What is it about?

In this paper we show that the absence of the linking element "que" ('that') in the history of Spanish (between 1400 and 1800) was motivated by a higher integration of the main and the complement clause: the probability of a subordinate clause without "que" is higher if the main and the complement verbs share participants and therefore are seen as two integrated (i.e., conceptually close) events. Furthermore, this tendency becomes stronger over time (between 1400 and 1800) showing that the subordinate clauses without "que" become increasingly more specialized in the function of marking syntactic and semantic integration.

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Why is it important?

Our findings show that the absence of the complementizer "que" is not only a stylistic choice of some writers of the past, but it was motivated by syntactic and semantic reasons. Furthermore, our paper indicate that the (probabilistic) constraints that guide the choice of the speakers between two variants are subject to diachronic changes, and this might be the motivation for the later decline of the construction without "que". The use of inferential statistics (logistic regression) helps making predictions about the speakers choices, even when we are studying ancient documents, and by using the interaction of linguistic predictors with real time we can discover how languages change over time.

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This page is a summary of: Asyndetic complementation and referential integration in Spanish, Journal of Historical Linguistics, February 2022, John Benjamins, DOI: 10.1075/jhl.20031.maz.
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