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date: 08 December 2023

Binding in Germanicfree

Binding in Germanicfree

  • Eric ReulandEric ReulandUtrecht University
  •  and Martin EveraertMartin EveraertUtrecht University


All languages have expressions, typically pronominals and anaphors, that may or must depend for their interpretation on another expression, their antecedent. When such a dependency is subject to structural conditions, it reflects binding. Although there is considerable variation in binding patterns cross-linguistically, in fact, variation is along a limited set of parameters. The Germanic languages exemplify some of the main factors involved.

In Germanic, third-person pronominals generally do not allow binding by a co-argument. However, in Frisian and Afrikaans, they do, being embedded in a richer structure than meets the eye. In Continental West Germanic and Scandinavian, anaphors come in two types: simplex anaphors (SE-anaphors)—deficient for number and gender—and complex anaphors (SELF-anaphors). These typically consist of a pronominal or SE-anaphor combined with an element like Dutch zelf ‘self’ or one of its cognates. In all the Germanic languages SELF-anaphors are bound in their local domain—approximately the domain of their nearest subject—except in a few identifiable positions, where they are interpreted logophorically. That is, they accept a non-local antecedent, provided this element holds the perspective of the sentence.

The distribution of SE-anaphors involves three different conditions. First, they can be bound by a co-argument only if the verb belongs to a restricted class, which allows syntactic detransitivization. Second, in general, SE-anaphors allow non-local binding. But the conditions differ among subgroups. In Dutch and German, they can only be bound non-locally when contained in a causative or perception verb complement or a small clause. In Mainland Scandinavian, non-local binding is, in principle, available to all infinitival clauses (subject to some dialectal variation). For instance, in some varieties of Norwegian, referentiality of intervening subjects restricts binding; in other varieties, the restricting factor is not “finiteness” but “being specified for tense.” Third, in Icelandic long-distance antecedents beyond the infinitival domain are licensed by a subjunctive, together with the requirement that the antecedent holds the perspective. Faroese largely patterns like Icelandic, although lacking a subjunctive. However, the class of verbs that allow this pattern coincides with the class of verbs in Icelandic that have a subjunctive complement.

Non-local binding of SE-anaphors is sensitive to the requirement that the antecedent be animate, but the languages show differences in the details.

Unlike the West Germanic languages, the Scandinavian languages all have a possessive reflexive in third person. In general, their distribution appears to be quite close to that of SE-anaphors, but this is subject to dialectal variation, with various differences in the details.


  • Language Families/Areas/Contact
  • Linguistic Theories
  • Syntax

1. Crosslinguistic Variation From a Theoretical Perspective

The aim of this article is twofold. On one hand, it presents an overview of the main patterns of anaphor binding in the Continental West Germanic languages, in particular Dutch, Frisian and Afrikaans, and German, and the Scandinavian languages, specifically Icelandic, Faroese, Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish. English, as a non–Continental West Germanic language, is only discussed in passing, since its main patterns have been well described. On the other hand, it aims to indicate how differences in binding patterns among a group of closely related languages can be explained based on a few grammatical differences independent of binding. For space reasons, reference to dialectal variation is limited to an occasional paragraph.1

Facts get their meaning from a theory. The data patterns we discuss have surfaced over the years during the process of developing a “binding theory” from the early 1970s2 to the early 21st century. Although there are several competing theories addressing the intricate cross-linguistic syntax and semantics of anaphora,3 the data are presented against the background sketched by Reuland (2011), given its general scope.

Among the Germanic languages, one finds a considerable variety of anaphoric systems. English just has pronominals versus anaphors. Dutch and the Scandinavian languages represent more complex systems. These languages have simplex anaphors and complex anaphors, in addition to pronominals. Simplex anaphors are essentially pronominal elements that lack a specification for certain features (typically, number and gender but occasionally also person). Dutch, for instance, has a simplex anaphor zich—which is only specified for person, not for number and gender—together with a complex anaphor zichzelf, which differs in distribution. We refer to elements such as Dutch zich, Norwegian seg, Icelandic sig, and the like as SE-anaphors and to anaphors like zichzelf and its cognates as SELF-anaphors (Reinhart & Reuland, 1993).

Just like there is variation in anaphoric forms, cognates of a similar form may differ in the domain in which they are bound (Everaert, 1986; Fischer, 2004a). This is illustrated by the variation among SE-anaphors in Germanic. While in the languages discussed SELF-anaphors (in non-subject positions; see 2c) must be bound within their minimal clause, the binding domains for SE-anaphors show significant differences. In Dutch and German, this domain is limited to small clauses and causative and perception verb complements, whereas in Scandinavian languages this domain is more extended (see Section 7 for further discussion).

Under specific discourse conditions, Icelandic and Faroese, and some variants of Norwegian, allow an interpretation of SE-anaphors even in the absence of a linguistically expressed antecedent, a so-called logophoric use; see Section 5 for more detail.4

Properties of predicates play a role in determining the distribution of anaphors. While grooming verbs such as the Dutch wassen ‘wash’ allow an object SE-anaphor as in Jan waste zich ‘Jan washed SE’, subject-experiencer verbs such as haten ‘hate’ require a SELF-anaphor, as in Jan haatte zich*(zelf) ‘Jan hated SE-SELF’.5 In the Scandinavian languages, one finds essentially the same pattern as in Dutch, but see the discussion of Swedish in section 2.2 for some differences. Prima facie, German is different, with just the apparently simplex anaphor sich in positions where the other languages require a SELF-anaphor; see Section 4.2 for discussion.

Unlike English, all other Germanic languages allow local binding of first- and second-person pronominals. German ich wasche mich, Dutch jij wast je, are all fine (see Section 2.1). In this respect, Germanic contrasts with, for instance, Slavic languages, which have one dedicated reflexive for all persons, and is like the Romance languages.6 Strikingly, Frisian allows local binding of third-person pronominals, as in Jan waske him ‘John washed himself’, and so does Afrikaans (see Section 2.4). Again, the question is whether these languages are “just exceptions” or whether this can be related to other properties of these languages. This is discussed in Section 4.1.

Possessives show a further dimension of variation. While West Germanic languages have pronominal forms for all persons, Scandinavian has dedicated anaphoric forms for third-person possessives, not only obligatory in local binding but also available with remote antecedents.

For all the languages investigated, a systematic overview is included of the role of animacy in binding, specifically with respect to SE-anaphors.7 For a proper understanding of the interplay between syntactic factors and discourse factors in the conditions allowing anaphors to be exempt from their standard binding requirement, we systematically explore exemption effects in the languages discussed.

The presentation is organized against the background of two leading ideas. One idea, going back to Everaert (1986) and elaborated in Reuland (2011), is that binding of SE-anaphors such as Dutch zich, Norwegian seg, and others, is syntactically brought about by chain formation. These anaphors are deficient for number (and gender). This deficiency allows an Agree operation to apply, which looks for a valued occurrence of a φ‎-feature on the antecedent, copies it, and uses the copy to value an unvalued occurrence of such a feature on the anaphor. Sharing copies of a feature value is interpreted as a binding dependency. Conversely, when Agree attempts to value a feature that is already valued, for instance when it finds a pronominal in the position it targets, a conflict arises, and the result is not interpreted (the derivation is canceled). This accounts for the well-known complementarity between anaphors and bound pronominals in the local domain (see Reuland, 2011, 2017a; Reuland & Zubkov, 2022, for details and exceptions; Sections 3 and 5 give some examples of non-complementarity in non-local domains; see also Fischer, 2004b). The formation of such feature chains is mediated by functional elements on the path between the envisaged antecedent and the target position and therefore is sensitive to the properties of these functional elements. This is an important source of cross-linguistic variation.

The other leading idea is that the reflexivity of predicates must be licensed (Reinhart & Reuland, 1993;Reuland, 2001, 2017b). Reflexivizing a predicate leads to representations with two identical variables in logical syntax. The grammatical system avoids expressions with two identical variables in a local domain as in (1a). There are essentially two ways for languages to avoid such local identity. One cross-linguistically prevalent option is to detransitivize a transitive verb, bundling its semantic roles, and assigning the bundled role the one remaining syntactic argument; see (1b).8 Reflexivity can also be expressed by differentiating the arguments. Differentiation can be achieved by combining one argument with an additional morpheme, as a form of protection. Cross-linguistically such morphemes are realized as a self-type element, a body-part expression (such as Georgian tav tavis ‘his head’), a doubled pronoun such as taan tanne in Malayalam, and others; see (1c) for a more “abstract” representation. An expression like tav tavis is interpreted as standing proxy for the value of the antecedent.

Bundling is restricted to agent-theme verbs and, therefore, not available for other verb classes, such as subject experiencer verbs such as love or hate (see Reinhart, 2000/2016; Reinhart & Siloni, 2005, for further discussion of verb classes). Hence, with such verbs, one of the arguments has to be differentiated, as illustrated by Icelandic Jón elskar sig *(sjálfan) ‘John loves himself’. Here, protection is brought about by the element sjálfan, while the feature sharing between the antecedent and SE establishes the binding dependency (see 1c). Prima facie, German sich is a SE-anaphor; how sich licenses reflexivity is discussed in Section 4.2. If neither bundling nor protection applies, the result is ill formed.


With the bundling of θ‎-roles, the accusative-case feature is absorbed in English, while in languages like Dutch, a residue of the case feature remains and triggers the insertion of the SE-anaphor (see (2a-iii/vi), but note that SE-anaphors may occur in other environments as well). An independent property of SELF-type elements is that they may also enforce reflexivity. For instance, in Mary expected Cindy to enjoy herself, the self-element is required to reflexivize the verb enjoy, which gives Cindy, but not Mary, as the antecedent. In certain environments, self-anaphors are exempt from this requirement, however.9 If so, their interpretation is sensitive to discourse conditions, such as the requirement that the antecedent carries the perspective of the sentence, a logophoricity effect. Further properties of SELF-anaphors depend on the nature of the pronominal element they contain. If this element is an SE-anaphor also, the Agree operation will be involved. If it is a fully specified pronominal, it will not be visible to Agree (being shielded by the SELF-element, unlike what is assumed in Reinhart & Reuland, 1993; see Reuland, 2011).

The presentation is structured per topic: basic patterns (Section 2), binding into PP (Section 3), the structure of the anaphoric element and the role of case (Section 4), local and non-local binding (Section 5), and animacy effects and exemptions (Section 6). Section 7 summarizes what the variation implies for the larger picture. We present data from Dutch, German, Frisian, Afrikaans, Mainland Scandinavian, Icelandic, and Faroese. Given the similarity between the anaphoric systems of Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish, they are discussed with Norwegian Bokmål taken as a starting point. Icelandic and Faroese are discussed together, starting with Icelandic and noting the differences as they come up.

2. Basic Pattern

2.1 Dutch and German

In addition to pronominals (first- and second-person singular and plural, third-person singular masculine, feminine and neuter, third-person plural common gender), Dutch has two anaphor types, a SE- anaphor zich and SELF-anaphors, consisting of a first- or second-person pronoun or the SE-anaphor zich, combined with the element zelf, as in (2).10

Zich(zelf) only occurs with third-person antecedents including the arbitrary pronominal men ‘one’ (no singular/plural contrast). In environments where zich is used for the third person, the first and second person are realized by their pronominal object forms (2a).11 The choice of a simplex form versus a SELF-anaphor depends on the type of predicate: agent-theme verbs generally allow zich or a simplex first- or second-person pronoun (as in (2a)), given that they allow bundling (see (1b)). Subject-experiencer verbs as in (2b) require a SELF-anaphor: they do not allow bundling and hence need protection to avoid the configuration (1a).12

Dutch has “exceptional case marking” (ECM), with causative and perception verb complements. ECM subjects can be simplex but need not be; see (2c). We assume that Agree could target the feature content of the embedded subject. An SE-anaphor would be allowed since a local identity violation (see (1a)) does not arise (zich and the higher subject are not co-arguments), but a bound third-person pronominal would not because the derivation is canceled (as explained in Section 1).13


German behaves quite similar to Dutch. Like the other Germanic languages, German allows first- and second-person pronominals to locally bind their object forms. When the antecedent is the polite form of address Sie, the reflexive is realized as sich. However, German does not show a contrast of SELF- versus SELF-less forms reflecting properties of predicates and allows sich, where the other languages have a SELF-anaphor.14


2.2 Mainland Scandinavian

The Mainland Scandinavian languages show a similar pattern as (2).15 They have a simplex paradigm with pronouns for first and second person and an SE-anaphor for third person singular and plural.16 The SELF-element (selv in Danish, Norwegian, with some dialectal variation, and själv in Swedish) combines both with the third-person SE-anaphor seg and with the elements in the pronominal paradigm (ham, etc.). Unlike self in English, selv does not show a number contrast.17


The main difference among the mainland Scandinavian languages is that in Swedish the SE-anaphor sig without själv is allowed with a wider range of verbs than in Norwegian (Everaert, 1986, p. 204; Hellan, 1988, p. 97, note 10; see also Schadler, 2009).18 As will be seen, there is extensive variation among dialects of Norwegian. A similar in-depth exploration of variation in Danish or Swedish would carry us beyond the scope of this overview.

In addition, these languages have a third-person possessive anaphor sin, which in Danish is restricted to the singular; for the plural, Danish uses the pronominal deres (Vikner, 1985).19

The anaphors seg and seg selv must be bound by the subject of a predicate containing the anaphor. The same holds true of the possessive anaphor. When the antecedent is not a subject, ham selv, and others, is used instead of seg selv, and the corresponding pronominal form is used instead of seg or sin. So, in effect, they have a four-way (Pron, SE, Pron SELF, SE SELF) distinction. (But see Lødrup, 2008, for discussion of exceptions.)

2.3 Icelandic and Faroese

Icelandic and Faroese have a four-way distinction too.20 Like the other Scandinavian languages, they have a simplex paradigm with pronouns for first and second person, and an SE-anaphor for third-person singular and plural, sig in Icelandic (dative sér, genitive sín) and seg in Faroese (dative sær, genitive sín).

The SELF-element (sjálfan in Icelandic, sjálvan in Faroese)21 combines both with the third-person SE-anaphor and with pronouns. In Icelandic, these are (for the accusative) meg ‘me’, Þig ‘you’, hann ‘him’, okkur ‘us’, ykkur ‘you’, Þá ‘them’, corresponding to meg, teg, hann, okkum, tykkum, teir, respectively, in Faroese. Just like in Dutch, Frisian, and the Mainland Scandinavian languages, the choice between the simplex and the complex form depends on the verb class. With agent-theme verbs like þvo ‘wash’ exemplified in (5),22 the SE-anaphor can take a local antecedent whereas with another class of verbs, including subject experiencer verbs, sig cannot be locally bound.23


The Faroese counterpart follows the same pattern (see Barnes, 1986).24

The SE-anaphor is subject-oriented; when the antecedent is not a subject, the corresponding pronominal form is used. In addition, Icelandic and Faroese have a possessive anaphor: sinn (Icelandic), sín (Faroese). Strahan (2009) observes that in Faroese, it is very common for a prepositional possessive phrase hjá sær/honum ‘by/with SEDAT/himDAT’ to follow the possessed noun rather than the possessive reflexive/pronoun.

2.4 Frisian and Afrikaans

Like English, Frisian (Everaert, 1991; Hoekstra, 1994; or formally Westerlauwers Frisian) and Afrikaans (Oosthuizen, 2013, 2015) have a two-member anaphoric system. In third person, there is, respectively, an anaphor himsels/homself and a pronominal him/hom. However, unlike Dutch and English, Frisian and Afrikaans have locally bound third-person pronominals. This section focuses on Frisian, but where possible the discussion includes Afrikaans.25 Note that in third-person feminine and plural, the nominative paradigm has two forms, sy and hja, that can be used interchangeably. The object paradigm shows two forms as well; these contrast, and, strikingly, the form se cannot be locally bound. This is discussed in Section 4.1.

The generalization is that wherever Dutch allows the SE-anaphor zich, Frisian and Afrikaans allow a bound pronominal (see Section 4 for an explanation). Example (6) shows intrinsic reflexive verbs, (7) the full paradigm for Frisian, and (8) for Afrikaans, exemplified for agent-theme verbs, including grooming verbs.26




Just like in Dutch, other verbs, specifically, subject experiencer verbs require a SELF-anaphor, in the form of a pronominal with sels for Frisian (9) and self for Afrikaans (10), with no number distinction.



As subjects of ECM constructions, Frisian likewise allows bound pronominals:


So, with respect to the overall distribution of simplex versus SELF-marked forms Frisian behaves just like Dutch, as does Afrikaans. Both show the same sensitivity to verb class and structural position in the distribution of simplex versus complex anaphoric expressions as Dutch.

3. Binding Into PP

3.1 Dutch and German

For binding into PPs, Dutch differentiates between argumental prepositional objects (12) and locative/directional PPs (13). In subcategorized PPs, a SELF-anaphor is required (12a); for German, that is not the case (12b):


In locative and directional PPs, both an SE-anaphor and a pronominal are allowed:27


This difference is due to the fact that subcategorized PPs are part of the verbal predicate. Locative and directional PPs show optionality, since the preposition may optionally count as an intervener, shielding its complement from being targeted by Agree. In Section 5, we discuss that SE-anaphors do not exclusively occur in contexts with a local antecedent.

Whereas Dutch locative and directional PPs show no complementarity between bound pronouns and anaphors, Modern High German requires sich in such cases (among others, see Fischer, 2004a):


This contrast relates to another difference. German differs from the other West Germanic languages in expressing morphological case distinctions. These not only distinguish arguments of the verb (e.g., direct vs. indirect object), but they also show up in locative, and directional, PPs, among others. In PPs, the case of the NP (accusative or dative) is not only determined by the preposition, but it also reflects whether the PP expresses location or direction:


In (15), then, the case of P’s complement is not just determined by P, but by V and P jointly. Thus, the P does not act as an intervener—not even optionally so as in Dutch—and does not shield a pronominal complement from being targeted by Agree. This leads to a conflict (see Section 1), and ihn cannot be interpreted as bound.28

3.2 Frisian and Afrikaans

As in Dutch, binding into subcategorized PPs requires the sels-form in Frisian (16a) but not in locatives (16b); a similar pattern is found in Afrikaans (17) (the simpler form may be preferred over the complex forms in (16b) and (17b) for reasons of economy, see Reinhart & Reuland, 1993, note 15):



3.3 Mainland Scandinavian

Just like Dutch, the Scandinavian languages differentiate between subcategorized PPs and locative/directional PPs. In Norwegian, in the case of subcategorized PPs, an SELF-anaphor is required (18a). In locative and directional PPs, an SE-anaphor is required and a pronominal is not allowed (18b):29:


Again, this difference is due to the fact that subcategorized PPs are part of the verbal predicate. In locative and directional PPs a SE-anaphor is allowed since the preposition is not part of the verbal predicate; however, unlike what one sees in Dutch, due to the weak case system of Mainland Scandinavian, the preposition is too weak to shield its complement from being targeted by Agree.30

3.4 Icelandic and Faroese

For binding into PPs, Icelandic and Faroese again differentiate between subcategorized PPs and locative/directional PPs. In subcategorized PPs, a SELF-anaphor is required; see (19) for Icelandic and (20) for Faroese (bound pronominals are excluded a fortiori):



In locative and directional PPs, one finds a SE-anaphor; a bound pronominal is not allowed; see Icelandic (21) and Faroese (22):31



This difference is again due to the fact that subcategorized PPs are part of the verbal predicate. Given the relatively rich case system of Icelandic and Faroese, it is presumably the joint role of verb and preposition in determining the case of the preposition’s object that allows it to be targeted by Agree, as in German. In locative and directional PPs, an SE-anaphor is allowed since the preposition is not part of the verbal predicate; the anaphor and its binder are therefore not co-arguments, and no reflexive predicate is formed that requires licensing; the preposition does not act as an intervener either, allowing its complement to be targeted by Agree.

4. The Structure of the Anaphoric Element and the Role of Case

To understand the variation, we will have a closer look at the properties of third-person pronouns in Frisian and Afrikaans and the anaphor sich in German.

As discussed, case properties play a role in the distribution of anaphoric elements in PPs. Case will be seen to also play a role in explaining why Frisian is exceptional in allowing local binding of third-person pronouns. The internal structure of anaphoric elements themselves will help us understand the difference between German and the other Germanic languages in the use of SELF- versus SELF-less forms.

4.1 The Status of the Third-Person Pronominals in Frisian (and Afrikaans)

Consider the pronominal system of Frisian in some more detail (see Reuland & Reinhart, 1995). Unlike the third-person masculine, the third-person singular feminine and plural (common gender) have two object forms: Both may be realized as harsg/harrenpl as well as se. Despite appearances, se is a pronominal and not to be confused with an SE-anaphor. In many contexts, these forms are used interchangeably:


However, unlike har(ren), se may not be locally bound.


The ungrammaticality of sentences with bound se shows that, for se, the locality prohibition works in Frisian as it does in Dutch, raising the question of how har and se differ. Hoekstra (1994) shows that they differ in case. To see this, consider two of his contexts.

Frisian has a free dative construction: A clause may contain an object DP expressing indirect involvement in the eventuality denoted. This DP is licensed independently of lexical properties of the predicate, but in this context, har cannot be replaced by se:


Because in languages having morphological case, such objects are dative case-marked, Hoekstra proposes that a case distinction also underlies the contrast in (25). Independent evidence for the role of case is that se is barred from locative PPs; see (26):


Pronominal arguments of adjectives also require the har-form. Hoekstra concludes that se requires structural case, whereas har is licensed with inherent case. Reuland and Reinhart (1995), then, propose that this distinction carries over to the masculine and neuter members of the paradigm where two object forms are not distinguished. Recall, now, from Section 1, that when Agree finds a pronominal in the position it attempts to value the result is not interpreted. Whether or not Agree can target this position depends on the properties of the path to the antecedent. In a nutshell, Frisian pronominals with inherent case can be locally bound since the case layer shields them from being targeted by Agree; no conflict arises, and nothing prevents them from being bound. The se-form is in a position of structural case; hence, it is not shielded from Agree; a conflict arises, and it cannot be interpreted as locally bound.

For Afrikaans, a similar reasoning may apply but different in detail. As discussed in Arnold (2014), Afrikaans allows [+animate] objects to be marked with the preposition vir ‘for’; see (27):


Vir then, signals the presence of an extra functional projection on top of the DP in the direct object position (such as in (8)), again shielding the pronoun from being targeted by the Agree operation. If so, Afrikaans uses a strategy observed for languages like Zande (Schladt, 2000), licensing reflexivization by embedding the pronoun in a PP (see Reuland, 2011, p. 208).32

4.2 The Structure of SE-Elements in Dutch and German

As noted in the introduction, most Germanic languages show a distribution of SELF- versus SELF-less forms that reflects properties of predicates and syntactic position. Only German goes against this pattern (see Sections 2.1 and 3.1), as it allows sich, where other languages have a SELF-anaphor. Prima facie, sich is an SE-anaphor. Hence, the question arises of what underlies this variation.

As Reuland (2011) suggests, sich’s structure may well not be what it appears to be, since its stress pattern indicates that in some of its uses, it must have more structure than meets the eye.33 In both Dutch and German, the head of the N-projection bears the main stress of the NP. Dutch anaphors conform to this pattern.

Apart from a few idiomatic expressions, zich cannot bear stress (Everaert, 1986, pp. 31–34).34 Reuland (2011, Chapter 8) suggests that this indicates that, unlike third-person pronominals, zich occurs in a D-position without NP complement and therefore is more clitic-like. This accounts for the contrast in (28): Zich is allowed in a higher position than the subject (its binder), whereas the pronominal is not felicitous there.35


Consequently, the anaphor is without stress (29a–b); in (29a), the internal stress of the NP can be on zelf. In the case of PPs, the stress can end up on the P-head in locative/directional PPs (29d) but not in the case of prepositional objects (29c).


Zich also fails to undergo topicalization. This is independent of the thematic properties of its verb. Thus, in (30), only the SELF-form can be topicalized.


German sich bears stress in some and is unstressed in other positions (Everaert, 1986). The positions in which sich may bear stress coincide with the positions in which Dutch has zichzelf.36 In positions where sich may not bear stress, Dutch has zich.37


Just like Dutch zich, unstressable sich cannot be topicalized:


Variations in stress are significant indicators of differences in structure given a theory of phrasal stress as in Cinque (1993). Phrasal stress is determined by the syntactic structure; conversely, the stress pattern that obtains must reflect the syntactic structure. If so, unstressable sich originates in the D-position with an empty (or no) NP complement (33a), just like its Dutch counterpart. Stressable sich must originate in the N-position. (Note that being stressable does not entail being stressed.) This means that stressable sich may reflect a complex structure as in (33b), with sich being a nominal head moved to D (Longobardi, 1994, p. 996, see also Longobardi, 1996).


The idea that German sich reflects a dual structure is supported by Gast and Haas (2008). They show that there is a use of sich as a clitic and sich with full pronominal structure, including the capacity to bear stress, appear in PPs, among others. Reciprocal interpretation is only contributed by clitic sich, see the contrast between (34) and (35):



In (34), sich is fronted—and stressed. Although a reading in which the players did not like each other while they do like the coach is pragmatically preferred to the reflexive reading, this reading is not available. Moreover, sich cannot have the reciprocal meaning either if it is coordinated with another noun phrase (Gast & Haas, 2008, p. 319), again a use where it is in non-clitic position.38


Thus, in its tonic use, sich has the structure of a doubled pronoun (33b) and can license reflexivity; just like in other languages, doubled pronouns can.39

5. Local and Non-Local Binding

5.1 Dutch and German

The binding of SELF-anaphors in Dutch and German is always strictly local. Long-distance binding of zich/sich is possible but is more limited (Dutch: Everaert, 1986; German: Fischer, 2004b; Reis, 1976) than the long-distance binding of Icelandic sig and Norwegian seg (see Sections 5.35.4).40 Zich/sich in te/zu-infinitives (corresponding to to-infinitives) cannot be bound from the outside, see Dutch (37) and German (38), whereas zich in causative (39a) or perception (39b) verb complements can.41




This latitude is restricted to zich in PPs. With zich in direct object position, only local binding is possible (in (40a) both readings are pragmatically OK; in (40b), the local reading is pragmatically disfavored, but the non-local reading is still impossible). The same holds for the German examples (41). In Dutch, replacing zich with a pronominal is less than felicitous under the intended interpretation:42



For some Dutch speakers, indirect object zich allows a non-local reading (42a); for German (42b), this seems to be excluded (Grewendorf, 1983; Reis, 1976).43 A pronoun is fine:


With causative ECM constructions, judgments about the embedded object hem of a grooming verb get sharper in Dutch; see the contrast between (40) and (43a) (with some inter-speaker variation); the embedded indirect object hem (42a) is still fine, nonetheless. In German, the counterpart of (43a) is fine, however (Gunkel, 2003, p. 116).


For German, Gunkel (2003), partially based on Reis (1976) and Grewendorf (1983), discusses one more dimension of variation in this domain: prepositional object versus adjunct.44 From a comparative perspective, it is important that German exhibits the same type of restrictions here as Dutch, unlike the Scandinavian languages.45

5.2 Mainland Scandinavian

The Scandinavian languages allow non-local antecedents for SE-anaphors in a larger domain. While in Dutch and German non-local binding is restricted to bare infinitives, Scandinavian languages typically allow it in their counterparts of to-infinitives. Example (44) illustrates long-distance binding in Norwegian (Hellan, 1988, pp. 68–71, 1991, pp. 30–31). For Hellan, SELF-anaphors are strictly locally bound: For both possessive and non-possessive anaphors, the upward bound on the binding domain is the minimal tensed S; see (45):46



For cases like (44), the restriction is not disputed, but there are varieties of Norwegian with substantially different patterns (Johnsen, 2008, 2009). For instance, in some varieties, seg selv allows non-local binding, although in that case selv is never required (Lødrup, 2009).47 Other varieties even allow non-local binding out of finite complements, as in (46) (Moshagen & Trosterud, 1990; see also the discussion in Strahan, 2003):48


Johnsen (2008, 2009) presents an extensive discussion of the long-distance binding of SE-anaphors in the Askim dialect. Unlike the variety of Norwegian described by Hellan, Johnsen reports strong intervention effects reflecting the referential properties of intervening subjects (first- and second-person pronouns and referential third-person expressions). In this variety, the equivalents of (44) are decisively out. Lødrup (2009) mentions the inanimacy of intervening antecedents as a relevant factor.

While it may be tempting to relate such anaphoric dependencies across finite clause boundaries to logophoricity, logophoricity is not the crucial factor (Johnsen, 2008; Lødrup, 2009; Strahan, 2001). For instance, Johnsen notes that the verb class of the matrix verb is relevant, and also distinguishes between finiteness and tensedness, arguing that the complement must be tenseless rather than non-finite in order to allow seg to have an antecedent from the outside.

5.3 Icelandic and Faroese

Icelandic and Faroese manifest an additional factor. As outlined in Thráinsson (1976), sig in Icelandic may take a long-distance antecedent when the clause containing sig is infinitive or subjunctive.49 However, if sig is contained in an indicative clause, it can only be locally bound. The same applies to the possessive anaphor:


Note that Icelandic sjálfan sig (and Faroese seg sjálvan) must be bound in their local domain.

There are two groups of proposals in the literature to account for non-local binding of sig. One line, for instance Anderson (1986), argues for a unified binding analysis of long-distance sig in subjunctives and infinitives. The other approach, for instance Reuland and Sigurjónsdóttir (1997), argues thatlong-distance sig in subjunctives and infinitives involves different processes. The latter involves a syntactic dependency; the former, a discourse process involving logophoricity. A characteristic of the logophoric use of pronouns is their use in “reportive contexts,” referring back to an individual (other than the speaker-narrator) whose speech, thought, feeling, or point of view is reported on in the sentence (from Maling, 1984, pp. 211, 231), which according to Sigurðsson (1990), sums up the semantic properties of sig in such cases. Charnavel (2020a), however, suggests that all non-local binding is mediated by a logophoric operator.

Evidence that at least some anaphoric dependencies out of subjunctives involve means beyond the structural binding theory is the fact that c-command is not required, as in (48) (Maling, 1984, p. 222),50 and the fact that in some cases a linguistic antecedent may even be absent, as in (49) (Sigurðsson, 1986, 1990; Thráinsson, 1991):



Passives in Icelandic do not, in general, allow their subject to serve as a long-distance antecedent for sig in the cases considered (Maling, 1984, p. 232; Sigurðsson, 1990, p. 336). This is in line with the position that the use of sig in embedded subjunctives is governed by discourse factors: Since a derived subject of a passive does not carry the perspective or point of view of the sentence, it cannot serve as an antecedent for sig.

The role of perspective is also illustrated by the minimal pair in (50) (from Sells, 1987, p. 451), with (50a) reporting from the child’s point of view, whereas in (50b), it is the speaker who reports:


The question is, then, whether binding into infinitives is subject to stricter requirements. As Reuland and Sigurjónsdóttir (1997) point out, in (51) María can serve as an antecedent for sér, despite being a passive subject, because in the infinitival domain, structural c-command is sufficient.51


This contrasts with (52), where the complement is subjunctive:52


Furthermore, unlike Mainland Scandinavian, Icelandic shows complementarity in the infinitival domain (53a), but no complementarity in its counterparts in the subjunctive domain (53b), from Thráinsson (1979, p. 290, 1991, p. 55):


This contrast follows if binding of sig in the infinitival domain involves a syntactic dependency, whereas logophoric interpretation does not (Reuland, 2001, 2011).53

Barnes (1986) provided an initial description of Faroese, which is extended by Thráinsson et al. (2004/2012) and Strahan (2009). The present overview is based on the facts they provide.54

Faroese differs from Icelandic in that its verbal inflectional system is impoverished, marking only singular versus plural, except for the first-person present, and that it has lost the subjunctive.

Like in Icelandic, its simplex anaphor seg and the possessive anaphor sín can be non-locally bound.55 Thráinsson et al. note that the basic rules for the interpretation of possessive and non-possessive reflexives are virtually identical, although there is a tendency in modern Faroese to use the possessive pronominal when the antecedent is plural, as in Danish. Unlike Icelandic, Faroese has no strong “subject orientation.” In (54), with a non-subject antecedent, the anaphor is possible as well, showing an absence of complementarity, however, contrary to binding by a subject, as in (55):



There is also a lack of complementarity between seg and a bound pronominal in the infinitival domain:


Objects are unavailable as non-local antecedents, however:


Despite the absence of subjunctive morphology Faroese follows the pattern of Icelandic rather than that of Norwegian, in easily allowing an antecedent of seg or sín across a finite clause boundary. Note, however, that this is mostly found in the complements of verbs corresponding to English “say/believe/want/learn(information)/feel/intend”:56


Much like in Icelandic, in Faroese, the necessary context can also be provided by a nominal:


Reflexives in relative clauses or adjunct clauses cannot in general have an antecedent from the outside. However, in an appropriate context, seg may occur without a linguistic antecedent at all, as in (60), modified after Barnes (1986, p. 124, citing Joensen, 1977).


Here seg refers to the male protagonist of the preceding text (possibly the speaker with an internal monologue), much like Olaf in (49).

The fact that Faroese behaves much like Icelandic with respect to non-local anaphora, without having a subjunctive may seem unexpected. However, the issue this raises is not necessarily fundamental. For instance, in approaches based on the assumption that the subjunctive represents a particular type of modal operator (Reuland & Sigurjónsdóttir, 1997), it would be straightforward to assume that in Faroese, this operator is present in the lexical representation of the licensing verbs or nominals, unlike Icelandic, where it is realized separately (and selected for), or Norwegian, where it would be absent. A principled solution will require more in-depth research, however.

6. Animacy and Exemption

This section addresses some issues that have been mentioned in the literature, but often only in passing. They are of theoretical importance, and that is why we highlight them here.

6.1 Animacy Effects

Recent theorizing highlights the importance of animacy of the antecedent in non-local binding. It plays a role in how to account for non-local binding vis-à-vis the binding conditions (Charnavel & Sportiche, 2016, for French; Zubkov, 2018, and Reuland & Zubkov, 2022, for Russian; see also Charnavel, 2020a).

6.1.1 Dutch, German, and Frisian

Despite the limited nature of non-local binding in Dutch and German, an animacy effect can be observed in cases with an anaphor in a noun complement: ((61a) vs. (62a)) for Dutch and ((61b) vs. (62b)) for German.57



For Dutch (61a) is fine, but (62a) is entirely impossible. Replacing the SE-SELF anaphor in (62a) by PRON-SELF (see Section 6.2) leads to an improvement but is still not felicitous.58 In German, (61b) may be marginal, but (62b) is impossible. With the pronominal, binding is acceptable: ihm (for (61b))/ihr (for (62b)) gegenüber.

Causative constructions in Dutch and German show a similar effect to Russian, where animate matrix subjects can bind the anaphor sebja in a subordinate infinitival clause, but inanimate matrix subjects cannot (Reuland & Zubkov, 2022). Although in Dutch and German non-local zich/sich in object position is only marginally possible, there is nevertheless a contrast between (63a64a) for Dutch and (63b64b) for German:59



When non-local zich/sich is in a PP (6566) the contrast becomes clearer.60



In (65), Alex is marginally acceptable as an antecedent of zich/sich; het boek/das Buch in (66), is not.61

Interestingly, in Frisian, an animacy effect does obtain in the equivalent of Dutch (61), be it less clear:62


In causatives, a simple pronoun is fine as in (68), with the proviso that the causative litte ‘let’ seems, in general, less felicitous with a transitive VP-complement.


6.1.2 Mainland Scandinavian

For Scandinavian, we limit our discussion to Norwegian but note that Anward (1975) discusses animacy effects in Swedish for local and non-local binding. Consider Norwegian (69):63


In (69a), seg/ham are preferred; seg selv is less felicitous, and ham selv is bad, although it is structurally similar (Lødrup, 2007a, 2007b).64 In (69b), seg or den is preferred; seg selv sounds strange, and den selv is bad.65

Possessives show the pattern in (70):66


In (70a), both options are available. As to (70b), Bokmål Norwegian uses han/hans for referents that are male rather than just grammatically masculine, so here, han/hans cannot be used. Both the possessive anaphor sine and the pronominal dens ‘its’ are possible.67

To facilitate comparison with non-local binding in Dutch and German, binding into bare infinitives is considered separately from non-local binding in general. The relevant pattern is given in (71):


In (71a), both seg and ham are acceptable. In (71b), den would be preferred.

The following cases of non-local binding in to-infinitives show an animacy effect:


Disse faktaene ‘these facts’ is not acceptable as an antecedent for an SE-anaphor but is for a bound pronominal; generalen ‘the general’, by comparison, is acceptable (with sine being ambiguous).68

6.1.3 Icelandic and Faroese

Observe the following examples from Icelandic:


In (73a), the SE-anaphor is best, and the complex SE-anaphor is OK if emphatic; the pronouns honum/honum-SELF sound odd but are not impossible, rather reflecting a difference in point of view. On (73b), reports differ. One report accepts sér only if bók is somehow personified and, otherwise, only accepts the pronominal. Another report accepts sér without qualifications but rejects the pronominal forms.

Icelandic possessives show the pattern in (74):


In (74a), the reflexive possessive is most natural; for the non-reflexive possessive, one report states that it sounds odd and would involve a shift of point of view. In (74b), the reflexive sínum is weird (in line with a remark that the book has to be construed as animate). According to one report, the genitive pronoun is fine; according to another report, it is a question mark.

Next consider binding into bare infinitives, to allow comparison with Dutch, German, and Norwegian. In Icelandic, non-local binding of an object anaphor is, like in Norwegian, straightforward:


In (75a), SE is fine, and SELF-SE is emphatic; the versions with the personal pronoun are bad. Example (75b) sounds pragmatically odd, but to the extent it is possible (without imagining an animate book), SE is reported as the only possibility. An emphatic variant sig sjálfa is reported to be hardly imaginable, and the pronominal options are both impossible. Example (76) shows the options in case there is more than one potential antecedent:


Here both antecedents are possible for both sig and sjálfan sig (if emphatic/contrastive).69

For animacy effects, consider (7779) from Icelandic:




The pattern of (77) with an animate antecedent is straightforward: The binding of the anaphor is allowed, whereas the pronominal is ruled out or very marginal. With an inanimate antecedent, the received view is that the reflexive is ruled out, as in (78).70 There is also a different pattern, however, as in (79a). With the possessive, however, one sees that, again, the pronoun is required (79b). The nature of this variation merits further investigation.

Faroese shows a clear animacy requirement (Strahan, 2009, p. 30):


6.2 Exemption

One speaks of exemption when the binding conditions (whatever the form they take) do not apply to an anaphor in a certain position, like himself in Pollard and Sag’s (1994, p. 270) famous example in (81a) or Jackendoff’s (1992) (81b):


For sake of comparison, consider the following counterparts of (81b) in Dutch (82a) and German (82b):


The element zelf in Dutch not only combines with first- and second-person pronouns (Section 2.1) but also with third-person pronominals. Koster (1985) argued that the result (haarzelf in (82a)) is an anaphor that is not subject to a local binding requirement (contrary to Norwegian ham selv, which needs to be locally bound; Hellan, 1988).71 But the antecedent must carry the perspective of the sentence, very similar to logophoric himself in English (Reinhart & Reuland, 1993). Unlike PRON-SELF elements, SE(-SELF)-anaphors in this exempt position are impossible, showing that the phi-feature deficiency of SE in Dutch still requires binding. The same applies to German.

Since Frisian lacks SE-anaphors, the only issue to check is whether its SELF-anaphors can be exempt:


They can. As in the case of English, the self-element cannot reflexivize the verb in these environments, and the interpretation is determined by the same discourse conditions.

Just like Dutch and German, Norwegian has no exemption effect for SE(-SELF) anaphors (Lødrup, 2009). The equivalent of (81a) is given in (84), and is impossible for seg/seg selv:


The same applies to cases like (85):


As Lødrup (2009, p. 122) puts it, this means that “there is no reason to assume that Norwegian has reflexives that are ‘outside’ binding theory proper,” and they are not “logophoric” in the sense of Reinhart and Reuland (1993). This is supported by the fact that possessive sin does not allow partial binding in (86), constructed after the French example in Charnavel (2020b, p. 677), contra Charnavel’s prediction:


Icelandic also does not show exemption effects for SE/SE-SELF-anaphors:72


To license a reflexive in such a case, one would need a narrative context under a verb taking a subjunctive complement, as in (88):73


7. Understanding the Diversity

As this overview shows, the Germanic languages manifest a striking degree of diversity. Although we were able to give some impression of the dialectal diversity in Norwegian, even in the Scandinavian languages, there is more variation than could be discussed. This also applies to Dutch and, very clearly, to German. All in all, there is more variation than this overview could possibly show. Clearly, the patterns found are beyond the scope of the canonical binding theory (Chomsky, 1981, 1986). The fact that, in languages like Frisian and Afrikaans, pronominal forms can be locally bound and, in languages like Icelandic and Faroese, anaphoric forms occur without a linguistic antecedent means that traditional conceptions of the notions of anaphor and pronominal have no theoretical status.

Yet, although there is diversity, there is no chaos. The variation there is can be understood as variation along a few dimensions. Much of the variation, including the variation between Bokmål Norwegian and the Askim dialect, and the possibility of locally bound pronominals in Frisian and Afrikaans, can be understood in terms of intervention effects on the formation of feature chains.

The relevant operation is Multiple Agree (Hiraiwa, 2001, 2005) since anaphor binding typically allows patterns where one antecedent binds anaphors in different positions that cannot be related in succession (see Giblin, 2016; Reuland & Zubkov, 2022; Zubkov, 2018, for more detail). Valuation involves single features, such as person and number, and is carried out by the closest suitable feature instance. A probe, then, is valued by the closest suitable goal, a goal is valued by the closest suitable probe. This is illustrated in (89) from Reuland and Zubkov (2022). The unvalued occurrence of ϕ‎ probes and finds two other occurrences of ϕ‎ in its domain, one valued, which values the probe, and a (lower) unvalued occurrence, which is simultaneously valued as well, as there is no closer probe that could have valued it here.


Note that in this model probing continues all the way down to the next lower probe. This pattern of intervention essentially reduces to minimality, and different types of interveners are conceivable.

A pronominal is ruled out when it is visible to the probe and the latter attempts to value it, which is an impossible operation when the pronominal is already valued for the relevant feature: a chain condition violation (see Reuland, 2011; Reuland & Zubkov, 2022, for details). This, then, reflects the crucial role of the reflexive being feature-deficient.

The variation between the Scandinavian languages with anaphoric possessives and the other Germanic languages without them is captured by the proposal that the obligatory prenominal definiteness marking in Dutch and German acts as an intervener that protects the possessive pronominal in the latter languages from being targeted by Agree (Despić, 2015). That the Continental Germanic languages only allow non-local binding of SE-anaphors out of bare infinitives, whereas the Scandinavian languages allow this in a much larger domain follows from the fact that the counterparts of to-infinitives in Continental Germanic have a less local relation to their governing verb than their equivalents in Scandinavian, due to what is traditionally referred to as “extraposition” of to-infinitives (Reuland, 2011, 2017a). Thus, the syntactic configuration prevents chain formation in Continental Germanic but not in Scandinavian.

The availability of “free” anaphors in Icelandic in the domain of subjunctives may well result from the fact that the subjunctive operator blocks the formation of a syntactic chain with the candidate subject (Reuland, 2001; Reuland & Sigurjónsdóttir, 1997). This frees sig from the preference for syntactic binding and allows a discourse-based interpretation, giving rise to logophoricity effects. This is in line with Pollard and Xue (1998), who note the Mandarin reflexive ziji that reflexives avail themselves of two options for being related to their antecedents, namely, syntactic binding and discourse coreference, where the latter is available when the former is not. It is yet to be explored how this carries over to Faroese and the relevant Norwegian varieties.

Further Reading

    Monographs (Mostly Focused on Germanic)
    • Everaert, M. (1986). The syntax of reflexivization. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Foris.
    • Fischer, S. (2004). Towards an optimal theory of reflexivization [Doctoral dissertation, University of Tübingen].
    • Hellan, L. (1988). Anaphora in Norwegian and the theory of grammar. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Foris.
    • Reuland, E. (2011). Anaphora and language design. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
    • Rooryck, J., & Vanden Wyngaerd, G. (2011). Dissolving binding theory. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
    • Safir, K. (2004). The syntax of anaphora. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
    • Strahan, T. E. (2003). Long-distance reflexives in Norwegian: A quantitative study. München, Germany: Lincom Europa.
    • Thráinsson, H. (2007). The syntax of Icelandic. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
    • Thráinsson, H., Petersen, H. P., Jacobsen, J. í L., & Hansen, Z. S. (2012). Faroese: An overview and reference grammar. Tórshavn, Faroe Islands: Føroya Fróðskaparfelag. (Original work published 2004)
    Edited Volumes, With Many Papers on Germanic
    • Gunkel, L., Müller, G., & Zifonun, G. (Eds.). (2003). Arbeiten zur Reflexivierung. Tübingen, Germany: Niemeyer.
    • Hellan, L., & Koch Christensen, K. (Eds.). (1986). Topics in Scandinavian syntax. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Riedel.
    • Koster, J., & Reuland, E. (Eds.). (1991). Long-distance anaphora. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
    • Maling, J., & Zaenen, A. (Eds.). (1990). Modern Icelandic syntax. New York: Academic Press.

    Nordic Atlas of Language Structures (NALS) Journal, various relevant contributions

    Working papers in Scandinavian syntax


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  • 1. For Dutch, see, among others, Barbiers and Bennis (2003, 2004) and, for Norwegian and Swedish, Lundquist (2014a, 2014b, 2014c, 2014d, 2014e).

  • 2. Chomsky (1973, 1976) inspired colleagues working on Germanic languages, most notably Lars Hellan, Marga Reis, and Höskuldur Thráinsson, to address issues that questioned the canonical binding theory (Chomsky, 1981).

  • 3. It is not feasible to do justice to the vast literature on binding. Apart from the literature on Scandinavian we cite, there is influential work such as Faltz (1977), Pica (1987), Cole et al. (1990), Huang and Tang (1991), Pollard and Sag (1992), Hornstein (2000), Safir (2004), and subsequently, Rooryck and Vanden Wyngaerd (2011), which we do not able to discuss here.

  • 4. See Section 7 for a characterization of “logophoricity.” Logophoricity comes into play when syntactic mechanisms that govern binding are inactive.

  • 5. As is customary, the notation x*(y) indicates that the expression is ungrammatical unless y is present; x(*y) indicates that the expression is ungrammatical if y is present. We have taken over the glossing of the source, but to avoid confusion, we consistently used PRON for “pronoun,” SE for “phi-feature deficient reflexive,” and SELF for “morpheme equivalent to self.”

  • 6. With a few exceptions in Rhaeto-Romance.

  • 7. Also nouns of creation, such as the cognates of “letter” or “book,” are special, in that a possessor phrase may be interpreted as the author if it binds an anaphor in the complement of the noun and as the owner or recipient if it binds a pronominal. There are some cross-linguistic differences in the strength of this effect that we refrain from discussing.

  • 8. All Germanic languages having a SE-reflexive take this reflexive in the case of so-called intrinsic reflexives (like Dutch zich schamen ‘be ashamed’ om zich heen kijken ‘look around’); SELF-reflexives are excluded/dispreferred. Note that Dutch and German have let-A.c.I. intrinsic reflexives (Coopmans & Everaert, 1988; Reis, 1976), such as Zij liet het zich smaken ‘She enjoys her soup’, Zij laat zich de teugels ontglippen ‘She lets the bridles slip from her grasp’.

  • 9. In fact, many languages have elements that license but do not enforce reflexivity; see, for instance, the contributions in Dimitriadis et al. (2017).

  • 10. There is extensive literature on the Dutch anaphoric system, with many more details (Broekhuis, 1991; de Vries, 1999; Everaert, 1986, 1991; Rooryck & Vanden Wyngaard, 2011, among others). There is considerable dialectal variation. For instance, many Western varieties of Dutch employ the form z’n/der eigen ‘his/her own’, West Flemish takes the pronominal form, like Frisian (Barbiers & Bennis, 2003, 2004; Ureland, 1981). Postma (2004) offers an interesting historical perspective.

  • 11. Interestingly, while the strong form of the first-person mij is allowed (but perhaps not preferred), the strong form of the second-person jou is disallowed as a reflexive (see Reuland, 2001, for discussion). The polite form u takes either zich or u as reflexive.

  • 12. Likewise in an indirect object, a SELF-anaphor is required (Everaert, 1986, p. 99):


  • 13. But third-person feminine singular haar, and to some extent also third-person plural common gender hun, is not as bad as one might expect. Especially in the case of intrinsically reflexive verbs such as zich schamen ‘be ashamed’, one can quite regularly hear zij schaamde haar on Dutch radio and TV, by speakers who one never hears saying hij schaamde hem. See Baauw and Delfitto (1999) and Baauw (2002) for an acquisition perspective on this difference.

  • 14. The reflexive sich is not case-sensitive; the pronominal forms are.

  • 15. We acknowledge the help of Sverre Johnsen, Lars Hellan, and Helge Lødrup with the assessment of the Norwegian data. For discussion see, among others, for Norwegian, Hellan (1980, 1983, 1988, 1991) and Hestvik (1991, 1992); for Danish, Bergeton (2004) and Vikner (1984, 1985); for Swedish, Anward (1975) and Rolf (1974).

  • 16. Interestingly, with an arbitrary subject (man, de) it is possible to replace seg by en ‘one’ but not with intrinsically reflexive verbs (Hellan, 1988, p. 110).

  • 17. It should be noted that the use of bare infinitives is more limited in Norwegian than in Dutch or German.

  • 18. As noted in Schadler (2009), with verbs as in (i) själv is always obligatory:


  • 19. As Vikner (1985) notes, that there is no plural reflexive possessive is one of the few clear-cut differences between Danish and both Norwegian and Swedish with respect to binding.

  • 20. We acknowledge the help of Sigríður Sigurjónsdóttir, Halldór Sigurðsson, and Höskuldur Thráinsson for assessing the Icelandic data and Hjalmar Petersen for assessing the Faroese data in this section. For discussion see, among others, for Icelandic, Thráinsson (1976, 1991, 2007), Maling (1984, 1986), Anderson (1986), and Sigurðsson (1990) and, for Faroese, Barnes (1986), Thráinsson et al. (2004/2012), and Strahan (2009).

  • 21. Icelandic and Faroese SELF agrees in number and gender with the antecedent, contrary to the other Germanic languages. Note that SELF in Icelandic precedes the SE-reflexive, contrary to the other Germanic languages.

  • 22. Note that þvo ‘wash’ takes a dative rather than an accusative object.

  • 23. Such lexical effects, first noted for Icelandic by Thráinsson, are described by Hyams and Sigurjónsdóttir (1990), Sigurjónsdóttir (1992), and Sigurjónsdóttir and Hyams (1992); for Faroese, see Barnes (1986).

  • 24. Compare Faroese (i) (Barnes, 1986) to (1c iii):


  • 25. Frisian, as described here, is officially known as Westerlauwersk Frysk or as Modern West Frisian. It is the second official language of the Netherlands and primarily spoken in the province of Fryslan (about 300,000 more or less native speakers). As far as we know, the basic pattern of the anaphoric system in West Flemish is similar to that of Frisian, based on the data collection in the SAND project (syntactic atlas of Dutch dialects). Afrikaans is one of the 11 official languages in the Republic of South Africa with approximately 7 million speakers. It developed from the Dutch dialects spoken by the settlers who colonized the country in the 17th century.

  • 26. In the case of grooming verbs, Afrikaans behaves slightly differently in the sense that the option of dropping the object, like in English, is freely available; however, one finds them with self-forms.


  • 27. For some speakers, including one of the authors, the pronominal and the anaphor are in free variation, others have a strong preference for the anaphor. For most who accept a pronominal, the unstressed form ‘m/’r is preferred (Everaert, 1981; Vat, 1980). For both Dutch and German the SE-SELF anaphor in locatives is excluded (Everaert, 1981; Fischer, 2004a; Vat, 1980).

  • 28. In many current German dialects, sich is limited to accusative positions or even to just the direct object positions (Keller, 1961). This is also true of Middle High German up to the 15/16th century (Keller, 1978); see also Vennemann (2015). This pattern of variation falls well within the scope perspective sketched in the discussion of Frisian if, in such dialects, all accusatives are structural and all datives are inherent.

  • 29. As Schadler (2009) notes, in Swedish there is some variation. While the standard form is (i) with a SELF-form, there is a more colloquial option with a SE-anaphor, as in (ii):




  • 30. So, in a sense, Dutch locative and directional Ps hold the middle road between German and Mainland Scandinavian, where a “strong” case system and a “weak” case system both yield complementarity but due to a different role in the derivation.

  • 31. Hjalmar Petersen, personal communication, January 19, 2022.

  • 32. We found an occurrence of the pronominal se in Afrikaans in an internet search, but we have no details about its properties.

  • 33. There may also be a difference in the relation between sich and the verb, for which we refer to Reuland (2011).

  • 34. Topicalization and conjunction test indicate that Dutch zich is a clitic.

  • 35. Example (28) is a modified example from an internet search on November 7, 2021, 13.32, preserving plausibility.

  • 36. Bergeton (2004) claims that the complex anaphor sich selbst is used in configurations in which sich would otherwise be stressed (see also discussion in Sæbø, 2009).

  • 37. And like Dutch zich, sich can be fronted across its binder as in (i), indicating that at least one of its realizations has clitic-like properties; see also Featherston and Sternefeld (2003, p. 38):


  • 38. A reviewer of Reuland and Reinhart (1995) remarked that stressed sich in locative PPs is not always bad. For instance, in (i), it is completely well formed:


    This, in fact, supports the parallelism between Dutch zichzelf and stressed sich, since the Dutch equivalent of (i) allows zichzelf but not zich.

  • 39. As, for instance, taan tanne in Malayalam (Jayaseelan, 1997).

  • 40. Since Frisian and Afrikaans lack a dedicated SE-anaphor the issue of binding domains for SE-anaphors does not arise. The SELF-anaphors are local, as in the other Germanic languages.

  • 41. Apparently, there is variation in the acceptance of the sich-variant in (35b), indicated by the %-sign before the subscript.

  • 42. Note that judgments can be influenced by stress patterns, see Note 27.

  • 43. Some speakers marginally allow this reading. It has been pointed out to us that ECM constructions in which the embedded verb is non-agentive constitute exceptions to this locality pattern; see, among others, Reis (1976), Grewendorf (1983, 1989), and Gunkel (2003).

  • 44. See Gunkel (2003) for examples and more discussion.

  • 45. See Everaert (1986) and Reuland (2011) for ways to account for this difference.

  • 46. Although Hellan’s original examples show binding across first- and second-person pronouns, binding is equally available across third-person expressions.

  • 47. Note that this is not very surprising given the discussion in, for instance, Reuland et al. (2020).

  • 48. For more examples of long-distance binding in Norwegian, see Faarlund et al. (1997, p. 1161), Strahan (2001), and Lødrup (2008).

  • 49. See also Thráinsson (1979, 1990, 1991), Maling (1984, 1986), Anderson (1986), Rögnvaldsson (1986), Everaert (1986), Sells (1987), Sigurðsson (1990), and Sigurjónsdóttir (1992), among others.

  • 50. Note, that in (47c), there are two DPs whose perspective or point of view are being reported, that is, Jón and Björn. Hence, sig could also take Björn as its antecedent.

  • 51. Note that María in its source position, indicated by the trace ti, is still not a local antecedent for sér.

  • 52. Charnavel (2020a, p. 286) suggests that María in (51) might meet conditions for logophoricity nevertheless, since in the position of its lower copy it is the subject of an active verb. However, no argument is presented for how this would enable María to meet standard conditions on logophoricity and qualify as the person whose perspective or point of view is reported in the sentence.

  • 53. This argues against the position that in infinitives and subjunctives alike the non-local step involves logophoricity. The same holds true of the following fact. Charnavel (2020a, p. 277) proposes as a test for her argument that non-local binding is always based on the logophoric mode of interpretation the availability of split antecedents and partial binding. As we will see in Section 6.2 in Norwegian non-locally bound sin allows neither partial binding nor split antecedents; the same holds true of seg. In Icelandic, split antecedents are also impossible (Thráinsson, 1991 and personal communication, November 26, 2021) in such cases, as in (ia), for subjunctive complements and, in (ib), for infinitives.


    Hence non-local anaphors in Icelandic clearly fail this test. Note that such examples meet the condition (Charnavel, 2020a, p. 281, note 10) that both potential antecedents are individually possible antecedents, although it is unclear what would justify the significance Charnavel attributes to this condition, given that it obviously does not need to be met by English exempt anaphors, such as John asked Maryj to destroy those pictures of themselvesi+j.

    A further issue is to what extent a non-c-commanding antecedent for sig can be licensed at all in the infinitival domain under appropriate discourse conditions (see Reuland & Sigurjónsdóttir, 1997). Gärtner (2015) discusses cases like (ii):


    These indicate that the answer is positive, contra what Reuland and Sigurjónsdóttir indicated they would expect. But as Gårtner indicates, such facts can, in fact, be covered by their analysis. See Everaert and Reuland (2023) for further discussion.

  • 54. The examples are from the literature cited unless noted otherwise.

  • 55. The following example is considered grammatical (Hjalmar Petersen, personal communication, January 19, 2022), contrary to what Barnes (1986, p. 96) seems to suggest:


    Höskuldur Thráinsson informs us that in an unpublished manuscript, Tania Strahan tested precisely this example and native speakers agreed that given the right context, non-local binding is possible.

  • 56. Strahan (2009) presents a detailed investigation of non-local anaphoric dependencies in Faroese. As she reports, Faroese shows considerable variation in the acceptability of non-local binding. While a dependency between seg and a third-person remote antecedent is generally unproblematic if the intervening subjects are all third person, for many speakers, although not for all, the acceptability is substantially reduced when a first- or second-person pronoun intervenes. She also observes noticeable differences between dialects in the strength of this intervention effect. So the examples given in the main text, taken from Barnes and Thráinsson et al., are not fully representative of Faroese in general. While a parallel with the blocking effect in Mandarin might seem attractive, the latter appears to be more categorical (see, for instance, Giblin, 2016 and Huang & Liu, 2001, for different takes on the issue). So, the nature of this intervention effect in Faroese merits further investigation.

  • 57. Thanks to Eric Hoekstra for his help in constructing plausible examples. For one of the authors, (61a) is somewhat questionable, but there is still a clear contrast with (62a). If onze ‘our’ is replaced by deze ‘this’ (68a) becomes fine, but (62a) is still ill formed.

  • 58. An inanimate is not very felicitous as an antecedent of a pronominal, which is (natural) gender-sensitive in referential dependencies in Dutch. In a PP, one might expect that a so-called R-pronoun would help, but the R-pronoun triggers a strong disjointness effect; see Reuland (2011, p. 282) for discussion.


  • 59. Note that there is no general problem with zich in a locative PP with an inanimate antecedent:


  • 60. Note that, although the example may feel somewhat contrived, zich in this configuration clearly does not allow split antecedents, see (i):


  • 61. In fact, for (65b) the judgment is split; one speaker marginally allows Alex anteceding the anaphor, while the other speaker does not.

  • 62. Thanks to Eric Hoekstra for his help with these examples. Note that in (67b) the neuter itsels ‘itself’ is worse than the masculine himsels or feminine harsels. Note that speakers differ in their preferred gender of bibel.

  • 63. Since Norwegian (and the other Scandinavian languages), Icelandic, and Faroese also have reflexive possessives, such examples are included in the discussion in Sections 6.1.2 and 6.1.3.

  • 64. Slightly changing the example gives the same result:


  • 65. For both (69a) and (69b), a preference for the pronoun is reported as well.

  • 66. According to Johnsen (2008), the binding possibilities of sin may, in fact, be different from the binding possibilities of seg. Going into this issue would lead us beyond the scope of this contribution.

  • 67. The form dennes would reflect an exaggerated high style. It was also reported that it would be more common to use the “German genitive,” as in


  • 68. As reported deres fortolking would be very stilted in Norwegian; the normal way of expression would be with the pronominal dem.

  • 69. To allow checking for the option of split antecedents the SELF-form has to be plural:


    Even so, a split antecedent reading requires a pronoun, as in (ib), where þá sjálfa would be emphatic or contrastive. Split antecedents are equally impossible in cases like (ii), Icelandic, or (iii), Faroese (many thanks to Hjalmar Petersen, personal communication, January 19, 2022, for contributing this fact): The SE-anaphor can have either John or Harald as an antecedent but not jointly:



  • 70. The examples in (78) and (79) show different lexical and morpho-syntactic choices, coming from different native speakers, but crucially, the judgements in (78a) and (79b) are identical. See also (i) from Sigurðsson (1990), cited in Strahan (2009):


  • 71. See for more discussion, for German, Kiss (2003, 2012) and Fischer (2015); for Dutch, Everaert (1986), Anagnostopoulou and Everaert (1999), and de Vries (1998).

  • 72. The same applies to (i), where one sees a contrast, even though backward pronominalization is dispreferred in Icelandic:


  • 73. As (i) illustrates partial binding of a non-locally bound anaphor was firmly rejected by our consultants, arguing against Charnavel’s (2020b) approach to logophoricity: