Traces of demonstrative grammaticalization in Spanish variable subject expression ella 'she' vs. él 'he'

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

Third person subject pronouns are widely hypothesized to arise from the grammaticalization of demonstratives. Analysis of variation between pronominal and unexpressed subjects in 13th-16th century Spanish texts (N = 1,947) reveals that subjects referring to women favored pronominal expression and were more sensitive to the syntactic role of the previous mention. The data distribution shows that feminine referents were less topical, or more deictically distant: they occurred less frequently than masculine ones as subjects, and their previous mention was more likely to have been in non-subject role - a particularly favorable environment for pronoun ella 'she'. Thus, as a vestige of demonstrative origins, variable subject pronoun use could express topicality. An intermediate stage of demonstrative > pronoun grammaticalization may be use of the pronoun for unexpected subjects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationFunctionalist and Usage-based Approaches to the Study of Language
Subtitle of host publicationIn Honor of Joan L. Bybee
EditorsK. Aaron Smith, Dawn Nordquist
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
Pages89-106
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9789027200228
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

Publication series

NameStudies in Language Companion Series
Volume192
ISSN (Print)0165-7763

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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