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6.6 Reflexive pronouns

A reflexive is a type of pronoun that must find an antecedent within a local domain, which is generally the clause in which the reflexive itself is found. Usually the subject functions as the antecedent for a reflexive. Reflexives themselves are characteristically found in the object position of verbs and adpositions.

The reflexive pronoun is homophonous to the object pronoun, except in the third person. The third person reflexive pronoun is sik ‘self’ for singular and plural. It has been adopted from Low German. In Old Frisian the 3 person object pronouns were themselves used as inherent reflexives, that is ,as reflexives selected by the verb. In a reflexive context that was not inherent, the personal pronoun was appended by a self-marker, as is still the case in Modern English.

The sections below present various aspects of reflexives.


###Section######Title###1. Inherent or weak reflexives###Title###

Saterland Frisian must have borrowed the reflexive marker sik quite some time ago, since it is well entrenched in the language. It is characteristically used as an inherent reflexive, but it is also used in reciprocal contexts. The following examples show that the reflexive is used in selected contexts:

Geeske un Jan sätten sik bie dän Disk.
Geeske and Jan set REFL at the table
Geeske and Jan set down at the table.’
Man mout sik fräigje, of Plat sik hoolde skäl.
ARB must REFL ask if Low German REFL hold shall
One has to ask oneself whether Low German will survive.

These verbs select the reflexive as part of their idiomatic make-up.

[+]2. Strong reflexives or reflexives marked with SELF

In contexts which are clearly not selected, or which are felt to be contrastive, the reflexive pronoun is combined with the self marker, as in the following examples:

Hied iek mie sälwen nit beproald, dan waas iek nit beproald wuden.
had I REFL SELF not boasted then was I not boasted become
If I hadn't praised myself, I would never have been praised.
Foar die säärm koast du suurgje, foar aal kon neen Moanske nit suurgje.
foar you SELF can you take.care foar all can no human not take.care
You can take care of yourself, no one can take care of everyone.

The second example shows that the object pronoun is turned into a reflexive by the self marker. It seems that sik resembles weak pronouns in that both are restricted to positions which are structurally very close to a governing head. The governing head is characteristically a complementiser, a verb or an adposition. Like weak pronouns, the weak reflexive is not found in a coordination, as shown below. Instead the strengthened pronoun is found, the pronoun strengthened by adding the self marker to it:

So wät wüül hie sien Wilma un sik särm nit andwo.
so what wanted he his Wilma and REFL SELF not to.do
He didn’t want to do such a thing to Wilma and himself.

Similarly, the strong pronoun shows up in a contrastive context, in which weak pronouns are excluded:

Mäd Gewalt kud Ellert dän Okse twinge, man sik sälwen nit.
with force could Ellert the ox force but REFL SELF not
By force Ellert could compel the ox but not himself.

The following example features a strong reflexive, but it is not clear why it shows up here. Furthermore, the weak reflexive is not excluded as the second example makes clear:

Kwad hie tou sik säärm.
said he to REFL SELF
He said to himself.
Kwaad die Gärshupper tou sik.
said the grasshopper to REFL
The grasshopper said to himself.

Some further examples featuring the strong reflexive are given below:

Die Boas häd dät uut sik säärm däin.
the boss has it out REFL SELF done
The boss did it of his own accord.
Hie is sik sälven tou goud.
he is REFL SELF too good
He is too good for himself.
Elk is sik sälwen de Naiste.
each is REFL SELF the closest
People look first aftyer their own interests.

As the examples show, there is some lexical variation in the self marker. It may appear as säärm or sälven / sälwen. The orthography of 2023 used in schools prefers: sälwen.

[+]3. Reciprocal interpretation and doubling

The reflexive pronoun is also used in several contexts to express a reciprocal interpretation, especially if the reciprocal interpretation is common with the verb in question:

Jo fertälden sik allerhound uut oolde un näie Tieden.
they told REFL all.hand out old and new times
They told each other all sorts of things from old and new times.
Do beten sik twäin Huunde.
then bit REFL two dogs
Then two dogs bit each other.

Some speakers, but not all, combine the reflexive pronoun with the reciprocal pronoun, in examples like the following:

Do Bee häbe sik eenuur bedroaien.
the both have REFL RECIP cheated
They both cheated each other.
De Boksere stukje sik eenuur tou de Kop in.
the boxers hit REFL RECIP to the head in
The boxers hit each other on the head.

Two interesting example are the following, in which the reflexive and the reciprocal are not next to each other:

Waas dät Fäild uutroded un wie kuden uus dan noch eenuur sjoo.
was the field out.weeded and we could us then still each.other see
When the field was weeded out, and we could still see each other.
Jie moakje Jou bee eenuur wät wies.
you make REFL both RECIP what wise
You are fooling each other.

Possibly the double forms belong to an older stage of the language, as the phenomenon was unknown to two informants who we consulted.

[+]4. The adverbial pronoun SELF

The adverbial SELF can be used to provide emphasis or exclusivity to a NP. Sater Frisian forms for SELF include: säärm, sälven. It is not declined, that is, it is not marked for person or number. Some examples are provided below:

Dät mout älk säärm wiete.
that must each SELF know
Everyone must decide for himself.
Iek stuud deer säärm bie.
I stood there SELF at
I was there myself.

Note the difference with English, where the SELF adverb is marked for person and number (myself, ourselves, and so on). The marker may also appear with past participles used as attributive APs, as below:

Säärm braidede Hozen.
SELF knitted socks
Self-knitted socks.
Säärm bjoud Bjoor.
SELF brewed beer
Homebrew beer.

The etymology of the form säärm is not clear. The form sälven comes from Old Frisian.

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