Unexpected Masculine Allomorphs and Variable Agreement Mismatches in Spanish: Separating Out Syntactic and Phonological Contributing Factors
Wednesday, Feb. 22, 3-4 p.m.
Talk in Current research in Linguistics seminar series: Dr. Yvan Rose will present.
The definite article of Spanish is unexpectedly masculine before feminine nouns that begin with stressed á: [el água]
(Plank 1984; Zwicky 1985; Posner 1985; Harris 1987). Some previous analyses have attempted to treat el as a
feminine allomorphic form, though this runs into various problems: Firstly, exceptions: [la ábil ágila] ‘the adept eagle’
& [la áne] ‘the Ane’, [la árabe] ‘arabian’, [la áustria] ‘Austria’ (Herce 2020). Secondly, and more problematically, there
is considerable variation in mismatches of agreement with heads and modifiers in the DP: todo el agua fria, todo el
puto agua, un hambre tremendo, el abil aguila. This kind of data has been taken to mean that el allomorphy is no
longer synchronically active in Spanish (Herce 2020), or that the nouns that trigger agreement mismatches are
hermaphroditic, and the pattern is created purely by analogy to stored examples of past experience: el agua (M-F),
agua fria (F-F) (Eddington & Hualde 2008). We will propose instead to disentangle the syntactic and phonological
contributions to the complex variation by focusing on the areas of linguistic invariance and awareness of the
sociolinguistic situation. We identify two different syntactic grammars of agreement, one for the Standard and one for
‘Broad’ Northern Peninsular Spanish. Additionally, there is a phonological rule that derives el from la in a manner
consistent with Faust et al. (2018), and this occurs only when Det + á-nouns are linearly adjacent. Taken together
these factors create all and only the agreement mismatches that are observed in the data, both for Standard and
Broad varieties, excluding impossible mismatches such as: *todo la puta agua, *toda el puto agua, *toda la agua,
*toda el agua frio (and many more).
Presented by Department of Linguistics