On (Un)Grammatical Clitic Sequences in Impersonal se Constructions

Jonathan E. MacDonald, Jeriel Melgares

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In this chapter, we discuss sequences of (un)grammatical direct object clitics with impersonal se (Impse). We focus mainly on the patterns in Honduran Spanish, although we discuss several points of variation among Romance languages. It is shown that when Impse forms a clitic cluster with lo(s)/la(s), ungrammaticality results, and as a repair le(s) surfaces instead. It is argued that lo(s)/la(s) is specified for [D(efiniteness)] and Impse spells out a valued [D] feature on T. A Distributed Morphology account of the change from lo(s)/la(s) to le(s) is provided. It is argued that, as a clitic cluster on T, the two [D] features are filtered out by impoverishment; [D] on lo(s)/la(s) is deleted prior to Vocabulary Insertion, resulting in the only third person clitic underspecified for [D] that can be inserted: le(s). We illustrate how this change to le(s) has no semantic or structural consequences, as expected if the operations take place after syntax.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationUnraveling the complexity of SE
EditorsGrant Armstrong, Jonathan E MacDonald
Number of pages23
StatePublished - 2021

Publication series

NameStudies in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory
ISSN (Print)0924-4670
ISSN (Electronic)2215-0358


  • Impersonal se
  • Impoverishment
  • Morphological repair
  • Romance variation
  • Underspecified clitics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics


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