Reciprocal construction

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A construction with at least two participants A and B is called reciprocal construction if the semantic relation between A and B is the same as the semantic relation between B and A, and if a special construction is used to denote such a situation. A reciprocal construction is also said to express a reciprocal event.

  • “Reciprocal constructions are grammatical means for the expression of symmetrical relations for any n-ary predicate and for at least one set of arguments A, with |A| > or = 2; it is a typical feature of such constructions that one of the arguments denotes a set A as specified above and that the basic argument structure of the relevant predicate is reduced or changed in such a way that not all argument positions are filled by referential expressions.” (König & Kokutani 2006:272-273)


The term reciprocal (ultimately going back to Latin reciprocus ‘returning on the same path’) was originally used for ‘reflexive’ and ‘reciprocal’ interchangeably. The OED’s first attestation in a modern sense is from the 18th century.

See also


  • König, Ekkehard & Kokutani, Shigehiro. 2006. Towards a typology of reciprocal constructions: focus on German and Japanese. Linguistics 44(2).271-302.

Other languages

German Reziprok-Konstruktion
Portuguese construção recíproca