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


  • Esther Rinke Goethe University Frankfurt
  • Martin Elsig Goethe University Frankfurt
  • Judith Wieprecht Goethe University Frankfurt


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


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