The Grammar of Identity

Intensifiers and Reflexives in Germanic Languages

By Volker Gast

© 2006 – Routledge

258 pages

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9781138868311
pub: 2015-04-07
US Dollars$54.95
Hardback: 9780415394116
pub: 2006-07-28
US Dollars$175.00

About the Book

English self-forms and related words from other Germanic languages (e.g. Dutch zelf, Swedish själv, etc.) are used in two different functions: as ‘intensifiers’ (e.g. The president himself made the decision) and as markers of reflexivity (John criticized himself). On the basis of a comparative syntactic and semantic analysis, this book addresses the question of why two such apparently different functions can be expressed by the same word. This question is answered by showing that both intensifying and reflexive self-forms can be analysed as expressing the concept of ‘identity’.

In the first part of The Grammar of Identity, the most central facts concerning the distribution of intensifiers in Germanic languages are surveyed and a detailed syntactic and semantic analysis is provided. It is shown that all instances of intensifiers can be analysed as expressions of an identity function. The second part of the book offers an analysis of reflexive self-forms which is based on recent theories of reflexivity, modifying these in some important respects. In particular, the distribution of reflexive self-forms is explained with reference to semantic properties of the sentential environment. In this way, it can be shown that reflexive self-forms – like intensifiers – can be analysed as expressions of an identity function. In addition to providing a thorough comparative description of the hitherto poorly described area of intensifiers in Germanic languages, this book offers an answer to a long standing question in descriptive and theoretical linguistics, namely why self-forms are used in two apparently different functions. By combining analytical methods from syntax, lexical semantics and sentence semantics the study moreover contributes to an understanding of the interaction between structure, meaning and context in a central area of lexico-grammar.


"The Grammar of Identity is valuable for its thorough morphological, syntactic,

and semantic description of SELF in English and the other Germanic

languages, its insightful analysis of intensifiers, and its addition to the

ongoing debate on the syntax of reflexives."

-Christopher D. Sapp, LINGUIST List

Table of Contents

1. Introduction 2. The Distribution and Morphology of Head-Adjacent Self 3. Head-Adjacent Intensifiers as Expressions of an Identity Function 4. The Syntax of Head-Distant Intensifiers 5. Combinatorial Properties of Head-Distant Intensifiers 6. The Interpretation of Head-Distant Intensifiers 7. Reflexivity and the Identity Function 8. The Grammar of Reflexivity in Germanic Languages

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Germanic Linguistics

The Germanic languages are among the best described in the world and exhibit a considerable degree of variation. Yet, with the exception of English, their properties and structural variance have yet to be fully exploited for linguistic theory. The purpose of this series is to promote more intense interaction of general linguistics with the field of Germanic linguistics as a whole.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Grammar & Punctuation
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Linguistics / General