Reflexive constructions in German, Spanish, and French as a product of cyclic interaction

Matthew L. Maddox, Jonathan E. MacDonald

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


German sich and Spanish se can have reflexive or anticausative interpretations but only Spanish se can have a passive interpretation. We argue that Spanish Passse is the result of interaction between the subject agreement cycle and the reflexive object cycle. We make two claims: i) pro merges in Spec-Voice in Passse, due to the subject agreement cycle; and ii) se heads Voice due to the reflexive cycle. The types of reflexive constructions a language has depends on the presence/absence of pro and the categorial status of the reflexive pronoun (head or DP). French appears problematic since it has Passse but lacks subject pro. However, Passse existed in Old French (Cennamo 1993), which was a null subject language (Vance 1997). Thus, French is consistent with this claim; i.e., it developed Passse when it had subject pro and se as a head. Passse survived into Modern French as a historical remnant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationContinuity and Variation in Germanic and Romance
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9780198841166
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


  • French syntax
  • Linguistic cycles
  • Null subjects
  • Passive se
  • Reflexive constructions
  • Spanish syntax

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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