'Uno que otro': A distributive indefinite in Mexican Spanish


  • José Fernando Chapa Barrios El Colegio de Mexico
  • Violeta Vazquez Rojas El Colegio de México




indefinites, quantification, distributivity, distributive numerals, event semantics, plurality


In Mexican Spanish, the indefinite quantifier “uno que otro” is used to refer to low cardinalities of entities separated in space or time. Even though they have a strictly singular form, noun phrases with “uno que otro” always refer to more than one entity. And, despite their notional content of plurality, they reject collective predicates. In this paper we propose a semantic analysis of this expression as a distributive indefinite, that is, an indefinite whose reference covaries as a function of a distributive operator, in the way that adnominal distributive numerals do in other languages ​​(Gil, 1983; Cable, 2014). Distributive numerals are supposed not to exist in Spanish; however, we claim that “uno que otro” is a distributed share marker (Choe, 1987; Bosnić et al 2020) related to a set of events (Balusu, 2006; Cable, 2014; Romero, 2006). This set is necessarily plural, although of low cardinality, and involves the precondition that its elements (atomic events) occur in non-contiguous time or space intervals. The semantic characterization of “uno que otro” as a distributive indefinite captures its referential dependence, its plural sense, its rejection of collective predicates and its content of separation as a secondary effect of a precondition on the events on which it is distributed. We thus show that Spanish has an adnominal expression of the same semantic nature as distributive numerals, with the precision that it requires distribution over events and not over entities. 


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How to Cite

Chapa Barrios, J. F., & Vazquez Rojas, V. (2023). ’Uno que otro’: A distributive indefinite in Mexican Spanish. Borealis – An International Journal of Hispanic Linguistics, 12(1), 1–35. https://doi.org/10.7557/