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Building locations from directional prepositions

Divergent uses of estar hasta in Spanish varieties

From the book Convergence and divergence in Ibero-Romance across contact situations and beyond

  • Eugenia Mangialavori Rasia


This paper discusses divergent distributional patterns drawn by spatial prepositions in Spanish. We focus on constructions in Mexican Spanish (MS) where the copula estar ‘be’ and a prepositional phrase predicate headed by a directional boundary preposition (hasta ‘until’) are productively combined in a distinct, complex spatial predicate with additional semantic implications. This combination is (i) not found in standard Spanish; (ii) unpredicted according to general (cross-language) principles on spatial prepositions and stative verbs. Yet, we observe that these instances - along with a putative semantic conflict between a stative verb and a directional preposition - are readily accommodated under a general condition on directional prepositions bearing on endpoint interpretation. We argue that important distributional divergences are due to the fact that, in varieties like MS, the grammar systematically allows for non-trivial preposition alternations (estar en/hasta ‘be at/be at [from here]’) which produce sufficiently different constructions with consequent asymmetries in semantic complexity (e.g., location vs perspectival location). This leads to a contrast in the possibility to encode simple vs relative location with respect to a reference object, potentially involving distance/route.

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