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Structural autonomy and aspectual import: A new(er) Spanish Progressive

  • Grant M. Berry ORCID logo EMAIL logo
From the journal Probus


The current study analyzes distributional frequencies of the Spanish Progressive construction (ESTAR+Gerund) in a corpus of late-twentieth-century conversational speech in order to assess changes in structure and meaning. The analysis incorporates structural priming as a measure of analyzability and autonomy and utilizes both lexical and contextual measures of aspect to assess the construction’s preferred environment relative to its competing gram: the simple Present. Results of a multivariate analysis (N=1,017) indicate that over the last 100 years, the construction has lost analyzability, further coalescing into a single grammatical unit. This new unit has also acquired the ability to express limited duration (progressive, continuous) aspect with stative as well as dynamic verbs, indicating the consolidation of the construction’s aspectual import. At the same time, its presence in extended duration contexts is attributed to strong effects of Progressive-Progressive priming and, to a lesser extent, licensing by a co-occurring temporal adverbial. By situating these results within the construction’s diachrony, it is concluded that the increased grammaticalization of the Spanish Progressive in the twentieth century, as assessed quantitatively, is markedly distinct from previous centuries.


The author would like to thank Rena Torres Cacoullos for her comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript, as well as two anonymous reviewers for their pertinent critiques; they have greatly improved the quality of this work. All remaining errors are of the author alone.


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Published Online: 2015-9-24
Published in Print: 2017-8-28

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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