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Cognitive Linguistics

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Understanding the Self: How spatial parameters influence the distribution of anaphora within prepositional phrases

San Francisco State University

Citation Information: Cognitive Linguistics. Volume 24, Issue 3, Pages 483–529, ISSN (Online) 1613-3641, ISSN (Print) 0936-5907, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cog-2013-0013, July 2013

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This paper investigates the distribution of reflexive and nonreflexive pronouns in the prepositional phrase, concluding that multiple semantic factors play a role in the appearance of one pronoun over the other. The distributional trends in English are explained by referencing the crucial role space plays in grammar, and the resulting implications for Binding Theory (Chomsky 1995) are discussed. The motivating forces for the corpus distribution are based on perceived directionality and location of the denoted event with respect to the body of the event's protagonist. The patterns found in the corpus data are attributed to a range of factors that play a role in the semantic specifications and associations of the pronouns themselves. First, it is argued that the high rate of reflexive pronouns in events that are metaphorically located in the body is due to the reflexive pronoun's close semantic association with the concept of self, a metaphorical body-internal entity. Second, it is argued that the reflexive pronoun is used to signal either an event which is performed on the body (in the referent's peri-personal space) or directed toward the body. Cases of these types are explained by a schematic, semantic parallelism between syntactically complex reflexive events and syntactically simple reflexive events. In both cases, the reflexive pronoun signals a contrastive element. In syntactically complex cases, the PP examples (e.g. John pushed the box toward himself), and syntactically simple cases, those with basic clause structure (e.g. John kicked himself), the reflexive is used to signal that the direction of the event is counter to the direction of expectation, thus explaining why certain reflexive events (e.g. bathe, or pull something toward you) do not have to, and most often, do not occur with the reflexive pronoun.

Keywords: anaphora; pronouns; prepositional phrases; Binding Theory; reflexivity

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