Optional se constructions and flavours of applicatives in Spanish


  • Fabienne Martin Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
  • Sudha Arunachalam New York University


This paper addresses Spanish optional se constructions, which host a reflexive clitic serving as a non-selected argument in transitive structures (comer(se) la manzana ‘eat.REFL the apple’). On the basis of new experimental data, we argue against the view that in such constructions se is similar to particles of exhaustivity such as up in English. We instead propose that se is a pronoun merged as an argument of a low applicative, conveying a locative relation ‘in(x; y; s)’ between the binder of the reflexive x and the nominative DP y (‘x is in y in s’), or, for a subset of speakers, as an argument of a high applicative, introducing a (direct) experiencer of the verbal event. It is shown how this proposal accounts for the variability in the acceptance of optional se constructions across speakers and verb types as well as for the inferences of enriched or unaided agency, affectedness and counter-expectation that have been argued to be triggered by the se-variant of these constructions.


Spanish, optional se, aspectual se, low applicative, high applicative, experiencer applicative, telicity


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