Spanish marks animate and specific direct objects overtly with the preposition a, an instance of Differential Object Marking (DOM). However, in some varieties of Spanish, DOM is advancing to inanimate objects. Language change starts at the individual level, but how does it start? What manifestation of linguistic knowledge does it affect? This study traced this innovative use of DOM in oral production, grammaticality judgments and on-line comprehension (reading task with eye-tracking) in the Spanish of Mexico. Thirty-four native speakers (ages 18–22) from the southeast of Mexico participated in the study. Results showed that the incidence of the innovative use of DOM with inanimate objects varied by task: DOM innovations were detected in on-line processing more than in grammaticality judgments and oral production. Our results support the hypothesis that language variation and change may start with on-line comprehension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number131
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Language variation
  • Mexican Spanish
  • On-line comprehension
  • Oral production
  • Spanish DOM

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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