Childhood reminiscence

I received a email from an old Spanish teacher today. It was a very unexpected pleasure. He knew that I was doing research in linguistics and in addition to congratulating me, he said that he was proud to have played a part in my education in Spanish which led to where I am today. I immediately replied thanking him not only for teaching me Spanish at school and laying the foundations for what I am doing now, but also for one little piece of information he gave me when I was in the fourth form (Year 10) at school. It was in the summer of 2002, at the end of my fourth form, when I was doing my Spanish homework and wrote this: he visto Juan ‘I have seen Juan’. I was absolutely certain that Juan was the direct object of the verb he visto and hence did not need the preposition ‘a’ (cf English ‘to’). My old Spanish teacher corrected me and told me that it should have been ‘he visto A Juan’, since he explained to me that human/animate objects in Spanish always required the preposition ‘a’. This was a big revelation to me and has since played a big part in my work. I have done a lot of work on Romance Differential Object Marking in recent years, namely the use of preposition ‘a’ in marking human/animate as well as other types of direct objects, and I have presented my work on this phenomenon at numerous prestigious international conferences (Cambridge Ibero-Romance conference (2012), Oxford Ibero-Romance symposium (2013), Going Romance, University of Amsterdam (2013)). All this stems from one small detail in my homework correction by my Spanish teacher. It is funny how these moments in one’s early life can change the acourse of the rest of one’s life.

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