Monday, December 05, 2005

Nominative Objects, Quirky Subjects and “gustar”

Following similar analyses originally proposed for Icelandic, it is standard to assume that Spanish also has nominative objects and quirky subjects. For instance, in (1), [el chocolate] is a nominative object in agreement with the verb, and [A los niños] is the quirky subject (marked in Spanish, as in Icelandic and other languages, with dative expressions):

(1) A los niños les gusta el chocolate

However, sometimes a sentence with gustar (to like) can be constructed without dative clitic, and in the canonical order SVO:

(2) La idea gusta a sus habitantes
[From La República, a Peruvian newspaper, 12/05/05]

Is (2) an inversion of the canonical order or gustar can be use in other ways?

4 Comments:

At 7:19 PM, Anonymous Alicia Casuso said...

This may have nothing to do with the "gustar" example but it's something that boggles my mind.

The sentence:

"Este es el problema que causó la indiferencia de los estudiantes."

This sentence can be understood in two ways: either the problem caused indifference among the students, or the students' indifference caused a problem.

This can be clarified by using the passive voice "La indiferencia fue causada por este problema," or alternatively "El problema fue causado por la indiferencia" but in active voice it seems impossible to understand.

Is this a real Spanish ambiguity problem or am I the only one who gets confused?

 
At 7:19 PM, Anonymous Alicia Casuso said...

This may have nothing to do with the "gustar" example but it's something that boggles my mind.

The sentence:

"Este es el problema que causó la indiferencia de los estudiantes."

This sentence can be understood in two ways: either the problem caused indifference among the students, or the students' indifference caused a problem.

This can be clarified by using the passive voice "La indiferencia fue causada por este problema," or alternatively "El problema fue causado por la indiferencia" but in active voice it seems impossible to understand.

Is this a real Spanish ambiguity problem or am I the only one who gets confused?

 
At 10:03 PM, Blogger Miguel Rodríguez Mondoñedo said...

It is a remarkable ambiguity indeed.

It is interesting that this is a little bid odd:

(1) ? Este es el problema que la indiferencia de los estudiantes causó

Now, (1) violates the constrain in Heavy-NP-shifting, which states that long NPs must be final, but given the verb CAUSO, if the NP is final, it can be interpreted as the object too, which causes ambiguity.

Nice.

 
At 5:04 AM, Blogger nor said...

I have rejected the claim that Spanish have quirky subjects (although it may have nominative objects). The reason has to do with the following contrast:

(1) A los niños les gusta María.
(2) María-1 pretende [PR0-1 gustar a los niños]
(3) * María-1 pretende [PR0-1 gustar los niños]

(3) seems to show that there is no quirky PRO in Spanish. Languages that have quirky subjects (like Icelandic) DO have quirky PRO (cfr. 4).

(4) Hana langar ekki til [að PRO leiðast]
Her (Ac.) wants not for to (Dat.) bore
She does not want to be bored.

Just some doubts.

Norberto Moreno

 

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