intransitive nature is determined in the lexicon and is not a product of a syntactic derivation).

Several facts support this claim. First, note that the marker -alt- is ambiguous between the following interpretations: middle/decausative, reflexive, and reciprocal (Galkin 1996; Salo 2015; Savatkova 2002). Only the middle (decausative), as illustrated in (45), can be considered a productive derivation.

Mə̑ndə̑ra kenvac-maš-eš šüt- ält -ə̈n.
ball fall-nmlz-lat unwind-med-pst2
‘The ball (of thread) unwound from falling.’
Ti kn’igä kuštə̑lgə̑-n lə̑d- alt -eš.
this book easy-adv read-med-npst.3sg
‘This book reads easily.’

Using a wide range of examples similar to those in (45), Belova and Dyachkov (2019) demonstrate that the central meaning of -alt- is decausative. Reflexive and reciprocal verbs, in turn, are not numerous and can be derived only from a limited number of (Hill Mari) stems. For instance, although (44) are grammatical, -alt- variants as given in (46) are totally unacceptable even though the so-called verbs of grooming are generally considered to be prototypically reflexivizible (Kemmer 1993).

Vas’a tə̈gə̈r-ə̈škə̈ anž-a / *anž- alt -eš
Vasya mirror-ill look-npst.3sg look-med-npst.3sg
‘Vasya looks at himself in the mirror.’
Vas’a či-ä / *či- ält -eš
Vasya dress-npst.3sg dress-med-npst.3sg
‘Vasya dresses himself.’
Vas’a pandaš-ə̑m nə̈ž-eš / *nə̈ž- ält -eš
Vasya beard-acc shave-npst.3sg shave-med-npst.3sg
‘Vasya shaves his beard.’

Other verbs that we would expect to have reflexive counterparts but which, in fact, prohibit such a derivation include ə̑də̑raš ‘scratch’ (*ə̑də̑r- alt -aš ‘scratch oneself’), pə̈čkedäš ‘cut’ (*pə̈čked- ält -äš ‘cut oneself’), i.a.

Productivity is assumed to be the central property of syntactic reflexivization, attested, for instance, in the Romance languages including Spanish and French (Labelle 2008). The fact that the number of reflexive predicates in Hill Mari is so limited strongly suggests that they are not derived in syntax but come ‘premade’ from the lexicon (see Reinhart and Siloni (2005), who discus the differences between syntactic vs. lexical reflexivization). With this consideration in mind, I maintain that, unlike in many other Uralic languages, the only productive reflexive strategy available in Hill Mari is to use a simple anaphoric pronoun.[29]

It might be suggested that the lexicalization of reflexivized predicates with -əlt/alt in Hill Mari happens under the influence of Russian. As shown in Belova and Dyachkov (2019), Hill Mari closely follows the Russian pattern. In the case of lexical borrowing, for instance, the suffix -alt appears in Hill Mari predicates whenever there is the suffix -sja in a Russian translation equivalent: zan’imaj alt aš/zanimat’ sja ‘to occupy oneself with something’, ubiraj alt aš/ubirat’ sja ‘to clean’, etc. Reflexive -sja verbs in Russian are argued to be derived in the lexicon and not in syntax (Pesetsky 1995; Say 2005). Unlike, e.g., -sja (medio-)passivization, -sja reflexivization is non-productive and many of such predicates have acquired non-compositional meanings (cf. strič’sja ‘to have a haircut’, not ‘to cut one’s own hair’; ubirat’sja ‘to clean’, not ‘to clean oneself’; sadit’sja ‘to sit down’, without a counterpart *sadit’, etc.).

6 Conclusion

In this paper I examined reflexive strategies in Hill Mari in great detail, comparing it to other Uralic languages. The first part of the paper focused on dedicated reflexive pronouns. I first discussed the morphosyntactic properties of the reflexive derived from the stem škə̈-: adopting Déchaine and Wiltschko’s (2017) typology of reflexives; I demonstrated that Hill Mari anaphors pattern with referential nominal phrases and should be considered full DPs. Next, I considered the binding properties of škə̈- reflexives and classified them as non-subject-oriented non-obviative long-distance anaphors in terms of the typology of pronouns developed by Kiparsky (2002). Comparing Hill Mari reflexives to those in other Uralic languages I showed that Hill Mari anaphors closely follow the general pattern, but some microvariation is attested and deserves consideration.

In the second part of the paper I focused on other reflexive strategies employed in Uralic languages, such as complex reflexive pronouns and reflexive detransitivization of a predicate. I provided evidence that what appears to be a complex reflexive should, in Hill Mari, be analyzed as a combination of a reflexive pronoun and a lexical intensifier, often syntactically unrelated to each other. Subsequently, following Belova and Dyachkov (2019), I argued that Hill Mari intransitive verbs with reflexive interpretations, in contrast with those in other Uralic languages, are inherent and do not result from a productive syntactic derivation.

Corresponding author: Irina Burukina, Department of English Linguistics, Eötvös Loránd University and Research Institute for Linguistics, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, 1088 Rákóczi út 5, R303, Budapest, Hungary, E-mail:

Funding source: Hungarian National Research, Development and Innovation Office

Award Identifier / Grant number: NKFI 129921

Award Identifier / Grant number: 19-012-00627


My special gratitude goes to my Hill Mari consultants for their judgments. I am immensely grateful to Egor Kashkin for his help in collecting and processing the Hill Mari data and to Éva Dékány for her commentaries on earlier versions of the paper. I would also like to thank Katalin É. Kiss, Marcel den Dikken, Vladimir Ivanov, Polina Pleshak, my colleagues at the Research Institute for Linguistics HAS, and the members of the Moscow State University Hill Mari field group for their help with the research. Thanks also to the anonymous reviewers for their feedback. All mistakes are mine. The research was supported by the Hungarian National Research, Development and Innovation Office under the grant NKFI 129921. The field work in Kuznetsovo village was conducted under the auspices of the Moscow State University Hill Mari field group; in 2019 it was supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research, the grant 19-012-00627.

Glossing abbreviations























ill / ill2






lat / lat2





















past (aorist)


past (preterite/perfective)








The corpus of the Kuznetsovo variety of Hill Mari: (accessed 03 July 2020).

The corpus of literary Mari (demo version): (accessed on 03 July 2020).

The Meadow Mari Social Media Corpus: (accessed on 03 July 2020).


Alhoniemi, Alho. 2010 [1985]. Marin kielioppi [Mari grammar], 2nd edn. Helsinki: Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura.Search in Google Scholar

Barss, Andrew, and Howard Lasnik. 1986. A note on anaphora and double objects. Linguistic Inquiry 17. 347–354. in Google Scholar

Belova, Daria & Vadim Dyachkov. 2019. Suffixes -g- and -alt- in Hill Mari: Two types of middle voice. In The 52nd Annual Meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea (Leipzig, 21-24 August 2019). Book of abstracts, 45–47. Leipzig: Leipzig University.Search in Google Scholar

Bittner, Maria. 1994. Case, scope, and binding. Dordrecht: Kluwer.10.1007/978-94-011-1412-7Search in Google Scholar

Bresnan, Joan. 1998. Morphology competes with syntax: Explaining typological variation in weak crossover effects. In Pilar Barbosa, Danny Fox, Paul Hagstrom, Martha McGinnis & David Pesetsky (eds.), Is the best good enough? Optimality and competition in syntax, 59–92. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Search in Google Scholar

Bruening, Benjamin. 2014. Precede-and-command revisited. Language 90. 342–388. in Google Scholar

Burukina, Irina. 2019. Reflexive functional head, verbal and nominal predicates. In Richard Stockwell, Maura O’Leary, Zhongshi Xu & Z. L. Zhou (eds.), Proceedings of the 36th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics, 91–98. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project. in Google Scholar

Chomsky, Noam. 1981. Lectures on Government and Binding. Dordrecht: Foris.Search in Google Scholar

Déchaine, Rose-Marie & Martina Wiltschko. 2002. Decomposing pronouns. Linguistic Inquiry 33. 409–442. in Google Scholar

Déchaine, Rose-Marie & Martina Wiltschko. 2017. A formal typology of reflexives. Studia Linguistica 71. 60–106. in Google Scholar

Faltz, Leonard M. 1977. Reflexivization: A study in universal syntax. Berkeley: University of California dissertation. in Google Scholar

Galkin, Ivan. 1996. Istoricheskaja grammatika marijskogo jazyka. Morphologija [Historical grammar of Mari: Morphology]. Yoshkar-Ola: Mari Publishing House.Search in Google Scholar

Geniušiene, Emma. 1987. The typology of reflexives (Empirical Approaches to Language Typology 2). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. in Google Scholar

Grodzinsky, Yosef & Tanya Reinhart. 1993. The innateness of binding and coreference. Linguistic Inquiry 24(1). 69–101. in Google Scholar

Haspelmath, Martin. 2008. A frequentist explanation of some universals of reflexive marking. Linguistic Discovery 6(1). 40–63. in Google Scholar

Idrisov, Ruslan I. 2013. Grammar tables for Besermyan Udmurt. Fieldwork report. Lomonosov Moscow State University.Search in Google Scholar

Jackendoff, Ray S. 1972. Semantic interpretation in generative grammar. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Search in Google Scholar

Kask, Arnold. 1966. Èstonskij jazyk [The Estonian language]. In Vasily I. Lytkin & Klara E. Majtinskaja (eds.), Jazyki narodov SSSR. 3: Finno-ugorskie i samodijskie jazyki [Languages of the people of USSR. Volume 3: The Finno-Ugric and Samoyedic languages], 35–60. Moskow: Nauka.Search in Google Scholar

Kayne, Richard S. 1975. French syntax. The transformational cycle. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Search in Google Scholar

Kemmer, Suzanne. 1993. The middle voice (Typological Studies in Language 23). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. in Google Scholar

Kenesei, István, Robert M. Vago & Anna Fenyvesi. 1998. Hungarian. London: Routledge.Search in Google Scholar

Kiparsky, Paul. 2002. Disjoint reference and the typology of pronouns. In Ingrid Kaufmann & Barbara Stiebels (eds.), More than words, 179–226. Berlin: Akademie Verlag.10.1515/9783050081274-008Search in Google Scholar

Kirillova, Anastasia. 2017. Otricatel’naja častica agə̑l v gornomarijskom jazyke [Negative particle agə̑l in Hill Mari]. In Daria Mishchenko (ed.), XIV Conference on Typology and Grammar for Young Scholars. Book of abstracts, 80–83. Saint Petersburg: Nestor-Istorija.Search in Google Scholar

König, Ekkehard & Peter Siemund. 1999. Intensifiers and reflexives: A typological perspective. In Zygmunt Frajzyngier (ed.), Reflexives: Forms and functions, 41–74. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.10.1075/tsl.40.03konSearch in Google Scholar

Krasnova, Nadezhda, Timothy Riese, Tatiana Yefremova & Jeremy Bradley. 2017. Reading Hill Mari through Meadow Mari. Vienna: University of Vienna. Published online at in Google Scholar

Kuno, Susumu & Kenichi Takami. 1993. Grammar and discourse principles: Functional syntax and GB theory. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Search in Google Scholar

Labelle, Marie. 2008. The French reflexive and reciprocal se. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 26. 833–876. in Google Scholar

Landau, Idan. 2015. A two-tiered theory of control. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.10.7551/mitpress/9780262028851.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Langacker, Ronald. 1969. On pronominalization and the chain of command. In David A. Reibel & Sanford A. Schane (eds.), Modern studies in English, 160–186. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Search in Google Scholar

Lasnik, Howard. 1976. Remarks on coreference. Linguistic Analysis 2. 1–22.Search in Google Scholar

Letuchiy, Alexander. 2006. Reciprocal, reflexive, and sociative in Adyghe. Unpublished manuscript. Moscow: Higher School of Economics.10.1075/tsl.71.25letSearch in Google Scholar

Letuchiy, Alexander & Dmitry Kolomackij. 2012. Povyšajuščie aktantnye derivacii v finno-ugorskix jazykax [Derivations introducing arguments in Finno-Ugric languages]. In Ariadna I. Kuznetsova (ed.), Finno-Ugorskije jazyki [The Finno-Ugric languages], 340–355. Moscow: Rukopisnye pamjatniki Drevnej Rusi.Search in Google Scholar

Ljutikova, Ekaterina A. 2017. Sintaksis imennoj gruppy v bezartiklevom jazyke [Noun phrase syntax in article-less languages]. Moscow: Lomonosov Moscow State University dissertation.Search in Google Scholar

Majtinskaja, Klara E. 1964. Mestoimenija v mordovskix i marijskix jazykax [Pronouns in the Mordvin and Mari languages]. Moscow: Nauka.Search in Google Scholar

Nikolaeva, Irina. 1995. Obdorskij dialekt xantyjskogo jazyka [The Obdorsk dialect of Ostyak]. Hamburg: Finnisch-Ugrisches Seminar der Universität Hamburg.Search in Google Scholar

Nikolaeva, Irina. 2014. A grammar of Tundra Nenets (Mouton Grammar Library 65). Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. in Google Scholar

Paducheva, Elena V. 1983. Mestoimenije svoj i ego nepritjažatel’nyje značenija [The pronoun svoj and its non-possessive uses]. In Vyacseslav V. Ivanov, Tatiana N. Moloshnaya & Tatiana M. Nikolaeva (eds.), Kategorija pritjažatel’nosti v slavjanskix i balkanskix jazykax [The possessive category in Slavic and Baltic languages], 78–80. Мoscow: Nauka.Search in Google Scholar

Pesetsky, David. 1995. Zero syntax. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Search in Google Scholar

Pleshak, Polina. 2019. Morfosintaksis imennoj gruppy v mokšanskom i gornomarijskom jazykax [Morphosyntax of the noun phrase in Moksha and Hill Mari]. Moscow: Moscow State University MA thesis.Search in Google Scholar

Pollard, Carl & Ivan Sag. 1992. Anaphors in English and the scope of Binding Theory. Linguistic Inquiry 23. 261–303. in Google Scholar

Prozorova, Evgenia V. 2002. Pronouns in the Pechora dialect of Komi-Zyrian. Fieldwork report. Lomonosov Moscow State University.Search in Google Scholar

Reinhart, Tanya & Eric Reuland. 1993. Reflexivity. Linguistic Inquiry 24(4). 657–720. in Google Scholar

Reinhart, Tanya & Tal Siloni. 2005. The lexicon-syntax parameter: Reflexivization and other arity operations. Linguistic Inquiry 36(3). 389–436. in Google Scholar

Reuland, Eric. 2011. Anaphora and language design. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0050Search in Google Scholar

Riese, Timothy. 2001. Vogul (Languages of the World/Materials 158). Munich: LINCOM Europa.Search in Google Scholar

Rombandeeva, Evdokiya I. 1973. Mansijskij (vogul’skij) jazyk [The Mansi (Vogul) language]. Moscow: Russian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Linguistics.Search in Google Scholar

Salo, Merja. 2015. Passive and reflexive categories in languages of the Volga region. Helsinki: University of Helsinki dissertation.Search in Google Scholar

Sammallahti, Pekka. 1998. Saamic. In Daniel Abondolo (ed.), The Uralic languages, 358–386. London: Routledge.Search in Google Scholar

Savatkova, Anna. 2002. Gornoe narechie mariyskogo yazyka [The Hill dialect of the Mari language] (Bibliotheca Ceremissica 5). Savariae [Szombathely]: Berzsenyi Dániel Főiskola.Search in Google Scholar

Say, Sergey. 2005. Antipassive sja-verbs in Russian: Between inflection and derivation. In Wolfgang U. Dressler, Dieter Kastovsky, Oskar E. Pfeiffer & Franz Rainer (eds.), Morphology and its demarcations, 253–275. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.10.1075/cilt.264.16saySearch in Google Scholar

Schladt, Mathias. 2000. The typology and grammaticalization of reflexives. In Zygmunt Frajzyngier & Traci S. Walker-Curl (eds.), Reflexives, 103–124. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.10.1075/tsl.40.05schSearch in Google Scholar

Simonenko, Aleksandra P. & Alexey P. Leontjev. 2012. Morfosintaksis imennogo kompleksa v finno-permskix jazykax [The morphosyntax of the nominal complex in the Finno-Permic languages]. In Ariadna I. Kuznetsova (ed.), Finno-Ugorskije jazyki [The Finno-Ugric languages], 262–339. Moscow: Rukopisnye pamjatniki Drevnej Rusi.Search in Google Scholar

Storoshenko, Dennis Ryan. 2010. A cross-linguistic account of reflexivity using synchronous tree adjoining grammar. Burnaby, BC: Simon Fraser University dissertation.Search in Google Scholar

Sundaresan, Sandhya & Thomas McFadden. 2009. Subject distribution and finiteness in Tamil and other languages: Selection vs. case. Journal of South Asian Linguistics 2(1). 5–34.Search in Google Scholar

Testelets, Yakov G. 2001. Vvedenie v obščij sintaksis [Introduction to syntax]. Moscow: RGGU.Search in Google Scholar

Testelets, Yakov G. 2014. Typology of anaphoric elements. Unpublished manuscript. Moscow: Higher School of Economics.Search in Google Scholar

Toldova, Svetlana Yu., Maria A. Kholodilova, Sergey G. Tatevosov, Egor V. Kashkin, Alexey A. Kozlov, Lev S. Kozlov, Anton V. Kuhto, Maria Yu. Privizentseva & Ivan A. Stenin (eds.). 2019. Elementy mokšanskogo jazyka v tipologičeskom osveščenii [Elements of the Moksha language from the typological perspective]. Moscow: Buki Vedi.Search in Google Scholar

Trosterud, Trond. 1993. Anaphors and binding domains in Finnish. In Anders Holmberg & Urpo Nikanne (eds.), Case and other functional categories in Finnish syntax, 225–244. Berlin: De Gruyter. in Google Scholar

Volkova, Anna. 2014. Licensing reflexivity: Unity and variation among selected Uralic languages. Utrecht: LOT. in Google Scholar

Received: 2020-07-01
Accepted: 2020-07-24
Published Online: 2021-02-03
Published in Print: 2021-04-27

© 2020 Irina Burukina, published by De Gruyter, Berlin/Boston

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Downloaded on 7.6.2023 from
Scroll to top button