Second person forms of address in New Mexican Spanish, 1687–1936
This study is a diachronic analysis of second person address systems in New Mexican Spanish. The data come from 325 private letters written between 1687 and 1936. The investigation identified several patterns of use involving mostly vuestra merced, vuestra señoría, usted and tú. It shows that usted and tú were already in full currency in the spoken colonial dialect. In addition, the distribution of forms in this corpus illustrates the connection between language use and social change, which becomes particularly evident starting in the early 19th century. These findings confirm that the local use of forms of address in different periods encoded varying degrees of power, solidarity and social distance, and was shaped by the immediate sociocultural environment of the speakers.