Dative alternations in Spanish and Portuguese. The case of benefactives and possessives

Start - End 
2015 - 2018 (ongoing)
Department of Linguistics
Research Focus 



My main goal is to contrastively analyze dative (Dat) constructions in European Spanish and Portuguese. While these languages are genetically closely related, they differ in many respects, a.o. in the use of Dats: Spanish uses more Dats compared to most other Romance languages. A typical example of the Dat in Spanish is: ‘LE doy un libro A JUAN’ = I give a book to John, where John is an indirect object, and formally a Dat, introduced by the preposition A and a Dat pronoun LE. Dat marking is used in a variety of contexts; I will concentrate on cases where the Dat represents a possessor (‘LE lavo las manos’ = I wash his hands) or a beneficiary, someone who benefits from the action (‘LE hice una tarta’ = I made a cake for him). Possessors and beneficiaries can also be expressed by other constructions (they are said to ‘alternate’, resp. ‘Lavo SUS manos’ with a possessive pronoun and ‘Hice una tarta PARA ÉL’ where the preposition ‘para’ introduces the beneficiary). Now, both languages differ as to how productive the Dat is in comparison with the alternant constructions. Portuguese, e.g., prefers the possessive pronoun to the Dat in the aforementioned examples. I aim to study the different factors which make speakers choose one or the other alternant in both languages. My approach is corpus-based and situated within a cognitive-functional framework, as I seek to determine structural and conceptual differences on the basis of empirical facts with detailed statistical analyses.