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LINGUIST List 20.531

Thu Feb 19 2009

Diss: Morphology/Syntax: González López: 'Spanish Clitic Climbing'

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        1.    Verónica González López, Spanish Clitic Climbing

Message 1: Spanish Clitic Climbing
Date: 19-Feb-2009
From: Verónica González López <gonzalezvdenison.edu>
Subject: Spanish Clitic Climbing
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Institution: Pennsylvania State University
Program: Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2008

Author: Verónica González López

Dissertation Title: Spanish Clitic Climbing

Linguistic Field(s): Morphology

Subject Language(s): Asturian (ast)
                            Italian (ita)
                            Portuguese (por)
                            Spanish (spa)

Dissertation Director:
Almeida Jacqueline Toribio
Barbara Bullock
Marie Gillette
Karlos Arregi
John Lipski

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation focuses on the study of direct object clitics and clitic
climbing structures in Spanish. Clitic pronouns in the Romance languages
have long occupied the interests of generative linguists. In the field of
morpho-syntax there exists a rich body of literature on the nature and
distribution of object clitic pronouns in Romance, addressing a diversity
of questions, among these, whether clitic pronouns behave as independent
words or bound morphemes, and how and where they are to be represented in
the grammatical structure of a sentence. The answers to such questions have
had implications for the advancement of theories and models in other fields
of study, such as language contact and language acquisition. To date,
French and Italian have been the primary focus of attention in research
addressing clitic pronouns; the facts of Spanish have gone largely
unexamined. Redressing this oversight, the present project examines data on
the placement of pronouns across dialects of Spanish. The findings will
afford a more complete account of clitic pronouns in Romance than is
available in the extant literature and contribute to theories of syntactic

Unlike other Romance languages, Spanish allows clitic pronouns to appear
attached to the non-finite verb, as in (1a) and (2a), or attached to the
main conjugated verb, as in (1b) and (2b), a phenomenon known as 'clitic

(1) a. Estoy comiéndolo.
am.1sg eating.Cl
b. Lo estoy comiendo.
Cl am.1sg eating
'I am eating it'

(2) a. Quiero comerlo.
want to.eat.Cl
b. Lo quiero comer.
Cl want to.eat
'I want to eat it'

The facts of clitic placement across dialects of Spanish (Castilian Spanish
and North Western Spanish) and in other Romance languages (Italian,
Portuguese, and Asturian) are carefully examined, with the aim of
presenting an account of clitic climbing that is empirically and
explanatorily sound. At the center of the present study is the development
of a proposal in which clitic pronouns may be generated in two structural
positions in the clause, as dictated by the selectional properties of
particular predicates.

The intellectual merit of this proposal resides principally in
understanding the mechanisms that govern the placement of clitic pronouns
in clitic climbing structures. It is novel in focusing specifically on the
analysis of clitic pronouns in Spanish and in seeking to achieve an
adequate and complete description of these elements both morphologically
and syntactically. A broader contribution of the work is its focus on
reaching a better understanding not only of Spanish clitic pronouns, but
also of Spanish syntactic structure in general, as the study of clitic
placement largely overlaps with other areas of syntactic research, such as
verb movement.

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