The Acquisition and Processing of Spanish and Portuguese Morphosyntax
  • ISSN 0213-2028
  • E-ISSN: 2254-6774
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Direct object clitics in Spanish are morphological markers at the interfaces of syntax, phonology, morphology, and information structure (Zwicky, 1985; Ordóñez & Repetti, 2006; Belloro, 2007; Spencer & Luís, 2012). They play an important part in argument morphology in Spanish and are subject to variability in bilingual acquisition (McCarthy, 2008). In this paper we explore the morphology-syntax-information structure mapping of direct object clitics in clitic structures in a range of speakers that includes Quechua-dominant bilinguals and Spanish monolingual individuals along a continuum of language contact situations. Our findings indicate clear dissociation between syntactic properties and marking of morphological features. They also indicate a progression from default gender marking in clitics to a scalar system of clitic forms based on animacy and informational value along the continuum of speakers. Finally, while clitics in liberal clitic doubling varieties receive a focus interpretation (Sánchez, 2010; Sánchez & Zdrojewski, 2013), our data indicate that in some Spanish contact varieties they denote the primary object and secondary topic (Sánchez, 2003; Dalrymple & Nikolaeva, 2011; Mayer, 2008, 2013, forthcoming). The findings of this exploratory study support the view that while clitics exhibit common syntactic properties across a continuum of speakers, they may vary in morphological marking and informational value.


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