On the historical expansion of non-canonically marked ‘subjects’ in Spanish

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In this paper we focus on a non-canonically marking pattern of Spanish which has been related to the cross-linguistic phenomenon of oblique or quirky subjects. In the course of time, contrary to the tendency observed in most European languages, the Spanish dative pattern, which has its roots in Latin, spread to an increasingly wider range of predicates. We sketch the diachronic process and highlight some general properties of the language – including a high degree of sensitivity to the animacy hierarchy and a deeply entrenched external possessor strategy – which enabled and supported this extraordinary growth of ‘deviant’ syntax.


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