Author Topic: Relational nouns in Spanish?  (Read 6263 times)

Offline Bartók

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Relational nouns in Spanish?
« on: November 06, 2014, 06:19:26 AM »
Dear linguists,
I'm studying certain spatial constructions in Spanish that usually involve a subset of locative adverbs such as delante 'in front [of]', encima 'on, on top [of].' These usually take a prepositional phrase with a noun or a prepositional phrase with a tonic personal pronoun as complements to invoke a relational meaning:
1) delante de la    casa
    in front of  the  house
    'In front of the house'
2) delante de mí
    in front of me
    'In front of me'
However, in the last 200 years, an apparently synonym construction in which the adverb takes a possessive adjective is becoming more and more common in spoken Spanish:
3) delante mío
    in front my.masc
    'In front of me'
Moreover, it seems that some of these spatial adverbs are even triggering gender agreement with the possessive adjective (this is specially common in those adverbs that end in –a, such as encima, detrás, this final –a bearing a great resemblance to the most common marker of feminine gender in nouns:
4) detrás mía
    behind my.fem
    'Behind me'
Since adverbs don't partake of the category of gender (only nouns can), and can’t be possessed either, they shouldn't be triggering agreement with the pronoun or bearing a possessive adjective, and so these latter constructions have been heavily censured by prescriptivists.
Nevertheless, I have noticed that, crosslinguistically, these types of locative adverbs tend to show characteristics of nouns, as in some Mesoamerican languages, such as Pipil, in which locatives take possessive prefixes much as nouns do:
5) ne   mishti nemi nu-jpak
    the  could  LOC  my-on/over
    'The cloud is over me'
Relational nouns tend to have some, but not all of the characteristics of nouns. For instance, in Pipil, they cannot be pluralized. This is the case with Spanish, too (*encimas mías).
My hypothesis is that these adverbs in Spanish are in fact becoming relational nouns, gaining some of the characteristics of nouns (such as having gender or being able to be possessed).
My question today for you is... what do you think my argument needs in order to be more convincing? 

Offline Daniel

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Re: Relational nouns in Spanish?
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2014, 08:44:21 AM »

But I think you need to work on the distinction between norphosyntactic categories and uses/meanings. You should distinguish between adverb and adverbial for example. I'm not convinced these are adverbs to begin with though the seem like adverbials.
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