Origins of Spanish repeated object pronoun

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Beachxhair, Sep 19, 2013.

  1. Beachxhair

    Beachxhair Senior Member

    Manchester UK
    I've tried to search for an existing thread on this topic, but I couldn't find one....(Sorry if one does exist and this has to be merged with it :rolleyes:.)

    In Spanish, a 'redundant' pronoun is often used, such as le in this (rather odd :)) sentence I took from an online dictionary:

    "Acostumbro a hablarle a mi perro"

    Where does this "redundant" pronoun originate? Is it a relic from an earlier stage of the language where it was necessary?

    Thank you :)
  2. Hulalessar Senior Member

    English - England
    I suspect it is because in Spanish (a) word order tends to be somewhat free and (b) where the direct object is a human or higher animal it needs to be proceeded by a, which also serves to indicate the indirect object. Throwing in the extra pronoun helps prevent ambiguity and has come to be used even when unnecessary or for emphasis.
  3. sotos Senior Member

    Such expressions are also common in Greek. Some times they give emphasis, some times are just redundant words that give a special flavor to the speech or the speaker.
  4. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    As you may know, the direct object pronouns lo(s)/la(s) are also used redundantly when the object is fronted for emphasis:

    Esa chamarra la compré el mes pasado. "I bought *that* jacket last month"

    The difference between the use of la in the above sentence, and the use of le(s) that you mentioned, is that le(s) can be used redundantly regardless of whether the indirect object ("a mi perro" in your sentence) is fronted or not.
  5. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    In Gavril's example la is not (I think) redundant. It is an obligatory resumptive pronoun, needed to encase the topic (esa chamarra) into the syntax of the main cluase.
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2013
  6. Nino83 Senior Member

    To clarify, in all Romance languages we can use pronouns redundantly and it's usual in spoken language.

    For example: te l'ho detto a te, je te l'ai dit à toi, digo-te a ti, te digo a ti.

    Neverthless Spanish language is the only one that requires redundant pronouns when there is a prepositional (dative) pronoun in one sentence.

    Example: ho detto a lei di non andarci, j'ai dit à elle de n'y pas aller but te he dicho a ti.

    I think, as Hulalessar said, that it's due to the fact that Spanish is the only language in which there is the so called personal a so after some verbs you can't say, without using a redundant pronun, if there is a direct or an indirect object.

    Es. I hand him/I hand to him. In Italian one say consegno lui/consegno a lui, in Spanish if one say entrego a él/entrego a él it's not clear the meaning.
    In Italian, French and Portuguese the preposition a indicates unequivocally an indirect object but in Spanish it doesn't.
    If you say le entrego a él it's clear that there is an indirect object.
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2013
  7. Hulalessar Senior Member

    English - England
    You cannot say entrego a él; a él is only used for emphasis or where you need to make it clear you mean "him" rather then "her". You must say either le entrego or le entrego a él.

    I believe Romanian also uses redundant pronouns to the same extent as Spanish and also has a construction similar to the personal a​.
  8. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    In what sense is la obligatory in the sentence

    Esa chamarra la compré el mes pasado

    but not le in the sentence,

    Al Sr. Urrutia le vendimos la casa de veraneo

  9. Peterdg

    Peterdg Senior Member

    Dutch - Belgium
    Both "le" and "la" are mandatory in both your sentences.
  10. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    OK, but Fdb seemed to be implying in post #5 that "le" in the original sentence (Acostumbro a hablarle a mi perro) was less obligatory than the "la" in Esa chamarra la compré el mes pasado: he said that le in the former was redundant, but la in the latter wasn't. If both are obligatory, then I don't understand what distinction was being made.
  11. Nino83 Senior Member

    Yes, in Spanish redundant pronoun is mandatory while in Italian, French and Portuguese it isn't.
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2013
  12. Quiviscumque

    Quiviscumque Moderator

    Ciudad del paraíso
    Mandatory or "redundant"? Well, a difficult question. In depends on the historical period, the region and the register. See a summary in the Real Academia "Diccionario Panhispánico de Dudas": (#5)

    That description corresponds just to present standard prose Spanish; according to it, all our poets and all our classics were solecists!
  13. Hulalessar Senior Member

    English - England
    I think we need to distinguish between (a) redundant pronouns i.e. those which appear to be unnecessary and (b) emphatic or disambiguating pronouns. You can tell the difference because redundant pronouns refer to a noun, whilst emphatic or disambiguating pronouns refer to another pronoun.

    In Le dio la carta a Juan, le is redundant - it refers to Juan. In Le dio la carta a él, a él refers to le. It is emphatic where you mean "He gave it to him" or "He's the one he gave it to"; it is disambiguating if you want to make it clear that what is meant is "him" as opposed to "her" or "you".

    Omitting or using emphatic or disambiguating pronouns is never grammatically wrong.

    Whether and to what extent redundant pronouns are compulsory and in what circumstance they should be avoided is not something on which I feel I can offer an authoritative opinion. Indeed, Googling suggests that authoritative opinion is divided. The best you can do I think is to give examples of where they are usually employed and which no one considers to be incorrect.
  14. Nino83 Senior Member

    For example in Spanish we have to say te digo a ti while digo a ti is grammatically wrong.
    In this case we don't use a ti to disambiguate the person whom we speak to but also in this case the pronoun te is mandatory.
  15. Peterdg

    Peterdg Senior Member

    Dutch - Belgium
    Yes, and with reason. When the object (direct object or indirect object) appears before the verb, then the duplication is necessary. In "Acostumbro a hablarle a mi perro", the object appears after the verb and hence the duplication is not necessary. In "Esa chamarra la compré el mes pasado"​ the direct object appears before the verb and hence duplication is mandatory.
  16. Nino83 Senior Member

    I think that the real question is why in sentences like te digo a ti, le entrego a él "te" and "le" are mandatory.
    This happens only in Spanish.
  17. Hulalessar Senior Member

    English - England
    Put like that it suggests that the basic form is verb + a + pronoun or that you need pronouns both before and after the verb.

    You can have le digo a él and le digo but not *digo a él. Le digo is the minimum possible and is just the way it is and is only mandatory in the same way that French je lui dis is mandatory.
  18. Beachxhair

    Beachxhair Senior Member

    Manchester UK
    In French, I think both direct and indirect pronouns are necessary, Je le lui dis...
  19. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Yes, but you can also say: je le dis à lui. It puts more weight on the indirect object.
  20. Nino83 Senior Member

    So only in Italian and in Portuguese one can say dico a te, ho dato a lui, digo a ti, dei a ele as in English I tell (it) to him, I gave (it) to him.
    But in French there are a few verbs that allow the construction verb + à + pronoun, for example Il pense à elle (in Spanish piensa en ella, with another preposition).

    Therefore I'd say that this is the only difference because redundant pronouns are allowed and used in all Romance languages.

    Italian and Portuguese allow the structure verb + a + stressed pronoun while Spanish and French (with some exception) allow only the structure (subject) + unstressed pronoun + verb + a/à + stressed pronoun.
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2013
  21. Hulalessar Senior Member

    English - England
    A pronoun is not redundant just because it is preceded by a.
  22. Nino83 Senior Member

    I wouldn't focus on definitions. I may call it repeated pronoun instead of redundant if this closes this formalistic dispute.

    In English, Italian and Portuguese one can say I give the book to you, do il libro a te, dou o livro a ti.
    This construction is not allowed in French and Spanish.

    In all Romance languages one may repeat pronouns when there is a prepositional indirect object pronoun.
  23. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    On the contrary.
    Je te donne le livre : neutral
    Je donne le livre à toi : to you, and to no one else
  24. Nino83 Senior Member

    I'm not understanding.
    Je donne le livre à toi is grammatically correct or not in French?


    I found this page page

    It seems that French doesn't allow this sentence structure.

    On google I've found only 20 results for Je donne le livre à toi.
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2013
  25. Michael Visser New Member

    In order to emphasize the direct or indirect object of a sentence, a redundant object pronoun may be placed before the verb. The redundant pronoun is required when the actual direct or indirect object precedes the verb.

    This redundant object pronoun may be required or simply stylistic.

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