A quantitative analysis of the role of referentiality and DOM in modern Peninsular Spanish
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Differential Object Marking (henceforth, DOM) in Spanish involves the use of the object marker a to overtly mark certain direct objects (Juan conoce a la mamá de Pedro.). The literature on this phenomenon is extensive. Previous typological/functionalist work (e.g. Aissen 2003, Croft 2003, von Heusinger and Kaiser 2007) has characterized the likelihood of DOM in terms of properties of the direct object including animacy, definiteness and specificity. According to recent grammatical variationist work on Mexican Spanish (Lizarraga Navarro and Mora-Bustos 2010), these two factors are the most highly correlated with overt DOM in Spanish. While some empirical studies corroborate portions of these findings (e.g. von Heusinger 2008), none have provided a complete quantified analysis of the entire set of features as discussed in terms of the Referentiality Scale (von Heusinger 2008) including specificity and non-argumentals for Modern European Spanish. This empirically-based corpus study investigates the distribution of DOM in the 20th and 21st Century European Spanish focusing on the features comprising the scales of animacy and referentiality. The results obtained in this study provide evidence that the referential features like specificity and definiteness are indeed significant factors that condition DOM along with verb type. This study also sheds light on the validity of the claim made in diachronic work for the systematic spread of DOM (e.g. Melis 1995, Laca 2006, von Heusinger and Kaiser 2010).