"Reciprocity": An NSM approach to linguistic typology and social universals

Anna Wierzbicka*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    18 Citations (Scopus)


    This paper develops a semantic approach to the study of "reciprocity" - an area increasingly seen as central to linguistic typology. "Reciprocal" and "reflexive-reciprocal" constructions from five languages - English, Russian, Polish, French and Japanese - are analyzed in considerable detail. The different, though interrelated, meanings of these constructions are explicated, and the proposed explications are supported with linguistic evidence. The paper challenges current approaches which tend to lump formally and semantically distinct constructions under one arbitrary label such as "recip" and it seeks to show how linguistic typology can be transformed by joining forces with rigorous cross-linguistic semantics. It also challenges the Nijmegen School approach, which privileges extensionalist "video-clipping" over conceptual analysis. The analysis presented in the paper demonstrates the descriptive and explanatory power of the NSM methodology. The results achieved through semantic analysis are shown to be convergent with hypotheses about "shared intentionality" put forward by Michael Tomasello and colleagues in the context of evolutionary psychology, and to throw new light on social universals ("human sociality").

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)103-174
    Number of pages72
    JournalStudies in Language
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


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