In standard Spanish, presentational 'haber' (‘there-to-be’) is an impersonal construction: it only takes the third person singular verb-ending and its nominal argument, e.g. mangos ‘mangoes’ in (1), behaves as a direct object. However, there seems to be a growing tendency to establish verb-agreement with the NP (cf. D'Aquino-Ruiz, 2008), which is known as the pluralization of 'haber'. From a construction-grammar perspective (cf. Goldberg 1995, 2006), this could indicate that the singular construction () coexists with a pluralized schema (). I hypothesize that in Caribbean Spanish, this alternation constitutes an ongoing linguistic change from below. Additionally, I present the hypothesis that 'haber' pluralization is constrained by three general cognitive factors: markedness of coding, statistical preemption, and structural priming.
To evaluate these hypotheses, I present a variationist analysis. In three recent samples of the varieties of Havana, Santo Domingo, and San Juan, I trace the grammatical and social distribution of the alternation, in order to establish whether and to which extent the variation points to an ongoing linguistic change from below and an alternation involving two variants of the presentational construction with 'haber' that is constrained by these three general cognitive factors.