Clitic doubling in Peninsular and Rioplatense Spanish: a comparative corpus investigation

Esther Rinke, Martin Elsig, Judith Wieprecht


The current study compares the distribution of clitic doubling (CD) in two varieties of Spanish: Peninsular Spanish and Rioplatense Spanish. Based on two corpora of colloquial speech we investigate under which conditions CD with pronominal and nominal objects[1] is possible and which factors favour the occurrence of CD in the variable contexts.

Based on a variationist analysis with Rbrul, we show that personal prounouns are almost categorically doubled in both corpora. The presence of dative case marking is a sufficient condition for CD to be possible with pronominal and nominal objects. This is in principle independent of semantic factors like definiteness, specificity and animacy, which also favour CD. In Rioplatense, CD of dative noun phrases is advanced in comparison to Peninsular Spanish as it is almost categorical and independent of the semantic specification of the object, whereas specificity still plays a role for CD of dative nominal objects in Peninsular Spanish. CD of accusative objects occurs less frequently and is more restricted. Non-personal pronouns show that definiteness is a necessary and decisive feature for CD of accusatives, indefinite non-personal pronouns cannot be doubled. In Buenos Aires, doubling of direct nominal objects also presupposes their definiteness (and specificity). DOM favours CD to occur, but it is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for CD.

Overall, our study confirms that the factors determining the distribution of CD can be ordered on an implicational (definiteness) scale and that CD has a wider distribution and is less restricted in Rioplatense Spanish in comparison to Peninsular Spanish. We conclude that this reflects that Rioplatense Spanish has reached a more advanced stage of CD on a grammaticalization cline than Peninsular Spanish

[1] Throughout our paper, we use the terms pronominal and nominal objects in order to distinguish between pronouns and non-pronominal noun phrases in object position, although it is of course clear to us that pronouns are also nominal objects. We will also use the abbreviation DP (determiner phrase) to refer to non-pronominal noun phrases.


Rioplatense Spanish, clitic doubling, corpus analysis

Full Text:



Aissen, Judith. 2003. Differential object marking: Iconicity vs. economy. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 21, 435–483.

Anagnostopoulou, Elena. 2003. The syntax of ditransitives: Evidence from clitics. Berlin: de Gruyter.

Astruc, Lluisa. 2005. The intonation of sentence-external elements in Catalan and English. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Cambridge.

Baker, Mark C. 2008. The macroparameter in a microparametric world. In T. Biberauer (ed.), The limits of syntactic variation, 351–374. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Barrenechea, Ana María & Orecchia, Teresa. 1970/1971. La duplicación de objetos directos e indirectos en el español hablado en Buenos Aires. RomPhil 24, 58-83.

Barrenechea, Ana María & Orecchia, Teresa. 1977. La duplicación de objetos directos e indirectos en el español hablado en Buenos Aires. In J.M. Lope Blanch (ed.), Estudios sobre el español hablado en las principales ciudades de América, 351-381. México: Universidad Autónoma de México.

Barrenechea, Ana María (ed.) 1987. El habla culta de la ciudad de Buenos Aires. Materiales para su estudio (tomo 2). Buenos Aires: Fil. y Lit.

Becerra Bascuñán, Silvia. 2006. Estudio diacrónico y sincrónico del objeto indirecto en el español peninsular y de América. København: Museum Tusculanum.

Belloro, Valeria A. 2007. Spanish clitic doubling: A study of the syntax-pragmatics interface. Ph.D. Thesis, State University of New York at Buffalo.

Bleam, Tonia. 2000. Leísta Spanish and the syntax of clitic doubling. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Delaware.

Bossong, Georg. 1985. Empirische Universalienforschung. Differentielle Objektmarkierung in den neuiranischen Sprachen. Tübingen: Narr.

Chafe, Wallace. 1987. “Cognitive constraints on information flow”. In R. Tomlin (ed.), Coherence and grounding in discourse, 21-52. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Chafe, Wallace. 1994. Discourse, consciousness and time. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Colantoni, Laura. 2002. Clitic doubling, clitic climbing and null objects in the Spanish of Corrientes (Argentina). In J. Gutiérrez-Rexach (ed.), From Words to Discourse. Trends in Semantics and Pragmatics, 321-336. Oxford: Elservier.

Company Company, Concepción. 2003. La gramaticalización en la historia del español. In C. Company (ed.), Gramaticalización y cambio sintáctico en la historia del español, 1-62. Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

Cresti, Emanuela & Moneglia, Massimo. 2005. C-ORAL-ROM. Integrated reference corpora for spoken Romance languages. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Déchaine, Rose-Marie & Wiltschko, Martina. 2002. “Decomposing pronouns”. Linguistic Inquiry 33(3), 409–442.

Di Tullio, Ángela & Zdrojewski, Pablo. 2006. Nota sobre el doblado de clíticos en el español rioplatense: asimetría entre objetos humanos e no humanos. Filología XXXVIII: 13-44.

Di Tullio, Ángela, Saab, Andrés & Zdrojewski, Pablo. 2019. Clitic doubling in a doubling world. The case of Argentinean Spanish reconsidered. In A. Gallego (ed.), Syntactic Variation in Spanish, 215-244. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Di Tullio, Ángela. 2005. Manual de gramática del Español. Buenos Aires: La isla de la luna.

Dufter, Andreas & Stark, Elisabeth. 2008. Double indirect object marking in Spanish and Italian. In Elena Seoane & María José López-Couso (eds.), Theoretical and empirical issues in grammaticalization, 111-129. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Enç, Mürvet. 1991. The semantics of specificity. Linguistic Inquiry 22, 1-26.

Estigarribia, Bruno. 2006. Why clitic doubling? A functional analysis for Rioplatense Spanish. In T. L. Face & C. A. Klee, (eds.) Selected Proceedings of the 8th Hispanic Linguistics Symposium, 123-136. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.

Fernández Soriano, Olga. 1999. El pronombre personal. Formas y distribuciones. Pronombres átonos y tónicos. In: I. Bosque & V. Delmonte (eds.), Gramática Descriptiva de la Lengua Española, 1. Sintaxis Básica de las Clases de Palabras, 1209-1273. Madrid: Espasa.

Fischer, Susann & Rinke, Esther. 2013. Explaining the variability of clitic doubling across Romance: a diachronic account. Linguistische Berichte 236, 255-272.

Fontana, Josep M. 1993. Phrase structure and the syntax of clitics in the history of Spanish. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Pennsylvania.

Gabriel, Christoph. 2007. Fokus im Spannungsfeld von Phonologie und Syntax. Eine Studie zum Spanischen. Frankfurt: Vervuert.

Gabriel, Christoph & Rinke, Esther. 2010. Information packaging and the rise of clitic doubling in the history of Spanish. In G. Ferraresi & R. Lühr (eds.), Diachronic Studies on Information Structure. Language Acquisition and Change (Language, Context and Cognition 10), 63-86. Berlin: de Gruyter.

García-Miguel, José M. & Vázquez, Victoria. 1994. Lingüística de corpus y lingüística descriptiva: el caso de la 'duplicación de objetos. Boletín de la Sociedad Española para el Procesamiento del Lenguaje Natural 14, 47-62.

Gerlach, Birgit. 2002. Clitics between syntax and lexicon. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Heusinger, Klaus v. & Onea, Edgar. 2008. Triggering and blocking effects in the diachronic development of DOM in Romanian. Probus 20, 67-110.

Hualde, José Ignacio. 2003. El modelo métrico y autosegmental. In: P. Prieto (ed.), Teorías de la entonación, 155-184. Barcelona: Editorial Ariel.

Jaeggli, Osvaldo. 1982. Topics in Romance syntax. Dordrecht: Foris.

Jaeggli, Osvaldo. 1993. Tres cuestiones en el estudio de los clíticos: El caso, los sintagmas nominales reduplicados y las extracciones. In O. Fernández Soriano (ed.), Los pronombres átonos, 141-173. Madrid: Espasa-Calpe.

Johnson, Daniel E. 2009. Getting off the GoldVarb standard: Introducing Rbrul for mixed-effects variable rule analysis. Language and Linguistics Compass 3(1), 359–383.

Jørgensen, Annette M. 2008. COLA: Un corpus Oral de Lenguaje Adolescente. Anejos a Oralia 3(1), 225-235.

Kayne, Richard. 1975. French syntax. The transformational cycle. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Koch, Peter. 1993. Le 'chinook' roman face à l'empirie. Y a-t-il une conjugaison objective en français, en italien et en espagnol et une conjugaison subjective prédéterminante en français?. In Gerold Hilty (ed.), Actes du XXe Congrès International de Linguistique et Philologie Romanes, Université de Zurich (6-11 avril 1992), Bd. III, 169-190. Tübingen/Basel: Francke 1993.

Kuchenbrandt, Imme. 2007. Prosodische Aspekte in der Entwicklung der spanischen und französischen Klitika. Ph. D. Thesis, University of Hamburg.

Labov, William. 1972. Sociolinguistic patterns. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Leonetti, Manuel. 2007a. Sobre la relación entre doblado de clíticos y movimiento de objectos. Cuadernos de Lingüística del I. U. I. Ortega y Gasset 2007 (14), 135-152.

Leonetti, Manuel. 2007b. Clitics do not encode specificity. In G. Kaiser & M. Leonetti (Eds.), Proceedings of the Workshop «Definiteness, Specificity and Animacy in Ibero-Romance Languages, 111-139. Arbeitspapiere des Fachbereichs Sprachwissenschaft der Universität Konstanz.

Leonetti, Manuel. 2008. Specificity in clitic doubling and in differential object marking. Probus 20(1), 33-66.

Longobardi, Giuseppe. 1994. Reference and proper names: a theory of n-movement in syntax and logical form. Linguistic Inquiry 25(4), 609–665.

Mayer, Elisabeth. 2006. Optional direct object clitic doubling in Limeno Spanish. In: Miriam Butt & Tracy Holloway King (eds.), International Lexical-Functional Grammar Conference (LFG 2006), p.18. Stanford, California: CSLI Publications.

Ormazabal, Javier, and Juan Romero. 2013. Object clitics, agreement and dialectal variation. Probus 25(2), 301–344.

Parodi, Teresa. 1998. Aspects of clitic doubling and clitic clusters in Spanish. In R. Fabri, A. Ortmann & T. Parodi (eds.), Models of inflection, 85-102. Tübingen: Niemeyer.

Pineda, Anna. 2013. Double object constructions in Spanish (and Catalan) revisited. In S. Baauw, F. Drijkoningen, L. Meroni & M. Pinto (eds.), Romance languages and linguistic theory 2011, 193-216. Amsterdam/ Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Poston, Lawrence Jr. 1953. The redundant object pronoun in contemporary Spanish. Hispania 36(3), 263-272.

Pujalte, Mercedes, & Saab, Andrés. 2018. Interacciones En El Filo Oracional Medrio. In Ignacio Bosque, Sylvia Costa & Marisa Malcuori (eds.), Palabras en lluvia minuciosa. Veinte visitas a la gramática del español inspiradas por Ángela Di Tullio, 273–98. Madrid: Iberoamerica-Veurvert. (lingbuzz/003649)

Pujalte, Mercedes, Saab, Andrés & Zdrojewski, Pablo. 2017. Reflexiones en el filo: la sintaxis de los objetos doblados en el español rioplatense. Talk given in the III Jornadas de Jóvenes lingüistas, Instituto de Lingüística, Universidad de Buenos Aires.

Roberts, Ian. 2011. Microparameters, Macroparameters & Markedness. Talk held at the conference “Subjects in Diachrony” at the University of Regensburg 2011.

Saab, Andrés, & Zdrojewski, Pablo. 2012. Anti-repair effects under ellipsis diagnosing (Post-) Syntactic Clitics in Spanish. In Andrés

Saab, Irene Franco, & Sara Lusini (eds.), Romance Languages and Linguistic Theory 2010: Selected Papers from ’Going Romance’ Leiden 2010, 177-202. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing.

Saab, Andrés, & Zdrojewski, Pablo. 2013. Dislocación y doblado pronominal en el español del Río de la Plata. In Ángela Di Tullio (ed.), El español de la Argentina: Estudios gramaticales, 131-151. Buenos Aires: EUDEBA.

Sánchez, Liliana & Zdrojewski, Pablo. 2013. Restricciones semánticas y pragmáticas al doblado de clíticos en el español de Buenos Aires y de Lima. Lingüística 29(2), 271-320.

Silva-Corvalán, Carmen. 1984. Semantic and pragmatic factors in syntactic change. In Jacek Fisiak (ed.), Historical syntax, 555-573. Berlin: Mouton.

Suñer, Margarita. 1988. The role of agreement in clitic-doubled constructions. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 6, 391-434.

Tagliamonte, Sally A. 2006. Analysing sociolinguistic variation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Torrego, Esther. 1988. A DP analysis of Spanish nominals. Ms. University of Massachusetts.

Tsakali, Vina. 2008. “Double” floating quantifiers in Modern Greek and Pontic. In Sjef Barbiers, Olaf, Koeneman, Marika Lekaku, & Margreet van der Ham (eds.), Syntax and semantics: Microvariation in syntactic doubling, Vol. 36, 189-204. Syntax and Semantics. England: Emerald.

Uriagereka, Juan. 1988. On government. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Connecticut.

Zdrojewski, Pablo. 2008. ¿Por quién doblan los clíticos? Restricciones morfosintácticas sobre la duplicación pronominal en el español rioplatense. Master’s Thesis, Universidad Nacional del Comahue.

Zubizaretta, María Luisa. 1999. Las funciones informativas: tema y foco. In: Ignacio Bosque & Violeta Demonte (eds.), Gramática descriptiva de la lengua española, Tomo 3, 4224-4240. Madrid: Espasa.

Article Metrics

Metrics Loading ...

Metrics powered by PLOS ALM
Copyright (c) 2020 Esther Rinke, Martin Elsig, Judith Wieprecht