'Encima de mí' or 'encima mío'? On the grammatical variation in spatial adverbial expressions in peninsular Spanish

Start - End 
2014 - 2019 (ongoing)
Department of Linguistics
Research Focus 
Research Period 
Research Region 
Research Language 
Additional tags 
Peninsular Spanish



This project focusses on the grammatical variation found in Peninsular Spanish in a series of spatial adverbial constructions that are followed by a noun phrase, such as encima (de) ‘on top of’, al lado (de) ‘next to’ and arriba (de) ‘above of’. Although in recent years various studies have examined the variation between simple spatial adverbs, such as aquí-acá ‘here’ and allí-allá ‘there’, in Latin American varieties (e.g. Sedano 1994; Travis & Curnow 2012), similar analyses for Peninsular Spanish are far and few in between (e.g. Sedano 2001). In fact, adverbs and the variation associated with them have, in general, received less attention than other grammatical categories, such as nouns and verbs, within the field of Spanish linguistics. As Octavio de Toledo y Huerta (2015) has noted recently, this is even more so for the spatial compound forms. In spoken varieties of Spanish, spatial compound adverbial constructions with personal reference consist of an adverb followed by either the preposition de 'of' and a personal pronoun, or a possessive pronounas illustrated in examples (1) and (2). It is this variation in spatial adverbial forms that is the research topic of this study:

  1. Encima de + personal pronoun: Dice: "¿Que cómo lo sé?", dice, "que me he tenido que tumbá en la cantarilla dice, y el toro encima de mí". ‘He said: “How do I know?”, he said, “because I had to lay down in the gutter”, he said, “and the bull on top of me”.’ (Albacete, Liétor, COSER-0214-01)
  2. Encima + ø + possessive pronoun: Juan Ignacio confirmó que “[…] voy a tener la espada de Damocles encima mía durante toda la temporada”. ‘Juan Ignacio confirmed that “[…] I am going to have the sword of Damocles above me during the whole season”.’ (Verdad, 25/07/2009 cited by RAE 2009: 1361)

 The aims of the proposed research project consist in

  1. providing a systematic and detailed description of the semantic-pragmatic and syntactic contexts in which the variation between the spatial adverbial expressions, given in (1) and (2), can be observed;
  2. determining which spatial adverbial expressions belong to the paradigm that is affected by the variation under discussion;
  3. establishing what type of factors (e.g. geographic, register, socio-economic, language contact) are involved in governing and triggering this variation in Peninsular Spanish while analysing the data from a diatopic comparative perspective;
  4. contributing to the theoretical discussion on the categorial status of these spatial expressions and, in general, on the category distinctions between adverb(ial)s and prepositions by providing up until now unavailable empirical data; and
  5. shedding light on the genesis and spread of the adverbial expressions with possessive pronouns and, more generally, on the processes (e.g. grammaticalisation, lexicalisation) involved in the creation of ‘new’ adverbial expressions using old material.


Cited references

Octavio de Toledo y Huerta, Á. (2015) “La oculta vida dialectal de bajo + SN”, In: José María García Martín et al. (eds), Actas del IX Congreso Internacional de Historia de la Lengua Española, Madrid: Arco Libros, 1841-1858.

Sedano, M. (1994) “Evaluation of two hypotheses about the alternation between aquí and acá in a corpus of present-day Spanish”, Language variation and change 6, 223-237.

--- (2001) “Los adverbios demostrativos en Madrid, Caracas y Buenos Aires. ¿Influencia de la direccionalidad?”, In: Carbonero Cano, P. & Guillén Sutil, R. (eds), Sociolingüística andaluza 12. Identidad lingüística y comportamientos discursivos, Sevilla: Universidad de Sevilla, 49-61.

Travis C. E. & Curnow T. J. (2012) “Locational adverbs in Colombian Spanish Conversation”, In: File-Muriel R. & Orozco R. (eds), Linguistic studies in Colombian Varieties of Spanish, 75-96.




Phd Student(s)