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  • How bilingual verbs are built:evidence from Belizean varieties of contact Spanish
  • Nicté Fuller Medina*

Bilingual Compound Verbs (BCVs) in Spanish-English bilingual speech, as in (1), are made up of the Spanish do-verb (hacer) and an English-origin component which together form a complex predicate.1

(1) Este        pobre        hizo           invest   dinero. 3sg.pret  invest   money
'This poor man invested money.'

It is generally agreed that hacer, 'to do/make', is semantically "light" and has the functional role of carrying grammatical meaning of tense, mood, and aspect, while the English-origin component, invest, carries the weight of semantic meaning (Jenkins 2003; Fuller Medina 2010, 2013; González-Vilbazo and López 2011, 2012). While there is growing consensus that BCVs are little vP structures (Fuller Medina 2007, 2010, 2013; Nakajima 2008; González-Vilbazo and López 2011, 2012), [End Page 122] the internal structure of BCVs has generally not been well studied, and they have been considered by some to exemplify a separate bilingual grammar (Romaine 1995, Muysken 2000) or a new structure (Vergara Wilson 2013), while others consider the English-origin component to be code-switched (González-Vilbazo and López 2011) or simply borrowed (Toribio 2001). Furthermore, only dynamic verbs tend to be reported in do-verb constructions, and Spanish-English BCVs are no exception. These structures are highly productive in Belizean varieties of Spanish (Fuller Medina 2005, 2015; Balam et al. 2014); it would therefore be unexpected to find the virtual absence of a particular verb class. Given this productivity and the assertion in the language-mixing literature that any content word is "fair game" to be borrowed (Poplack 1993: 277), the observation that BCVs appear almost exclusively with dynamic English verbs is somewhat puzzling.

The proposal

As the discussion will show, appealing to a separate bilingual grammar to account for BCVs is unnecessary (González-Vilbazo and López 2011, MacSwan 2012). I assume instead that the English-origin component is somehow integrated into Spanish–that is, borrowed– and it is this "somehow" that I attempt to specify. Data shows that BCV hacer is much like the Spanish light verb hacer. It is the phonological spellout of v, retains the lexical meaning 'to do' along with the corresponding lexical-aspectual property of dynamicity, and it predicates jointly with its complement (Fuller Medina 2007, 2010, 2013; González-Vilbazo and López 2011; Vergara Wilson 2013). However, it does less of the functional work, with its main role being to carry the requisite Spanish inflectional morphology and to specify the doing of V. While the English component in BCVs has been analyzed as a nominal, bare verb, or infinitive (González-Vilbazo and López 2011, Vergara Wilson 2013), I argue that in Spanish-English BCVs, it is inserted into the structure as a full verb. Thus, the English component brings in argument structure with v as part of its structure. Consequently, BCVs are split vP structures where the roles of v are divided between two separate heads.

Furthermore, I rely on well-known proposals that verbs are composed of different flavours or types of little v and a root, and that the lexical-aspectual properties of the root and v must be compatible for verb formation (Cuervo 2003; Folli and Harley 2004, 2007; Harley 2009). I suggest that such a compatibility requirement may be a requisite for BCVs as well. Cast within this type of analysis, the observation that statives are rare in Spanish-English BCVs can be better understood as an incompatibility between some residual dynamic property of the light verb (hacer) and a little vBE on stative complements. Thus, I examine BCV constructions using well-known observations in the literature on verb composition and light verbs, with the aim to better understand how English verbs are borrowed and to shed light on the rarity of stative BCVs.

The remainder of the squib is organized as follows: A brief description of the data is presented in section 1.1. The theoretical assumptions are laid out in section 2, followed by section 3, which introduces the proposed analysis of the structure of BCVs...


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