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International Journal of Romance Linguistics

Editor-in-Chief: Wetzels, W. Leo

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From dative to accusative. An ongoing syntactic change in Romance

Anna PinedaORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2810-9302
Published Online: 2019-05-21 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/probus-2019-0001


In several Romance languages, including Catalan, Spanish, Asturian and Neapolitan, several verbs (‘phone’, ‘answer’, ‘shoot’, ‘rob’, among others) can take a dative- or accusative-marked complement. I argue that this alternation is indeed a transition from dative to accusative; that is, it is a process of syntactic change, with different stages of evolution depending on the dialectal or even idiolectal variety. The relevant verbs, being a priori dative-taking intransitive verbs, are analyzed as unergatives, made up of a light verb and a nominal, ‘phone= do+phone call’. When the complement ‘to somebody’ is added, a ditransitive structure is obtained, where I assume that the direct (‘phone call’) and the indirect (‘to somebody’) objects are related via an applicative head. The properties of this functional applicative head allow me to explain the change from dative to accusative case in the first stages of syntactic change. Likewise, I show that the completion of the syntactic change results in a true transitivization of the structure.

Keywords: dative; accusative; case alternation; syntactic change; applicatives


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About the article

Anna Pineda

Dr. Anna Pineda is a postdoctoral researcher in linguistics at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Catalonia (2018-present). Just before that, she was a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique (CNRS-IKER) in Bayonne, France (2016-2017) and also spent two months as a visiting scholar at the University of Cambridge, England (2017). She has won several academic and research awards, such as the Cum Laude Award to the best dissertation in Human Sciences written in Catalan and defended in any of the universities of the Catalan-speaking countries. She has contributions in several prestigious journals and publishing houses and has organised and participated in many scientific events.

Published Online: 2019-05-21

Citation Information: Probus, ISSN (Online) 1613-4079, ISSN (Print) 0921-4771, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/probus-2019-0001.

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