University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


Haber + past participle (PP) is an example of a resultative construction that evolved into a perfect form, known as the present perfect. This form derived from the Latin periphrastic perfect, which was “a possessive construction consisting of transitive habere followed by a direct object and agreeing past passive participle” (Lopez-Couso & Seoane 2008: 135-136). It was originally used similarly to tener + PP, which in modern peninsular Spanish may signify the present result of a past action (Harre 1991; Kato 1993), and also shared the same formal characteristics as tener + PP. Furthermore, this construction has grammaticalized as the default past perfective in the peninsular variety of Spanish (Schwenter & Torres Cacoullos 2008), following the perfect to perfective path of grammaticalization (Bybee et al. 1994; Squartini & Bertinetto 2000).

The current study considers whether tener + PP is following the same evolution as haber + PP by diachronically extending into the realm of the perfect. 550 tokens of tener + PP and 1083 of haber + PP were extracted from the Corpus de Referencia del Español Actual (CREA). All tokens were coded for several variables in order to determine if tener + PP expresses any of the four primary uses of the perfect (Dahl 1985:132, Comrie 1976: 56-61). The data were then analyzed using the statistical program Goldvarb X.

Results indicate that tener + PP remains principally a resultative form, as it most frequently occurs with several factors indicative of resultative uses. However, uses of this construction with psychological, perception, and communicative verbs, as well as frequency adverbs, non-specific temporal reference, and without a direct object, are indicative of an extension to perfect uses. These first steps are consistent with accounts of the evolution of the Romance habeo (Pinkster 1987, Vincent 1982, Benveniste 1968) and the Old English perfect (Carey 1994, 1995) from resultative constructions.