Asymmetries between Goal and Source prefixes in Spanish: A structural account from a diachronic perspective

An asymmetry is observed in Spanish between the Goal prefixes a- and en- and the Source prefix des-: while the former are not productively adjoined to verbal bases, the latter felicitously attaches to verbs in order to encode Source-oriented transition events. From a diachronic standpoint, it is shown that this asymmetry was not present in Latin, and that it was triggered by the evolution from a satellite-framed system (rich in prefixed verbs able to encode a Manner Co-event in the verbal root) to a verb-framed one (whose prefixed verbs can only encode an abstract Ground in the root of the verb). The different behaviour of a- and en-, on the one hand, and des-, on the other, can be accounted for by taking into consideration the different conceptual and structural complexity of Goal paths and Source paths. The present study offers a nanosyntactic analysis of the observed asymmetry which, in addition, fits the Goal bias and naturally explains the linear order in which Spanish directional prefixes appear in multi-prefixed verbs ​
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