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Subject Pronoun Expression in Spanish

Subject Pronoun Expression in Spanish: A Cross-Dialectal Perspective

Ana M. Carvalho
Rafael Orozco
Naomi Lapidus Shin
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Subject Pronoun Expression in Spanish
    Book Description:

    Much recent scholarship has sought to identify the linguistic and social factors that favor the expression or omission of subject pronouns in Spanish. This volume brings together leading experts on the topic of language variation in Spanish to provide a panoramic view of research trends, develop probabilistic models of grammar, and investigate the impact of language contact on pronoun expression.The book consists of three sections. The first studies the distributional patterns and conditioning forces on subject pronoun expression in four monolingual varieties-Dominican, Colombian, Mexican, and Peninsular-and makes cross-dialectal comparisons. In the second section, experts explore Spanish in contact with English, Maya, Catalan, and Portuguese to determine the extent to which each language influences this syntactic variable. The final section examines the acquisition of variable subject pronoun expression among monolingual and bilingual children as well as adult second language learners.

    eISBN: 978-1-62616-171-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Ricardo Otheguy
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xxvi)
    Ana M. Carvalho, Rafael Orozco and Naomi Lapidus Shin

    Research on structured linguistic variation suggests that usage patterns are deeply embedded in speakers’ knowledge of grammar: While speakers of the same language may vary widely in how much or how often they use a particular linguistic variant, usage patterns reveal sensitivity to a shared set of conditioning factors or constraints (e.g., Guy 1997; 2011; Otheguy and Zentella 2012; Tagliamonte 2012, 13; Torres Cacoullos and Travis 2011). Yet there remain several outstanding questions regarding structured variation, such as: What is the nature of this variable component of grammar? Is it consistent across speakers of a language? Is variable grammar susceptible...

  5. Part I: Subject Pronoun Expression in Monolingual Varieties of Spanish

    • 1 Variation of Overt and Null Subject Pronouns in the Spanish of Santo Domingo
      (pp. 3-16)
      Gabriela G. Alfaraz

      The high frequency of overt subject pronouns in varieties of Caribbean Spanish (Cameron 1992; Hochberg 1986; Morales 1989) has received great attention within variationist sociolinguistic and other quantitative-oriented work. While studies of linguistic and social constraints on subject pronoun expression (SPE) in Caribbean varieties have dominated the discussion (Avila-Jiménez 1995; Cameron 1992; Hochberg 1986; Morales 1989, 1997; Otheguy and Zentella 2012), the increasing frequency of overt subject pronouns as a change in progress (Cameron 1993; Lunn 2002; Morales 1989, 1997; Toribio 2000) is a question that has drawn considerably less attention.

      Comparative work has demonstrated the high frequency of overt...

    • 2 Pronominal Variation in Colombian Costeño Spanish
      (pp. 17-38)
      Rafael Orozco

      Variable pronominal usage is a morphosyntactic feature that Spanish inherited from Latin. Consequently, as with all other pro-drop languages, pronominal subjects are variably present in Spanish. That is, speakers consistently alternate between overt and null pronominal subject expression, as illustrated in (1), taken from the data for the present study.

      (1)Yo sí tengo el interéh, pero es que {Ø} no tengo tiempo.[BM07016]¹

      ‘I do have the interest, but it’s that [I] don’t have time.’

      As shown throughout this volume and in numerous prior studies, pronominal rates differ dialectally—with higher overt pronoun rates in the Caribbean than in...

    • 3 Subject Pronoun Expression in Oral Mexican Spanish
      (pp. 39-58)
      Yolanda Lastra and Pedro Martín Butragueño

      Research exploring presence versus absence of subject personal pronouns (SPPs) in Spanish rests on a solid foundation. The seminal works—Barrenechea and Alonso (1977) on Buenos Aires Spanish, Silva-Corvalán (1982) on Mexican– American Spanish in West Los Angeles (WLA), Morales (1982) on Puerto Rican Spanish, Bentivoglio (1980, 1987) on Caracas Spanish—examined some of the variables commonly tested in most subsequent studies: switch reference, ambiguity, verb type, among others. Moreover, the advent of regression analyses helped establish comparisons between frequencies and statistical probabilities since the 1970s. While subject pronoun expression (SPE) research has been abundant, it has traditionally explored two...

    • 4 Subject Pronoun Usage in Formulaic Sequences: Evidence from Peninsular Spanish
      (pp. 59-78)
      Pekka Posio

      It is well known on the basis of previous research that the expression of Spanish subject personal pronouns (SPPs) shows different rates with different verb lexemes. For instance, mental verbs have been found to favor subject pronoun expression (SPE) in Peninsular Spanish (e.g., Enríquez 1984; Aijón Oliva and Serrano 2010; Posio 2011, 2013, 2014) as well as in American varieties (e.g., Morales 1997; Otheguy, Zentella, and Livert 2007; Travis and Torres Cacoullos 2012). The high rate of SPP expression has been attributed to the speakers’ desire to emphasize the subjects of verbs “expressing opinions” or the allegedly recurrent use of...

  6. Part II: Subject Pronoun Expression in Spanish in Contact with Other Languages

    • 5 Foundations for the Study of Subject Pronoun Expression in Spanish in Contact with English: Assessing Interlinguistic (Dis)similarity via Intralinguistic Variability
      (pp. 81-100)
      Rena Torres Cacoullos and Catherine E. Travis

      Subject expression has been considered a paradigmatic case for grammatical convergence in studies of US Spanish, as bilinguals are thought to associate Spanish and English subject pronouns. The overwhelming preference for expressed subjects in English is thus predicted to boost the rate of expressed subjects in contact-Spanish varieties. But is Spanish subject expression an appropriate linguistic variable to ascertain convergence? A “prerequisite” to analyzing contact-induced change, as Weinreich (1968, 2) stressed, is that “the differences and similarities between the languages in contact […] be exhaustively stated.” In this chapter, we offer such a statement of interlinguistic grammatical comparability, by probing...

    • 6 Subject Pronoun Expression in Contact with Maya in Yucatan Spanish
      (pp. 101-120)
      Jim Michnowicz

      The Spanish of Yucatan has been consistently identified in the literature as a distinct variety of Mexican Spanish, primarily based on phonetic differences (Lope Blanch 1987; Michnowicz, in press). Many of these features have been attributed, rightly or wrongly, to contact with an indigenous language, Yucatec Maya (Michnowicz, in press; Klee 2009). Morphosyntactic properties in Yucatan Spanish, including subject pronoun expression (SPE), have been much less studied (Michnowicz, in press; Solomon 1999 is an important exception). As is widely known, Spanish is classified as a pro-drop language; the phrasesél vive and ø vive‘he lives’ are both possible syntactic...

    • 7 First Person Singular Subject Pronoun Expression in Spanish in Contact with Catalan
      (pp. 121-142)
      Ana de Prada Pérez

      The study of subject personal pronoun expression (SPE) has attracted the attention of scholars from several subfields of linguistics. Syntactic theoretical accounts, dating back to Perlmutter (1971), differentiate between languages that require the presence of an overt subject (non-null subject languages), like English, and those that allow for an empty category (e.g., Spanish, Italian, Catalan, Greek, etc.), known aspro-drop(pronoun-dropping, or null subject) languages. The focus in these formal approaches lies on the parametric variation attested across languages regarding the availability of null pronominal subjects. However, the alternation between null and overt pronominal subjects, which is available only with...

    • 8 Subject Pronoun Expression in Spanish in Contact with Portuguese
      (pp. 143-166)
      Ana M. Carvalho and Ryan M. Bessett

      It is generally believed that typologically similar languages in long-term contact situations tend to converge grammatically (Muysken 2000, 2006; Thomason and Kaufman 1988), because the more similar the sentence structures are, the easier it is to mix the two languages, which may promote the suppression of syntactic differences (Muysken 2006, 157). Spanish and Portuguese present abundant structural and lexical parallels, which in theory should lead to grammatical convergence in bilingual situations. The long-term coexistence of Spanish and Portuguese in bilingual communities in northern Uruguay along the Brazilian border offers an ideal context for testing this assumption from a variationist viewpoint,...

  7. Part III: Subject Pronoun Expression in Contexts of Acquisition

    • 9 The Emergence of Structured Variability in Morphosyntax: Childhood Acquisition of Spanish Subject Pronouns
      (pp. 169-190)
      Naomi Lapidus Shin and Daniel Erker

      Spanish subject pronoun expression (e.g.,yo bailo ~ Ø bailo‘I dance’) has been so widely studied that Bayley et al. (2012) have recently called it the “showcase variable” of Spanish sociolinguistics. This description is due, in part, to the fact that the pronominal behavior of Spanish-speaking adults routinely demonstrates a hallmark feature of structured linguistic variation: While individuals and communities may vary widely in their overall rates of use of a particular variant—here, the use of a subject pronoun with a finite verb—patterns of usage reveal sensitivity to a shared set of conditioning factors (e.g., Cameron 1992,...

    • 10 Variable Subject Expression in Second Language Spanish: Uncovering the Developmental Sequence and Predictive Linguistic Factors
      (pp. 191-210)
      Kimberly Geeslin, Bret Linford and Stephen Fafulas

      As the breadth of the current volume indicates, the (non) expression of verbal subjects in Spanish is of great interest. Such inquiry is not limited to the expression of subjects by native speakers, but also includes research on the expression of subjects by second language (L2) learners. Such investigations take place at the intersection of L2 acquisition research and research on sociolinguistic variation and thus contribute to both fields. One of the central goals of this cross-disciplinary research is to understand the path through which language develops among L2 speakers, using tools from sociolinguistics to describe the changes in rates...

    • 11 The Acquisition of Grammatical Subjects by Spanish–English Bilinguals
      (pp. 211-230)
      Carmen Silva-Corvalán

      A crucial question posed by studies of bilingual first language acquisition (BFLA or 2L1) concerns the causes of crosslinguistic influence. Studies share the same insight that although the languages of a bilingual develop on the whole autonomously, bilinguals show signs of crosslinguistic influence or transfer. This influence may be manifested in the acceleration or delay in the acquisition of some constructions that do or do not have parallels in the contact language, in a higher frequency of a parallel construction compared to a monolingual variety, or in the production of non-target constructions not attested in monolingual acquisition. Researchers have examined...

    • 12 Subject Expression in Bilingual School-age Children in the United States
      (pp. 231-248)
      Silvina Montrul and Noelia Sánchez-Walker

      This chapter presents the results of a cross-sectional study investigating subject expression in Spanish–English bilingual children or child heritage speakers with specific focus on overt and null subjects, pronominal subjects, and the distribution of null and overt subjects by reference in discourse context. The termheritage speakeris widely used in the United States to refer to young adult early bilinguals who grow up exposed to a minority language, typically an immigrant language; in this study we use the term to refer to school-age children as well. The heritage language often develops under reduced input conditions due to pressure...

  8. Contributors
    (pp. 249-252)
  9. Index
    (pp. 253-258)