Reflexives in Hindi/Urdu1 1. Pronouns and reflexives in Hindi/Urdu In Hindi, pronouns and reflexives have different lexical forms and express different features:
pronouns are distinguished by person (I,II,III), number (singular and plural); 3rd person pronouns express orientation to the speaker (proximal and distal). Pronouns are inflected for morphological case (Nominative and Oblique forms; second ones are formed by the oblique case of a pronoun combined with a postposition that serves as a case marker and expresses different semantic features)
maiN ‘1sg-Nom’ meeraa ‘1sg-Gen’ mujh-koo/mujhee ‘1sg-Dat’
ham ‘1pl-Nom’ hamaaraa ‘1pl-Gen’ ham-koo/hameN ‘1pl-Dat’
tu ‘2sg-Nom’ tumhaaraa ‘2sg-Gen’ tujh-koo/tujhe ‘2sg-Dat’
tum ‘2pl-Fam-Nom’ tumhaaraa ‘2pl-Gen’ tum-koo/tumheeN ‘2pl-Dat’
reflexives in Hindi are inflected for all cases except for the Nominative. Reflexives form oblique cases in the same way as pronouns do (oblique form + postposition). Such features as person, number and orientation are not expressed in Hindi reflexives, so their antecedent can be of any number, person, orientation or gender, expressed through verbal agreement. An important distinction for reflexives is the contrast between simplex and complex forms that have different binding possibilities.
There are 3 simplex reflexives but the only difference is their origin and stylistic nuances
Simplex: apnaa ‘self-Gen’ apnee-koo ‘self-Dat’
Special attention should be paid to ditransitive structures like (5), where the IO seems to c-
command the DO, so we should expect it to be able to bind reflexives inside the DO. Then the
principle of subject-orientation would be violated, but this fact does not hold for Hindi. Veneeta
Srivastav Dayal proposes two ways to explain this fact.
The first explanation uses the analysis of ditransitive structures given by Larson:
The VP consists of an empty V taking a VP complement whose Spec is the DO, whose head is the verb and whose complement is the IO. The surface order is a result of the verb raising to the empty V position5. This account should be incorporated with a version of BT that refers to
antecedents that precede and c-command.
The second explanation uses the fact that anaphors (in Chomsky’s terminology) raises to INFL in LF.
Both explanations can be adopted to explain binding facts in ditransitive structures.
It is worth noting that only reflexives should be used as object modifiers in all cases when co-indexed with the subject, as it was noted by the native speakers I consulted with:
(7) wooi us-kej /apneeipitaa-se pyaar kar-taa hai
3sg hisj/hersj self’s father-with love do-Impf.m.sg is
‘He loves self’s father’
(8) hami *hamaareei /apneei pitaa-se pyaar kar-tee haiN
1pl our/ self’s father-with love do – Impf.m.pl are
‘We love self’s father’
Genitive pronouns can be used only as subject modifiers as in (9). Reflexives can be used as subject modifiers too, but then it is a case of arbitrary usage, when only generic reading is
(9) hamaaraa ghar sab-see accha hai
Our hous all from good is
‘Our house is the best’
(10) apnaa ghar sab-see accha hai
self’s house all from good is
‘One’s own house is the best’
Arbitrary apnaa can also have first person inclusive reading (11):
(11) oh! Love story! Yah apnaa kaam nahiiN6
this self’s work not
Oh! Love story! It’s not our work.
Both simplex and complex reflexives can be bound locally. This has been shown in (1), though the complex reflexive is preferred in this case.
Hindi allows long distance binding but only for simplex reflexives:
policei-Erg Ramj –Dat self- Dat money steal-Impf.m.pl be-Pf see-Caus-Pf
‘The policei showed Ramj [themselvesi/*himselfj stealing the money]
Other non-finite domains (clauses with non-finite tense –naa, non-finite aspect, NPs and small clauses except for mentioned above) allow both local and long-distance binding.
Davidson uses the head-raising account for Chinese (Cole and Sung 1994) to explain these facts, arguing that for Hindi in LF the host functional category to which the reflexives can be cliticised are TENSE and ASPECT. Domains that don’t allow local binding lack Tense/Aspect and other functional projections, and thus prohibit local binding.
The animacy condition
The animacy condition requires both local (8) and distant antecedents to be animate in most cases. Animacy should be expected for distant antecedents, since matrix verbs tend to be verbs of perception and propositional attitude.
Car-Erg self’s self- Dat wall -on smash give.Perf.m.sg
‘The car smashed itself against the wall’
The same meaning should be expressed differently, like in (9) where intransitive verbs derived from nouns are used:
(18) kaar diwaar-par zoor-see laR ga-ii
car wall-with force-with clash go-Perf.f.sg
‘the car hit the wall with force’
What counts for animate is another question, as such words as ‘computer’ and ‘bacteria’ seem to meet the animacy condition.
3. Some remarks on the contrast between reflexives in Hindi and Russian
First of all I would note the resemblance of the set of lexical forms of reflexives and some of their properties in Hindi and Russian. Both languages have simplex reflexives (sebja in Russian, apnee-postposition in Hindi – both not specified for person, number and gender), that are used as arguments in oblique cases only, allowing the usage of their Nominative forms only as emphatic clitics on the subject – (3) and (19):
(19) Ona sama vodit mašinu.
She oneself drives car
‘She drives the car herself’
Simlpex reflexives svoj and apnaa can be used as modifiers- :
(20) On ljubit svoj dom.
He loves self’s house.
‘Hei loves hisi house’
Russian complex reflexive sam sebja , as well as apnee-aap is used as an argument only.
(21a) On sam sebja kormit.
He self-Acc feeds
‘He feeds himself ’
(21b) *On moyet sam sebja čašku.
He washes self’s cup
‘He washes self’s cup’
The main difference in expressing reflexivity in Russian and Hindi is that reflexivitiy in Russian can be expressed through verb derivation:
(22a) On moyet sebjya samostoyatel’no
‘He washes himself without help’
Russian reflexives are also subject-oriented, unlike pronouns that show anti-subject orientation.
(23) Petjai čitaet Vasj-ej svojui/*j/ his*i/j/k knigu.
Petja reads Vasja-Dat sefl’s / his book.
‘Petjai read’s self’si/*j / his*i/j/k book to Vasjaj.
But if the usage of a pronoun in (8) that seems to be prohibited Hindi is absolutely fine in Russian:
(24) My ljubim našego/svojego ottsa
We love self’s our father
‘We love self’s/ our father’
Further more, the usage of the possessive pronouns conveys an additional sense of intimacy. In addition to that, the differences between reflexives and pronouns in Russian, when they are used for 1 or 2 person, singular or plural, seem to express additional meaning, when in Hindi they can’t be used in this position8:
- common vs. distributive possession
My vernemsja s toboy v naš gorog
We shall return with you in our city (city in common)
‘By the morning we were feeling cold under our blankets’ (blankets are separate)
-politeness is usually expressed by possessive pronouns. Often it’s antecedent is the polite vy:
Prošu vas vzvesit’ vaši slova
I ask you to weigh your words
Ty otvečayeš za svoi (*tvoi) slova
You are responsible for self’s (*your) words
Arbitrary usage of reflexives is possible in Russian too, though it has only generic reading:
Svoya rubashka blizhe k telu
Self’s shirt is closer to the body
‘Self comes first’
As in Hindi, Russian reflexives can be bound within local and distant domains; in some domains both local and distant readings are possible:
Mamai zapretila synui čitat’ svoii/j knigi
Mother forbade son-Dat read self’s books
The mother forbade the son to read her/his own books.
A very interesting paper on reflexives in both languages was written by L.V. Khokhlova. She studies the properties of Hindi and Russian reflexives in order to discover the influence of the language type on the referential properties of NPs. These languages seem perfect for such purposes – Russian is a classical nominative-accusative language, while Hindi is in the middle position in ergativity hierarchy.
Davison, Alice. 2001. Long-distance anaphora in Hindi/Urdu. In Long-Distance Reflexives. Syntax and Semantics 33, eds. Peter Cole et al., 47-82. Irvine, CA: Academic Press.
Dayal, Veneeta. 1994. Binding facts in Hindi and the Scrambling phenomenon. In Theoretical Perspectives on Word Order Issues in South Asian Languages, eds. Miriam Butt et al., 237-261. Stanford: CSLI Publications.
Büring, Daniel. 2005. Binding Theory: Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Khokhlova, L.V. Some notes on reflexivisation in Hindi and Russian http://www.iaas.msu.ru/pub_on/khokhlova/reflexivization.pdf
I’m very indebted to Mohsin Siddique and Suradj Agarval for their help as informants.
1 Most examples are taken from Davidson (2001) and Dayal (1994)
2 Swayam origins from Sanskrit and seems to be not used in Urdu.
3 The form apnee-aap-kaa is possible but used very rarely. The native speakers I consulted with found it possible but awkward. It is possible to say that the contrast between simplex and complex reflexives breaks down for the genitive forms.
4 But only Nominative subject controls verb agreement. In (5) and (6) demonstrate verbal agreement with the DO.
5 Dayal, Veneeta. 1994. Binding facts in Hindi and the Scrambling phenomenon, p. 245
6 This example is taken form Khokhlova. The whole situation is described there as such: The two policemen, noticing at night the burning candles on the ground at first suspect something wrong happening.Later one of them discovers that the candles are arranged in some order and spells the words “I love you!”; addressing his collegue, he pronounces : “O, love story, that is not our work!” - (Film “Aashikii”).
7 In this section I will use the same names for binding domains as in Davidson (2001)
8 All the examples here are taken from Khokhlova, some of her examples are taken from other works.