On variable object marking and cognitive salience

The use of central syntactic objects—in traditional functional terms, direct and indirect ones—is a rich source of formal and meaningful variation in Spanish, which accords them a prominent position in our current line of research. Together with the fact that they can establish verbal agreement through coreferential clitics under a variety of circumstances, they are also variably indexed with the preposition a (roughly ‘to’) in a rather peculiar fashion.

(1a) Encontré Ø las llaves ‘I found the keys’

(1b) Encontré a mi vecino ‘I found [to] my neighbor’

Variability is usually restricted to contexts with just one central object whose functional-cognitive status can oscillate to an extent. When there are …

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