Invited talk by Lefteris Paparounas: Reflexivity and external argument introduction in Greek

On 11/18/2022 Lefteris Paparouns will give an invited talk, titled Reflexivity and external argument introduction in Greek, as part of the NYU Syntax Brown Bag series (


Abstract: What is traditionally known as the unaccusative analysis of reflexives has two parts: a) the anaphoric element is an  index-bearing DP in the external argument position, and b) the non-anaphoric argument originates as a deep object, from which position it may raise to bind the anaphor. 

Languages showing a particular type of Voice syncretism, including Greek, have been widely taken as offering evidence in favor of this type of analysis: in these languages, verbal reflexives bear the non-active morphology also borne by passives and unaccusatives. For Greek, the main argument offered in favor of the unaccusative analysis has been the morphology itself, with syntactic diagnostics of unaccusativity in reflexives being hard to come by. 

Revisiting the morphosyntax of reflexives in Greek, I argue that the language does provide crucial evidence in favor of b), but against a). A range of novel diagnostics show that the surface subject of verbal reflexives is indeed a deep object; however, striking contrasts between the Greek anaphor and the language’s reflexivizing morpheme suggest that the latter is not an external argument in disguise, but rather the realization of a reflexivizing Voice head. Only one type of reflexivity is thus tied to external argument introduction; I will argue that this results in a syntactic and semantic profile distinct from that of anaphoric pronouns, such that ‘reflexivity’ broadly construed is not a unitary notion.

The resulting view of verbal reflexives – whereby a reflexive interpretation can arise from a truly syntactically intransitive structure – is incompatible with views of thematic interpretation based on the Theta Criterion, and instead supports treatments where thematic roles are functions introduced 'late' by functional heads.