Microvariation in the Null Subject Parameter

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Spanish has been traditionally classified by grammatical descriptions as a language with free variation in terms of Subject-Verb order (SV versus VS), with certain syntactic-semantic and syntactic-pragmatic restrictions governing each order. This supposed free variation appears to be facing resistance in Caribbean Spanish, since available data have demonstrated a tendency towards a more fixed SV order. However, this property has been less researched compared to other properties of the Null Subject Parameter (NSP) (Ortiz-López 2010; Otheguy & Zentella 2012). For this study, 2968 tokens from a corpus recorded in Cuba were coded according to different factors (subject type, NP complexity, unaccusativity), preferring SV order in 91% of the analyzed cases, while there is a sharp distinction between behavior in pronominal versus nominal NP, the unaccusative/unergative distinction was not a significant factor. Little variation was found in cases of subject pronouns and simple or less-heavy noun phrases, evidencing an almost fixed SV order. The results evidence a different typology within the NSP in Cuban Spanish (and possibly Caribbean Spanish), challenging many previous proposals for Spanish, leaving space for typological debate.


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