Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton April 16, 2007

On the licensing of overt subjects in Spanish infinitival clauses

Bernhard Pöll
From the journal


The past two decades have seen many attempts to provide an explanation for the intriguing fact that Spanish – a language whose infinitives are traditionally believed to be [–TNS]/[–AGR] – has specified subjects in infinitivals in several context types and with specific dialect-sensitive positional restrictions (preverbal vs. postverbal position of the DP). The first part of the present paper is a critical reevaluation of the proposals made so far in the literature. We show that none of them is powerful enough to account for the ill-formedness of infinitivals containing certain instances of nominative arb se. In the second part of the article we claim that these infinitivals have abstract agreement which is not fully grammaticalized: infinitival clauses – irrespective of their structural position (subject or adjunct) – need a trigger that induces a reanalysis of PRO (the standard subject in these infinitivals) as pro (or PROarb) and the subsequent checking of nominative Case of the overt postverbal DP. In addition, Aux-to-Comp seems to be a possible Case provider in some clauses. Concerning preverbal subjects in Caribbean Spanish, their legitimacy could be explained by analogy with finite clauses, if we admit that this dialect has developed some kind of personal infinitive. For other varieties it could tentatively be argued that the well-formedness of these structures is a result of reduced normative pressure, with the effects of syntactic independence playing a role in some clauses.

Published Online: 2007-04-16
Published in Print: 2007-04-19

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