Exploring Spanish Possessive Dative Constructions

Spanish has developed a wide range of Dative uses (Delbecque & Lamiroy 1996, Lamiroy & Delbecque 1998, Gutiérrez Ordóñez 1999, Maldonado 1999, R.A.E.-A.S.A.L.E. 2009, Cifuentes Honrubia 2015). Leaving aside the extra-clausal ethical Dative, which marks the speaker’s concern vis-à-vis the event, the ‘Dative’ designates the generally human participant who fulfils the third most important role next to the Agent and the Patient. The basic typological distinction is that between lexical Datives, triggered by the verb’s argument structure as it is operational in a given context, versus free, non-argumental ones.

Integrated in the event structure as ‘attributee’, argumental Datives function as indirect object complement. In the canonical ditransitive construction with three-place predicates, two basic semantic roles are usually associated with the Dative: a narrowly understood Goal, connected with a voluntary material or metaphorical transfer event, and an Interested Party. When both roles are united, the Dative corresponds to the human Recipient, metonymically seen as the Beneficiary, especially in the prototypical ‘giving’ event. In intransitive constructions with two-place predicates, the absence of source argument yields a stative perspective, and the indirect object denotes the affected, interested party bearing the Experiencer role. While, by contrast, non-lexical,extended’ Datives are not dependent on the verb’s semantics, they also bring in an interested and/or affected participant. Minimally expressed as clitic, they are generally categorized as ‘Dative of Interest’ (dativus commodi-incommodi) or as ‘Dative of Possession’ when (simultaneously or not) an inclusion relation holds with another clausal constituent. These labels are confusing, however: on the one hand, the notion of ‘interest’, in its vagueness, also permeates the argumental Datives; on the other hand, when a possessive reading obtains, the dative operates on two layers, viz., at clausal level it functions as complement or as adjunct, and at intra-clausal level it designates a participant who stands in an ‘external Possessor’ relationship with another nominal constituent, the Possessum. In its Possessor role the Dative clitic functions as reference point for the Possessum (Langacker 1995: 76, 1999: Chapter 6), and is identified as Partitive Dative in the ‘Inalienable Possession Construction’ (König & Haspelmath 1998: 529). Beyond canonical partitivity (1) and inclusion, the Possessor-possessum relation extends to alienable objects that are subjectively projected into the ‘personal sphere’ (cf. Bally 1926: 68-69). With not inherently relational nominals (2), the possessive reading emerges from lexicosemantic patterns, backed up by the discourse context, in line with culturally determined idealized cognitive models. Further subjectification of the possessive reading hinges on configurations that hitherto seem to have escaped attention, viz. those with an ‘Epistemic Dative’ (3) (cf. Ruwet (1982) for French) and with an ‘Implicative’ one (4).

(1) Solemnemente le besa la mano. (CREA, C. Gallego, Adelaida, 1990) 
      Solemnly 3sg clit dat (he) kisses the hand         
      ‘Solemnly he kisses her hand.’

(2) La mujer continúa siendo una buena esposa, en tanto que atiende bien al marido (le hace la comida, le lava la ropa, le mantiene limpia la casa, etc.) y accede sin grandes reparos a sus solicitudes sexuales. (CREA, E. González Duro, Las neurosis del ama de casa, 1989)

    […] wife […] the husband (clit.dat.3sg [she] makes the food, clit.dat.3sg washes the clothes, clit.dat.3sg keeps clean the house, […]

    ‘She makes his food, washes his clothes, keeps his house clean.’

(3) Yo le adiviné una fuerza fuera de lo común. (CREA, L. Silva, El alquimista impaciente, 2000)

      I clit.DAT.3sg sensed a strength out of the ordinary

     ‘I sensed in him a strength out of the ordinary’

(4) A los alumnos este tipo de juegos les despierta la curiosidad. (esTenTen18, pimedios.es/2017)

     to the students this type of games clit.DAT.3pl awakens the curiosity

    ‘This type of game arouses the students’ curiosity’

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