The expansion of the Preterit in Rioplatenese Spanish

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A major morphosyntactic change has taken place in Spanish spoken in Buenos Aires, Argentina (henceforth Rioplatense). While the Preterit coexisted with a Perfect until the turn of the 20th century, it is shown that this opposition gradually has been erased in the language of young speakers in this sample. Today, the Preterit functions as a perfective which also encompasses current relevance contexts, previously expressed through the Perfect. Such a finding is discussed in the light of grammaticalization theory (e.g. Bybee et al. 1994), which emphasizes how the expansion of a perfect and replacement of the preterit is typical of grammaticalization and of Romance languages in particular. In addition, it is argued that the change did not occur due to contact, neither (1) as the result of contact with speakers of a language with a similar system (Sicilian Italian) nor (2) as a post-contact phenomenon, despite Buenos Aires being a high-contact society at the time of the initiation of the change.


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