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Title: Adding and subtracting alternation : resumption and prepositional phrase chopping in Spanish relative clauses
Authors: Cerrón-Palomino López, Alvaro
Keywords: Indo-European Languages
Romance Languages
Issue Date: 2010
Publisher: University of Southern California
Abstract: This dissertation is a variationist account of two non-standard relative clause (RC) structures in Spanish: resumptive pronouns (RPs) and prepositional-phrase (PP) chopping. Previous typological studies considered RP explanations based on difficulty of processing (Hawkins, 1994), while Spanish-specific quantitative studies proposed a number of factors regarding the relationship between the RC and its antecedent (Silva-Corvalán, 1996; Bentivoglio, 2003; Samper et al., 2003). To my knowledge, there are no previous studies of PP-chopping in Spanish RCs, and the only study of a Romance language, Portuguese, suggests that RPs and PP-chopping stand in complementary distribution (Tarallo, 1986). I argue that the factors favoring RP presence vary according to the syntactic position relativized, and that oblique RPs and PP-chopping are processes independent from each other. Early in the development of variationist methodology, Labov (1972) had pointed out the difficulties in studying syntactic variables; in particular, their low frequency, compared to phonological variables. RP-containing RCs in Spanish are very infrequent: they represent only 14.5 per cent of the total number of RCs in my data. In order to study the occurrence of RPs in subject, direct object (DO), and oblique RCs separately and extensively, I gathered data from two different sources: 1) twenty-six hour-long sociolinguistic interviews of native speakers of the Lima (Peru) Spanish dialect; and 2) data from twelve hours of sessions of the Peruvian Congress. Since 70 per cent of the proposed factors did not equally affect the presence of RPs in subject, DO, and oblique RCs, this study suggests that RP occurrence is favored by different factors depending on the syntactic function relativized within the RC. However, some factors are common to the three syntactic positions relativized, in particular, sentential antecedent, a factor that was omitted in most of the previous studies. In addition, the results show that there is a subject-specific type of RP that performs the pragmatic function of contrast. With regard to PP-chopping in oblique RCs, the results suggest that, unlike Brazilian Portuguese, this strategy is not in complementary distribution with RPs, but rather obeys factors related to the characteristics of the RC antecedents. This study contributes to the understanding of non-standard RC structures in Spanish, and supports the general variationist assumption (Labov, 1972) that linguistic variation can hardly ever be explained by a single factor. Regarding RPs, this study presents evidence against implicational universal proposals like Comrie‟s (1981) and Hawkins‟s (1994), suggesting that language-specific constraints must not be overlooked. With respect to PP-chopping, this is the first study of such a phenomenon in Spanish, and it shows that PP-chopping is favored by different factors than those shown to be valid for Portuguese, and that it is a structure completely independent from RP occurrence.
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