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Academic Paper

Title: Defaults and indeterminacy in temporal grammaticalization: The ‘perfect’ road to perfective
Author: Scott A Schwenter
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: Ohio State University
Author: Rena Torres Cacoullos
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: University of Pennsylvania
Linguistic Field: General Linguistics; Sociolinguistics
Subject Language: Spanish
Abstract: Adopting a grammaticalization path perspective on the envelope of variation, that is, the range of grammatical functions along the cross-linguistic perfect-to-perfective path, and employing the variationist comparative method, we compare use of the Present Perfect and Preterit in Mexican and Peninsular Spanish to identify the default past perfective form in each dialect. The linguistic conditioning of the variability provides evidence that the Present Perfect is becoming the default exponent of past perfective in Peninsular Spanish; in empirical terms, the default expression is the one appearing more frequently (combined effect of corrected mean and factor weight) in the most frequent and, crucially, the least specified contexts. The quantitative analysis of natural speech production—rather than elicited—data also suggests a different trajectory for perfect-to-perfective grammaticalization than the commonly assumed route via remoteness distinctions: the Present Perfect's shift from hodiernal to general perfective advances in temporally indeterminate past contexts.


This article appears IN Language Variation and Change Vol. 20, Issue 1, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .

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