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21. Clitics in Spanish


Subject Theoretical Linguistics » Syntax

Key-Topics anaphora, generative grammar, grammar

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405198820.2012.00023.x


The grammatical tradition has always distinguished two classes of pronouns in Spanish. On the one hand, there is a series of stressed pronouns, as in (1); on the other, there is set of unstressed pronouns, shown in (2): (1) a. Ella habló 3rd.nom spoke ‘She spoke.’ b. Me habló a mí 1st.dat spoke to me ‘He/She spoke to me.’ (2) a. La vi en la plaza 3rd.acc saw in the plaza ‘I saw her in the plaza.’ b. Me vio en la plaza 1st.acc saw in the plaza ‘He/She saw me in the plaza.’ These first pronouns are traditionally called pronombres tónicos , or “strong pronouns”; the second, traditionally called pronombres átonos , are known as clitics. There are various morphological, phonological, and syntactic criteria that distinguish one paradigm from the other (see Zwicky 1977 ; Fernández Soriano 1993 ; Halpern 1998 , and references cited there). The properties that distinguish them are coordination, modification, emphasis and isolation. First, clitic pronouns, unlike strong pronouns, cannot be coordinated, as shown in the examples below: (3) *La y lo vi. 3rd.acc.fem and 3rd.acc.masc saw ‘I saw him and her.’ (4) Ella y él salieron tarde. She.nom and he.nom left late ‘She and he left late.’ Second, pronominal clitics cannot be modified, unlike strong pronouns: (5) a. *[Las dos] vi en el jardín [3rd‐fem.pl‐both] saw in the garden ‘I saw them both in the garden.’ b. *[Los ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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