Null and Overt Subjects in a Variable System: The Case of Dominican Spanish

Title: Null and Overt Subjects in a Variable System: The Case of Dominican Spanish
Authors: Martinez-Sanz, Cristina
Date: 2011
Abstract: This dissertation investigates subject expression patterns in Dominican Spanish (DS). In this variety, the null subject constructions associated with Non-Caribbean Spanish co-exist with the widespread use of overt subjects, which are found in specific constructions that are either rare or unattested in other Spanish varieties. Interestingly, these structures co-exist in the Dominican grammar with the null subject constructions associated with Non-Caribbean Spanish. While subject expression has been studied in a number of Spanish dialects within the generative and the variationist paradigms, monolingual Dominican Spanish, to the best of my knowledge, has not been investigated in previous variationist work. This study covers this gap by examining a large corpus of spontaneous speech (N=6005) gathered in the capital city of Santo Domingo and a rural area in the northwestern Cibao region. Furthermore, in line with the cohesive approach to syntactic variation developed in recent work (Adger and Smith 2005), theoretical implications are drawn from quantitative results. The results obtained in this study show that null and overt subject patterns in DS are regulated by the same constraints that have been found relevant in previous variationist work, i.e. discourse-related factor groups and Person (Otheguy, Zentella and Livert, 2007). These results depart from previous work in that evidence for language change in progress has been found in subject position patterns, rather than in null and overt subject distribution. When this phenomenon is examined, urban, young, high-middle class and female speakers arise as the social groups leading grammatical restructuring. Quantitative and qualitative evidence is taken into account for testing previous syntactic-theoretical proposals on DS. Taking the cartographic approach to syntactic structure (Rizzi 1997) as a point of departure, it will proposed that multiple specifier positions are available within the TP and CP fields to host strong and weak subjects. This proposal, in turn, makes it possible to account for the Null Subject Parameter profile displayed by synchronic DS without resorting to competing grammars in the minds of the speakers.
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -