Agentive reflexive clitics and transitive 'se' constructions in Spanish

Grant Armstrong

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se; non-core datives; intrinsic reflexivity; event structure; non-truth-conditional meaning


This paper investigates the structure of transitive sentences that contain a non-doubling reflexive clitic such as Juan se lavó todos los platos and María se leyó un libro. Though these are traditionally labelled unselected (non-core) agreeing datives or aspectual datives, I argue that this label obscures a relevant difference between two classes of constructions. agentive reflexive clitic (= ARC) constructions are characterized by a uniform set of effects on the external argument (= it must be an agent) and the aspectual interpretation of the VP (= it must be an accomplishment). On the other hand, transitive se clitic (= TSC) constructions do not impose any type of uniform restrictions on the kind of external argument they take or on the aspectual interpretation of the VP. I propose that the difference between these two constructions may be captured by treating se in the ARC construction as the realization of a special vDO head, based on an idea in Folli & Harley (2005), while se in the TSC construction is generated in the complement position of the verb and incorporates into V, forming a complex predicate, following work by De Cuyper (2006), MacDonald (2004, 2008) and MacDonald & Huidobro (2010). It is shown that many of the empirical and theoretical disagreements that plague the literature on the role of non-doubling se in transitive sentences have a simple solution given the new division established here


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