Chapter published in:Hispanic Linguistics: Current issues and new directions
Edited by Alfonso Morales-Front, Michael J. Ferreira, Ronald P. Leow and Cristina Sanz
[Issues in Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics 26] 2020
► pp. 120–136
The Progressive-to-Imperfective shift
Contextually determined variation in Rioplatense, Iberian, and Mexican Altiplano Spanish
Spanish has two markers (claimed to be in free alternation) to convey that an event is in progress at reference time: the Simple Present (e.g., canta, ‘sings’) and the Present Progressive (e.g., está cantando, ‘is singing’). Based on evidence from sentence acceptability studies in three different Spanish dialects, we show that the distribution of the two markers is not random, but sensitive to contextual modulation. Specifically, results show that the (ambiguous) Simple Present is more acceptable in contexts where interlocutors share perceptual access to the event at issue. Otherwise, participants favor the (unambiguous) Present Progressive. We conclude that this variation reflects and is constrained by the well-attested grammaticalization path in which progressive markers gradually generalize to become imperfective markers.
Keywords: grammaticalization, variation, progressive, imperfective, context modulation
Published online: 13 May 2020
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