Learning unaccusativity: Evidence for split intransitivity in child Spanish


  • Victoria Mateu University of California, Los Angeles http://orcid.org/0000-0002-3170-4444
  • Laurel Perkins University of California, Los Angeles
  • Nina Hyams University of California, Los Angeles




language acquisition, Spanish, split intransitivity, unaccusativity


We examine four features of unaccusativity in child-directed and child Spanish to determine what cues children might use to distinguish unaccusative and unergative verbs. Two are cross-linguistic lexico-semantic features: Subjects of unaccusatives are patients so we expect more inanimate subjects with unaccusatives; and unaccusatives tend to have an endpoint, hence may occur more frequently with perfective aspect. The other two are language-specific morphosyntactic features: VS order is grammatical with unaccusatives but not unergatives, and many unaccusative verbs allow/require the anticausative se clitic. We find all four features robustly in children's input and that even 1-2-year-olds show discriminate use of them.

Author Biography

  • Victoria Mateu, University of California, Los Angeles

    Assistant Professor

    UCLA Spanish & Portuguese Department





How to Cite

Mateu, Victoria, Laurel Perkins, and Nina Hyams. 2023. “Learning Unaccusativity: Evidence for Split Intransitivity in Child Spanish”. Proceedings of the Linguistic Society of America 8 (1): 5557. https://doi.org/10.3765/plsa.v8i1.5557.