Glossary of Linguistic Terms

Switch Reference

Definition: 

Switch reference is a grammatical category with the following features:

  • It signals the identity or nonidentity of the referent of an argument of one clause, usually its subject, with an argument of another clause, which is likewise usually the subject.

    Switch reference functions to avoid ambiguity of reference; for example, it may distinguish between two referents that are third person and that, thus, may not be otherwise distinguished on the verb.

  • It relates clauses, usually adjacent, that may be subordinate or coordinate to one another.
  • It is expressed

    • usually by inflectional affixes on the verb
    • sometimes by the same affixes that express subject-verb agreement within the clause, and
    • rarely by a morpheme independent of the verb.
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