Decomposing Spanish dative clitics


  • Adolfo Ausin Michigan State University
  • Francisco J. Fernández-Rubiera University of Central Florida



dative clitics, applicative, agreement, definiteness, le-for-les


In Spanish, dative clitics have standardly been analyzed differently from accusative ones. The apparent different constraints that regulate each of these clitic doubling constructions have been at the base of the differing analyses. In this paper, we will argue that in spite of the alleged differences, clitic doubling in Spanish (both accusative and dative) has more in common than meets the eye. In light of a generally neglected structure in which Spanish dative clitics may not show agreement with their plural double (a.k.a. le-for-les), we will argue for a decompositional analysis of Spanish dative clitics. For us, dative clitics instantiate an applicative (Cuervo 2003, a.o.) morpheme which may be combined with a Dº head (Uriagereka 1995). This analysis will allow us not only to explain the le-for-les phenomenon observed, accounting for its distribution and syntactic licensing, but also the definiteness interpretation that an agreeing dative clitic is subject to, in turn providing a uniform account for the parallelisms between accusative (i.e., purely Dº) and dative (i.e., Applicative + optional Dº) clitic doubling. Finally, certain contexts in which les surfaces and that fail to be accounted for under our proposal are provided an account in terms of “harmonic agreement,” while still keeping the analysis proposed to account for both new and old data and observations.

Author Biography

Francisco J. Fernández-Rubiera, University of Central Florida

Associate Professor of Spanish Linguistics
Department of Modern Languages


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How to Cite

Ausin, A., & Fernández-Rubiera, F. J. (2021). Decomposing Spanish dative clitics. Borealis – An International Journal of Hispanic Linguistics, 10(2), 265–311.



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