Towards a theory of pronominal verb constructions in Spanish

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This paper proposes a unified account of three types of constructions in which the se clitic appears, which are dubbed pronominal verb constructions (PVCs) . unaccusatives like acatarrar-se (get sick), unergatives like quejar-se (complain) and transitives like zampar-se algo (to wolf something down). The main claims are (i) that the verbs in question represent classes that are specified to select a “defective” head (= a head that does not introduce a theta role and/or assign case) in their predicate-argument argument structure and (ii) Spanish marks such defective heads as [ϕ], a diacritic that triggers insertion of se post-syntactically at T. The different classes of PVCs are derived from the type of defective head that is selected, Voice[ϕ] in the case of intransitives and P[ϕ] in the case of transitives.


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