Clitic doubling in Spanish

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The syntactic behavior of nouns is in part determined by their meaning; for example, nouns which refer to human beings usually have special syntactic properties. The basic distinction between human and non-human nouns is a psychological reality reflected in language specific properties of many languages. The question is how this difference is reflected and why the distinction surfaces the way it does. This is the basic issue that will be discussed in this contribution, by taking a look at a much discussed property of Spanish. In Spanish, the definite human direct objects can be doubled by a clitic pronoun in many dialects, and must be doubled if it is a strong, human pronoun. Definite human direct objects must be introduced by the preposition a in all variants, and can be doubled by a clitic in many variants. The question what makes human direct objects so special and which other properties can be found has been studied very much in different regions and dialects or variants. In this paper, attention will be given to the other side of the question: What blocks clitic doubling if the direct object is nonhuman? Since clitic doubling is a kind of agreement, the question is why and how clitic doubling is blocked with non-human objects.


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