Little Words: Their History, Phonology, Syntax, Semantics, Pragmatics, and Acquisition

By Ronald P. Leow; Héctor Campos et al. | Go to book overview

10
Spanish Personal a and the Antidative

OMAR VELáZQUEZ-MENDOZA AND RAÚL ARANOVICH

University of California, Davis

SPANISH IS OFTEN CONSIDERED to have flexible word order. This flexibility extends to the relative placement of verbal complements in ditransitive clauses. A theme may precede a goal, appearing immediately to the right of the verb, as in (1a), or it may follow the goal, as in (1b). There is, however, an intriguing restriction on word order among complements. When the theme is a pronoun, the goal cannot be placed between the theme and the verb, as seen in (2).

(1)a.Miguel le entregó sus hijos a la niñera.V-DO-IO
Miguel 3.sg.dat give.past his children to the manny
“Miguel gave his children to the nanny.”
b.Miguel le entregó a la niñera sus hijos.V-IO-DO
Miguel 3.sg.dat give.past to the nanny his children
“Miguel gave the nanny his children.”
(2)a.Miguel le entregó sus hijos a la niñera.V-DOpro-IO
Miguel 3.sg.dat 3.pl.masc.acc give.past anim them.masc to the nanny
“Miguel gave them to the nanny.”
b.*Miguel se los entregó a la niñera a ellos.*V-IO-DOpro
*Miguel 3.sg.dat 3.pl.masc.acc give.past to the nanny anim them.masc
“Miguel gave them to the nanny.”

In recent years, the theoretical status of dative arguments in Spanish has generated intense debate (Cuervo 2003; Demonte 1995). Some studies suggest that Spanish has a rule of dative shift (i.e., an applicative rule) similar to the one responsible for the double object construction in English. While it may be tempting to attribute the contrast between (2a) and (2b) to a restriction on the application of the applicative rule, we argue instead that variations in word order among verbal complements in Spanish ditransitives are the result of an antidative rule, following Dryer (1986). According to this analysis, Spanish objects are sensitive to a distinction between primary object (PO) and secondary object (SO). The complement that is immediately adjacent to the verb in ditransitives is a PO. The PO/SO distinction is also relevant

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