The goal of this paper is to analyze the grammatical status, lexical properties, and syntactic distribution of accusative clitics in River Plate Spanish, a variety of Spanish spoken in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and neighboring areas.
In Standard Spanish, accusative clitic doubling (CLD) takes place only with pronominal objects. However, the syntactic distribution of CLD in Spanish is subject to dialectal variation. In some dialects, CLD can also occur with non pronominal objects, River Plate Spanish being the variety that exhibits a wider distribution of CLD (Jaeggli, 1981; Suñer, 1988; Andrews, 1990).
In this paper, we adopt Suñer's (1988) assumption that Spanish accusative clitics in CLD constructions are agreement markers. Further support for this conclusion is provided by the possibility of CLD of contrastively focused noun phrases (River Plate Spanish) and independent pronouns (Standard Spanish).
Regarding the distribution of doubling, Suñer suggests that specificity, animacy and definiteness play a role. The goal of this paper is to provide an articulated explanation of the interaction of these factors.
According to our data, the distribution of accusative clitic doubling in River Plate Spanish is the following: doubling is always possible with [+animate, +specific] noun phrases (either definite or indefinite), as shown in (1), and with [-animate, +definite] noun phrases, as shown in (2).
(1) Clitic doubling with [+ animate] objects
a. *(Lo) están buscando a él
[+ animate, + pronominal, + definite, + specific]
"They are looking for him"
b. (Lo) están buscando a ese estudiante
[+ animate, - pronominal, + definite, + specific]
"They are looking for that student"
c. (Lo) están buscando a un estudiante (que escribió un artículo sobre las nominalizaciones)
[+ animate, - pronominal, - definite, + specific]
"They are looking for a student (that wrote an article on nominalizations)" (indicative relative clause)
d. (*Lo) están buscando un estudiante (que esté interesado en las nominalizaciones)
[+ animate, - pronominal, - definite, - specific]
"They look for a student (that would be interested on nominalizations)" (subjunctive relative clause)
(2) Clitic doubling with [- animate] objects
a. (Lo) están buscando ese libro
"They are looking for that book"
b. (*Lo) están buscando un libro (que explica el origen del universo)
[-animate, -definite, +specific,]
"They are looking for a book (that explains the origins of the universe" (indicative relative clause)
c. (*Lo) están buscando un libro (que explique el origen del universo)
[-animate, -definite, -specific]
"They are looking for a book (that would explain the origins of the universe)" (subjunctive relative clause)
The contrast between (1) and (2) regarding the optionality of CLD suggests that the restrictions on doubling of [-animate] noun phrases are stronger in terms of prominence than the restrictions for doubling [+animate] noun phrases.
Furthermore, the data suggest that the distribution of CLD in River Plate Spanish follows the pattern of Differential Object Marking (Bossong, 1991; Aissen, 1993). DOM is the tendency for languages with overt grammatical function marking of direct objects to optionally mark them according to its prominence in two scales: animacy and definiteness. However, the distribution of CLD in River Plate Spanish cannot be explained by taking into account any of these scales in isolation. Instead, it results from the interaction of both scales in the Two Dimensional DOM prominence scale (Aissen, 2003). No further stipulations are needed in order to account for the data.
Our conclusion is that River Plate Spanish clitics in CLD constructions are optional agreement markers, the Two Dimensional DOM scale being the factor that determines the application of optional agreement.