Non-lexical core-arguments in Basque, Romance and German: How (and why) Spanish syntax is shifting towards clausal headmarking and morphological cross-reference

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This article deals with the ways in which non-lexical core arguments can be expressed in various languages. It tries to devise a typological hierarchy for the different types and endeavours to place Romance within this hierarchy. An analysis of Basque verbal markers as cross-reference morphemes introduces the subject with a language radically different from central IE. Using Nichols’ (1986 & 1992) typological differentiation between head-marking and dependent-marking languages as its basis, a typological sub-parameter of “clausal head-marking vs. clausal dependent-marking” is suggested which is shown to correspond to two radically different types of clausal co-reference: (1) agreement (concord) and (2) cross-reference. This terminology is then used to describe and explain an ongoing syntactic change in which Spanish object clitics have evolved into obligatory verbal markers closely resembling those of Basque. Their conventional analysis as “agreement markers” is questioned and Spanish is shown to be moving towards a clausal head-marking language in which all core-arguments of the sentence have to be expressed by verbal affixes, while nominal and pronominal argument realisations become mere appositions outside the sentence core. The traditional concept of an emerging new paradigm of “object conjugation” is rejected.


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