This paper sheds light on the variability of differential object marking (a+DO vs. Ø+DO) in vernacular oral Spanish from Mérida, Venezuela, and Madrid, Spain. Following the variationist perspective as called for by Kliffer (1995:95), the paper delimits exactly the contexts in which the variation between a+DO and Ø+DO is possible. The empirical analysis shows that: 1. inanimate DOs and animate ones should not be conflated in the same statistical sample because of their great difference in overt marking rates and in how the tokens are distributed. 2. Only the exhaustive analysis of all the pertinent tokens in the corpus, and only those tokens, avoids serious distortion of the results. 3. Overall overt a rate is much higher in Madrid than in Mérida Spanish, but contextual conditioning of DOM is the same in both Spanish variants: DO definiteness and so-called "topicality", but not DO specificity or grammatical number, play key roles in favoring overt a. 4. The discourse theoretical basis of the topicality factor, operationalized in terms of anaphoric and cataphoric DO reference, reflects a disambiguation role rather than the maintenance of topicality.
Selected Proceedings of the 5th Workshop on Spanish Sociolinguistics
edited by Jim Michnowicz and Robin Dodsworth
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