The ‘Big DP’ Hypothesis: New Evidence from Gender Agreement in a Shipibo-Spanish Language Contact Situation



Previous evidence suggests clitics and determiners do not enter the same type of gender agreement relations in contact varieties of Spanish, despite proposals that treat clitics as determiners (big DP – Determiner Phrase – hypothesis) (Uriagereka 1995; Cecchetto 1999, 2000; Belletti 2005). We conducted a study on gender agreement between clitics and their antecedents, and determiners and nouns among adult Shipibo-Spanish bilinguals to answer the following question: Do Shipibo- Spanish bilingual speakers have similar patterns of local vs. long-distance gender agreement? Our results show gender agreement between D and N obtains categorically, but gender agreement between the clitic and its antecedent is at chance-level. We propose an alternative analysis for our data that does not assume the big DP hypothesis.


big DP analysis, clitics, determiner-noun agreement, gender, language contact, Shipibo, Spanish


Adger, D. & Smith, J. 2005. Variation and the minimalist program. In Cornips, L. & Corrigan, K. P. (eds.). Syntax and variation: Reconciling the biological and the social, 149-178. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Alarcón, I.V. 2011. Spanish gender agreement under complete and incomplete acquisition: Early and late bilinguals’ linguistic behavior within the noun phrase. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 14(3): 332-350.

Aoun, J. 1981. The formal nature of anaphoric relations. Doctoral dissertation, MIT, Cambridge, MA.

Beatty-Martinez, A.L & Dussias, P. 2019. Revisiting masculine and feminine grammatical gender in Spanish: linguistic, psycholinguistic, and neurolinguistic evidence. Frontiers in Psychology 10.

Belletti, A. 2005. Extended doubling and the VP periphery. Probus 17: 1-35.

Brabec de Mori, B. 2015. Die Lieder der Richtigen Menschen. Musikalische Kulturanthropologie der indigenen Bevölkerung im Ucayali-Tal, Westamazonien. Innsbruck: Helbling.

Camacho, J. & Sánchez, L. 1995. The genitive clitic and the genitive construction in Andean Spanish. Probus 7: 133-146.

Camacho, J. & Sánchez, L. 2002. Explaining clitic variation in Spanish. In Amberber, M. & Collins, P. (eds.). Formal approaches to language universals & language variation, 21-40. Norwood: Ablex.

Castilla-Earls, A., Pérez-Leroux, A.T., Martinez-Nieto, L., Restrepo, M.A. & Barr, C. 2020. Vulnerability of clitics and articles to bilingual effects in typically developing Spanish–English bilingual children. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 23(4): 825-835.

Cecchetto, C. 1999. A comparative analysis of left and right dislocation in Romance. Studia Linguistica 53: 40-67.

Cecchetto, C. 2000. Doubling structures and reconstruction. Probus 12: 93-126.

Di Tullio, A., Saab, A. & Zdrojewski, P. 2019. Clitic Doubling in a Doubling World: The Case of Argentinean Spanish Reconsidered. In Gallego, A. (ed.). The Syntactic Variation of Spanish Dialects. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Escobar, A.M. 1990. Los bilingües y el castellano en el Perú. Lima: Instituto de Estudios Peruanos.

Faust, N. 1990. Lecciones para el aprendizaje del idioma Shipibo-Conibo. Lima: Ministerio de Educación e Instituto Lingüístico de Verano.

Fleck, D. 2013. Panoan languages and linguistics. (Anthropological papers of the American Museum of Natural History, no. 99). American Museum of Natural History.

Franceschina, F. 2005. Fossilized second language grammars: The acquisition of grammatical gender (Vol. 38). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing.

Givón, T. 1976. Topic, Pronoun and Grammatical Agreement. In Li, C.N & Thompson, S.A. (eds.). Subject and Topic, 149-188. New York: Academic Press.

Grüter, T., Lew-Williams, C. & Fernald, A. 2012. Grammatical gender in L2: A Production or a real-time processing problem. Second Language Research 28: 191-215.

Instituto del Bien Común (IBC). 2016. Directorio 2016 Comunidades Nativas del Perú. Lima: Instituto del Bien Común.

Instituto Nacional de Estadística e Informática (INEI). 2017. Censos Nacionales 2017: XII de Población, VII de Vivienda y III de Comunidades nativas y comunidades campesinas. Lima: Instituto Nacional de Estadística e Informática (INEI).

Jaeggli, O. 1982. Topics in Romance Syntax. Dordrecht: Foris.

Harris, J. 1991. The Exponence of Gender in Spanish. Linguistic Inquiry 22: 27-62.

Kayne, R. 1975. French syntax: The transformational cycle. Current studies in Linguistics. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Kayne, R. 1989. Null subjects and clitic climbing. In Jaeggli, O. & Safir, K. (eds.). The null subject parameter, 239-261. Dordrecht: Springer.

Keating, G. 2010. The effects of linear distance and working memory on the processing of gender agreement in Spanish. In VanPatten et al. (eds.). Research in second language processing and parsing, 113-134. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Laleko, O. 2018. What is difficult about grammatical gender? Evidence from heritage Russian. Journal of Language Contact 11(2): 233-267.

Lardiere, D. 2017. Ultimate attainment in second language acquisition: A case study. London: Routledge.

Lenz, R. 1920. La oración y sus partes (No. 5). Madrid: Centro de Estudios Históricos.

Lewis, R. & Vasishth, S. 2005. An activation-based model of sentence processing as skilled memory retrieval. Cognitive Science 29: 1-45.

Lohndal, T. & Westergaard, M. 2016. Grammatical gender in American Norwegian geritage language: Stability or attrition? Frontiers in Psychology 7: 344.

Luján, M. 1987. Clitic-doubling in Andean Spanish and the theory of case absorption. In Matluck, J., Morgan, T., Lee, J. & VanPatten B. Language and language use: Studies in Spanish, 109-121. Lanham, MD: University Press of American.

Mayer, E. 2010. Syntactic variation of object arguments in Limeño Spanish contact varieties. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Australian National University.

Mayer, E. 2017. Spanish clitics on the move: Variation in time and space. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

Mayer, E. & Sánchez, L. 2016. Object agreement marking and information structure in monolingual and bilingual Andean Spanish. Revista Española de Lingüística Aplicada 29(2): 544-581.

Mayer, E. & Sánchez, L. 2017. Feature variability in the bilingual-monolingual continuum: Clitics in bilingual Quechua-Spanish, bilingual Shipibo-Spanish and in monolingual Limeño Spanish contact varieties. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 22(7): 883-896.

Mayer, E. & Sánchez, L. 2020a. Feature selection in clitic expression in two bilingual Amazonian Spanish varieties. In Zariquiey, R., Valenzuela, P., Escobar, A. & Jara, M. (eds.). Spanish Diversity in the Amazon: Dialect and Language Contact Perspectives, 386-429. Brill Series Indigenous Languages of the Americas.

Mayer, E. & Sánchez, L. 2020b. Clitics and argument marking in Shipibo-Spanish and Ashéninka-Perené-Spanish bilingual speech. In Fafulas, S. (ed.). Amazonian Spanish: Language contact and evolution, 128-154. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Quicoli, A.C. 1980. Clitic movement in French causatives. Linguistic analysis 6(2): 131-185.

Sánchez, L. 2003. Quechua-Spanish Bilingualism. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Shin, N., Rodríguez, B., Armijo, A. & Perara-Lunde, M. (2019). Child heritage speakers’ production and comprehension of direct object clitic gender in Spanish. Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism 9(4-5): 659-686.

Sánchez, L., Camacho, J., Mayer, E. & Rodríguez Alzza, C. 2022. Gender Agreement in a Language Contact Situation. Languages 7(2): 81.

Sportiche, D. 1996. Clitic constructions. In Rooryck, J. & Zaring, L. (eds.). Phrase structure and the lexicon, 213-276. Dordrecht: Springer.

Suñer, M. 1988. The role of agreement in clitic-doubled constructions. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 6(3): 391-434.

Uriagereka, J. 1995. Aspects of the syntax of clitic placement in Western Romance. Linguistic Inquiry 26(1): 79-123.

Valenzuela, P. 2003. Transitivity in Shipibo-Konibo grammar. Unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Oregon.

Valenzuela, P. 2010. Ergativity in Shipibo-Konibo, a Panoan language of the Ucayali. In Gildea, S. & Quixalós, F. (eds.). Ergativity in Amazonia, 65. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Zdrojewski, P. & Sánchez, L. 2014. Variation in accusative clitic doubling across three Spanish dialects. Lingua 151: 162-176.




Download data is not yet available.