On the position of subjects in Spanish: Evidence from code-switching
Bradley Hoot, Shane Ebert
June 2021

Some languages have a fixed subject position, while others are more flexible. Languages like English require pre-verbal subjects; languages like Spanish allow subjects in post-verbal position. Because this difference clusters with several linguistic properties distinguishing the two languages, subjects in Spanish and English have been a perennial issue in linguistic theory, touching central problems like the EPP, the nature of cross-linguistic variation, and the relationship between core functional heads. Our project contributes a novel source of evidence to these debates: Spanish/English code- switching. Code-switching, the use of two languages in one utterance, combines the languages’ lexical items and their attendant syntactic features in a single derivation. Because code-switching, like all natural language, is rule-governed, researchers can exploit judgments about the well-formedness of code-switched sentences to draw conclusions about the combinations of features they represent. We report on a formal judgment experiment testing subject position in Spanish/English code-switching as a function of the presence of two functional heads known (from monolingual evidence) to affect subject placement: the C(omplementizer) and T(ense) heads. By manipulating which head appears in which language, we test the availability of post-verbal subjects under different feature combinations. Our results show that post-verbal subjects are only available when both C and T are in Spanish; neither Spanish head alone is sufficient. This finding suggests that the features regulating subject position stem from neither head alone, which is problematic for traditional approaches to the EPP as a feature of T but in line with other recent research on null subjects.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/006018
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Glossa: a journal of general linguistics
keywords: code-switching, spanish, subject position, epp, feature inheritance, experimental syntax, syntax
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