Grammaticalization of reflexivity in Basque
A corpus-based diachronic and typological analysis
The purpose of this paper is to provide a detailed overview of the changes undergone by the reflexive buru-construction in Basque under the light of grammaticalization theory. On the basis of quantitative historical data, the reflexive construction is argued to have undergone changes predicted by the grammaticalization path of reflexive markers: the distinction between regular and reflexive possessive pronouns is lost; anaphoric, non-reflexive uses of buru disappear; and number agreement between the subject and buru is no longer obligatory. The buru-construction is furthermore argued to have become more prevalent at the expense of other reflexivization strategies. As opposed to these changes, the reflexive construction seems to have degrammaticalized as well: the number of direct object uses of this construction decreases over time, and it occurs in subject position with more predicates in present-day written Basque than in the historical period. In view of these facts, an argument is made against unidirectional conceptions of grammaticalization. External motivations for these developments, such as the standardization of the language, are also considered.
Keywords: reflexivity, grammaticalization, degrammaticalization, Basque, corpus linguistics, diachrony, typology
Published online: 25 May 2020
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