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Subject-verb order variation with unaccusative verbs of change of location in Mexico and Southern Arizona

Miquel Llompart

Abstract

The subjects of unaccusative verbs of change of location (e. g., llegar, venir) may appear in pre-verbal and post-verbal position. However, most syntactic accounts of word order in Spanish suggest that VS is the canonical order for these verbs. This claim has been supported by some experimental data, but further insight on the mechanisms underlying this particular instance of variation can still be gained from its study from a variationist, corpus-based perspective. We investigate the SV-VS alternation in the spontaneous oral discourse of two populations, monolingual Spanish speakers from Mexico City and Spanish-English bilingual speakers from Southern Arizona. Multivariate analyses reveal that the informative load of the subject, the animacy of the subject, verbal tense and aspect, and the presence or absence of an initial modifier, in this order, condition word order selection. The results also show that bilingual speakers from Southern Arizona are less flexible than monolinguals speakers in assigning word order to unaccusative verbs of change of location when the subject does not introduce new information, favoring SV almost categorically. A possible cause for this dissimilar behavior is the influence of English, where unaccusative verbs tend to appear pre-verbally, on the Spanish of these bilinguals.

Acknowledgments

I would like to express my gratitude to Ana Carvalho for her valuable comments and advice throughout the writing of this article. I also wish to thank my fellow graduate students in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Arizona for their interest in this study and their endless support. ¡Gracias!

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Published Online: 2016-5-20
Published in Print: 2016-5-1

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