Jose M. Garcia.Miguel gallego at UVIGO.ES
Mon Feb 16 15:22:05 UTC 1998

Hello to all Funknetters worried about Spanish syntax.
I would like to say something about ergativity and object in Spanish,
but first I must
apologize for this sort of English / Spanglish I write

RE: Objects in Spanish
Agreeing with J. Aske and relying on the data provided by Vazquez Rozas
and by Ricardo
Maldonado, it seems clear to me that Spanish has not a "Primary Object"
system. The object of
ditransitive clauses [P2] has the very same realisations that the
objecto of monotransitive
clauses [P1]. And both allow realisations (lo,  bare NP) forbidden to
Indirect Object [R]. That

    P1  :  le/lo, (a)+NP      [OD in monotransitive clauses]
    P2  : le/lo, (a) NP       [OD in ditransitive clauses]
    R   : le, a NP  (but *lo, *NP)    [OI in ditransitive clauses]
                   --> le/lo[OD] veo, veo a Juan[OD], veo el libro
[OD]    (monotransitive)
                   --> le/lo[OD] presenté a mis
amigos[OI],                (ditransitive)
                   --> le [OI] presenté el informe[OD],
                   --> le [OI] presenté a mis amigos [OD]
(potentially ambiguous)

I think, a 'primary object' system should equate P1 = R, and at the same
time P1 # P2.
At most, variable object marking may suggest that, for some dialect
-'leistas'- and for some
objects -most of all, masculine nouns high in the animacy hierarchy, and
speech act
participants pronouns- we have a NEUTRAL system which equates P1 = P2 =
R. That is:

    P1 = P2 = R : le, a FN

Nevertheless, the potential ambiguity arising in ditransitive clauses
witth two human objects,
is rarely foun in real discourse, where the different degrees of
topicality for each referent.
Normally at most one object should appear as a full NP (I think this has
to do with Chafe's
"one new idea constraint" -I lost the exact reference)

RE: Ergativity effects in Spanish intransitive clauses.

I agree with Jon Aske about that:
        > word order is not a mechanism for coding grammatical
        > relations in Spanish at all.

On the other hand, there seems to be no 'basic word order' in Spanish
intransitive clauses. I
do have some statistical data from ARTHUS (the corpus of contemporary
Spanish of the University
os Santiago de Compostela, also cited by V. Vázquez Rozas / Jon Aske's
translation)The date
refer only to full NP participants (this data are included in my book
"Tnsitividad y
complementacion preposicional en español", published by the University
of Santiago de

(mono)transitive clauses:    AV / VA        VO  / OV
                         78%  / 22%      97'5% / 2,5%

Intransitive clauses:              SV / VS
                                   47% / 53%

    Of course, it remains to be explained, as J. Aske points out, the
influence of discourse
functions, such as topic or focus, that is what decides word order in
In any case, those of you interested in word order in Spanish will fin
useful the in-depth
study by Belén López Meirama: La posición del sujeto en la cláusula
monoactancial del español,
also published by the University of Santiago de Compostela. She studies
the correlation of word
order -in intransitive clauses- with verb class, control, animacy and

In any case, I think that we can not talk about ergativity if we don't
pay attention to
grammatical marking (agreement, case, ...). It is grammatical
grammatical marking what gives
ergative, accusative and active systems. We don't have an ergative
system relying only in the
semantic or discourse functions of S. It sems clear that agentivity and
topicality are typical
properties of A vs. O, but a priori S, the unique participant of
monotransitives, is NEUTRAL in
this respect, sometimes more like A, sometimes more like O. It is
grammaticalisation what gives
preminence to the semantic and pragmatic similarity with A (accusative
systems) or to the
semantic and pragmatic similarity with O (ergative systems)

PD: A note on Chibchan languages

Diego Quesada wrote:

> In my work on Teribe, Rama, and Boruca -all three Chibchan
> languages of Central America- a similar pattern appears (only that the
> word-order types in running discourse are not as flexible as in Spanish):
> SOV discourse-initially, OSV/OVS -almost- elsewhere.

I'm doing right now some work on textual data of Chibchan languages of
Costa Rica -Bribri, Guatuso. They are OV languages, with variable order
of A, resulting as far as I now in AOV and OVA, but not OAV. I'm
interested in the discourse factors that correlate with the position of
A, and especially in the factors that correlate with the presence or
absence of the ergative morpheme, which in this languages is sometimes
optional. I guess this has to do with topicality and with the
distinction between given and new information. Could you give me some

Best regards

Jose M. Garcia-Miguel
Linguistica Xeral
Departamento de Traduccion, Linguistica e Teoria da Literatura

Tfno:      +34 86 812355       -       Universidade de Vigo
Fax:       +34 86 812380       -       Aptdo. 874
correo-e: gallego at     -       E-36201 VIGO

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