Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Hispanic Studies


Perpiñán, Silvia


This dissertation investigates linguistic variation and optionality in the Spanish clitic system of bilingual L1 P’urhépecha speakers from Michoacán, México to determine if interference from L1 features results in non-standard use of accusative and dative pronouns in L2 Spanish. Using the theoretical framework on feature/morphology mapping in bilinguals by Lardiere (2000, 2005, 2009) and Sánchez’s theories of functional interference and convergence (2003), I investigated three phenomena occurring in Spanish and Amerindian contact varieties or amongst bilingual speakers: neutralization of gender (and number) into an invariant accusative clitic lo, omission of anaphoric clitics, and liberal accusative clitic doubling. I also investigated the dative alternation and applicative voice in P’urhépecha to determine if P’urhépecha’s syntax affects bilinguals’ representation of Double Object Constructions (DOC) and Prepositional Constructions (PPC) in Spanish, using the definition of the dative alternation and the applicative voice presented by Cuervo (2003a, 2003b, 2007, 2010). Results were obtained using a series of Acceptability Judgement Tasks and Oral Elicitation Tasks targeting specific accusative and dative structures in Spanish. Participants were bilingual individuals (n=23) from two indigenous communities in the region of Lake Pátzcuaro, Michoacán: Santa Fe de la Laguna and San Andrés Tziróndaro. A second group of participants (n=17), speakers of the central Mexican variety that had no personal contact with indigenous languages, were also tested in order to provide a basis for comparison. Results indicate that there is variation in the pronominal clitic system of the bilingual speakers that differs significantly from the monolingual group. Bilinguals both accepted and produced a variety of non-standard constructions that had been previously documented in language contact varieties with Quechua, Maya, Nahuatl, and Guaraní. Observed variation appears to be driven by the historical instability of the Spanish clitic system and the availability of Spanish templates for clitic doubling and omission, as well as by the syntax and featural specification of P’urhépecha. This study contributes to the current corpus of language contact and bilingualism studies by providing an initial description of this new language pairing using the generative framework and aims to increase the visibility of the P’urhépecha language and community as it works to recuperate and maintain its linguistic heritage.