Towards a historical dialectal approach to Differential Object Marking in Catalan


  • Anna Pineda Universitat de Barcelona



Differential Object Marking, Diachrony, Old Catalan, Historical dialectology


This paper offers a description of the emergence and development of Differential Object Marking (DOM) in Old Catalan, focusing on the perspective of historical dialectology and thus paying special attention to the dialectal differences that emerge. It does so by means of a large corpus study comprising the period from the first written texts to the 18th century. Although, in present-day Catalan, DOM is widespread with human direct objects in most dialects, its use is generally rejected by prescriptive grammar, as the phenomenon has often been attributed to Spanish influence. However, diachronic findings point to an analysis of DOM in Catalan as a fruit of the internal evolution of the language: instances of the phenomenon with human direct objects are found in earlier Catalan texts. Spanish influence (related to a series of sociopolitical events) only comes into play later, causing an exponential increase of the frequency of DOM in Catalan. Interestingly, consistent geolectal differences can be observed when analysing Old Catalan texts, with Valencian texts offering the highest number of occurrences. In this context, one must take into consideration the influence of Aragonese in Valencia (people from Aragon repopulated the area) as well as Spanish, whose effects in the Catalan-speaking area became particularly prevalent especially from the 16th century onwards. The conclusions of this study aim to provide empirically and theoretically informed research not only to identify historical dialects within Romance languages – in this case Catalan – but also to pave the way for more studies on historical comparative dialectology. As a matter of fact, in this study, the status of DOM in Old Spanish and Old Aragonese has also been taken into account.