The functional opposition between the Present Perfect (PP) and the Preterit(e) in Spanish (see, e.g., Schwenter & Torres Cacoullos 2008) is typically treated as a case of overlapping perfective past reference, broadly defined in accordance with the variationist principle of weak complementarity (Sankoff & Thibault 1981). However, this approach overlooks the crucial connection of the PP to the present tense (PT). By exploring the PP/PT contrast in Spanish as a variable envelope defined by the expression of a continuative/durative meaning, this analysis proposes that a given linguistic variable may indeed be associated with multiple, non-overlapping envelopes of variation and that these variable contexts play independent roles in the distribution and evolution of a form. From this perspective, the Perfect/Anterior > Perfective pathway can be seen as occurring in (at least) two distinct developments: (i) Temporal neutralization between the PP and the Preterit and (ii) Aspectual neutralization between the PP and the PT. Using multivariate analysis of corpus data, it is shown that this latter development constitutes a 'Peripheral Context' and is subject to different constraints than those displayed by the PT/Preterit opposition. A survey of the frequency of the PP/PT in continuative/durative contexts across dialects of Spanish is also provided. The findings presented in this study offer specific insight into the distribution of the Spanish PP and PT while also contributing more generally to our understanding of the roles that domains of functional overlap play in the evolution of grammar.
Selected Proceedings of the 6th Workshop on Spanish Sociolinguistics
edited by Ana M. Carvalho and Sara Beaudrie
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