I am not sure about the origin of these structures in Spanish but there is this theory explained here that could be the reason why they started http://multilingualsociety.org/encantar-origin-of-backwards-verbs/
You are a wealth of information and while the "theory" doesn't make it any easier to learn all of the backwards verbs it helps to understand them. Now, does the term "backwards verbs" in any way relate to reflexive verbs"?
No Garry. The "backwards verbs" (gustar, encantar, interesar, etc) are not reflexive verbs. Reflexive verbs are those that use a reflexive pronoun (me, te, se, nos, os, se). With a reflexive verb, the subject and the object are the same; the subject performs an action on himself/herself. Lots of verbs about routine are reflexive: "Me lavo" (I wash MYSELF), "Se ducha" (He showers HIMSELF).
Verbs like gustar or encantar are NOT reflexive. These verbs are intransitive verbs and the pronouns they use are not reflexive, but indirect object pronouns. For example:
"Me gusta la paella" --> Paella pleases ME. (me= indirect object pronoun)
"Le encanta el cine" --> Cinema pleases HIM/HER (le= indirect object pronoun)
Clear, concise, educational.
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