Journal of Language Teaching and Research, Vol 1, No 6 (2010), 796-806, Nov 2010

A Pragmatic Account of Anaphora: The Cases of the Bare Reflexive in Chinese*

Lijin Liu


Most, if not all, of the existing research on anaphoric constructions containing the bare reflexive ‘ziji’ in Chinese has been done on a formalist basis and some found in the literature has as it were not given a cogent explanation. The present article, largely based on some discourse and/or pragmatic principles and following a close examination of data drawn from various texts, describes and analyzes its anaphoric uses in two domains: the local and the long-range. The findings suggest that in either case, this bare or simplex reflexive occurs, anaphorically, much more frequently than an alternate complex reflexive or a plain pronoun, which results from the fact that it serves a twofold role, as an alternative to a complex reflexive, on one hand, to minimalize communicative reference and to a pronoun, on the other, to save time for discourse understanding. Such anaphora facts are regulated by a neo-Gricean-like pragmatic principle re the uses of third-person pronouns in Chinese: (a) where the grammar permits the occurrence of both a bare and a complex reflexive, the speaker intending locally bound anaphora tends to use the bare to produce the minimal linguistic information enough to achieve the communicational ends, unless motivated otherwise; (b) where the context permits the occurrence of both a bare reflexive and a pronoun, the speaker intending long-range coreference tends to use the bare reflexive to ease discourse interpretation, unless prevented doing so by other considerations.


reflexive; locally bound anaphora; long-range anaphora; pragmatic principle


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Journal of Language Teaching and Research (JLTR, ISSN 1798-4769)

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