A Usage-Based Perspective on Spanish Variable Clitic Placement




Requena, Pablo E.

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This study provides a usage-based analysis of Spanish Variable Clitic Placement (VCP). A variationist analysis of VCP in spoken Argentine Spanish indicates that VCP grammar is constrained by lexical (finite verb) and semantic (animacy) factors. Considering the finite effect, the study focuses on usage-based accounts for the gradience attested across finite verb constructions. Grammaticalized meaning and increased frequency tend to account for VCP in general. However, one [tener que + infinitive] construction is found exceptional in that it favors enclisis despite its grammaticalized meaning of obligation and its high frequency of use. Data from a larger corpus indicate that the [tener que + infinitive] construction lacks unithood, signaling great analyzability of its component elements. Through an exemplar analysis, the [haber que ‘must’ + infinitive] construction that categorically takes enclisis and which is strongly linked to [tener que + infinitive] diachronically, semantically, and structurally emerges as a likely analogical model for VCP with tener que, pushing tener que towards enclisis. This study not only illustrates how usage-based linguistics can capture VCP more generally, but also how this framework provides powerful tools to discover the constraints on VCP in naturalistic use in order to account for individual construction behavior.



usage-based linguistics, corpus, variationist sociolinguistics, clitics, Spanish, clitic climbing, clitic placement, finite verb, animacy


Languages 5 (3): 33 (2020)


Modern Languages and Literatures