17. The impact of linguistic constraints on the expression of futurity in the Spanish of New York Colombians

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Language contact often acts as a catalyst of language change. However, according to Guy's (2000) theory, the linguistic factors constraining language change and variation are consistent within different segments of a speech community. In this study, after determining the distribution of the morphological future, the periphrastic future, and the simple present as they are used to express futurity by New York Colombians, I identify the statistically significant linguistic factors most strongly affecting this distribution and explain their impact. Additionally, I test Guy's (2000) theory by contrasting these results to those from a comparable monolingual population based in Colombia. The data explored in this study was extracted from sociolinguistic interviews with twenty (ten men and ten women) Colombian residents of the New York City area. At the time of the data collection, their ages ranged from 16 to 70 years old, and the length of their stay in the United Stated ranged from five to thirty years. The distribution of forms found is congruent with the reports of the prevalence of the periphrastic future in all varieties of Spanish, including situations where Spanish is in contact with other languages, as well as those regarding the drastic reduction of use of the morphological future as a marker of futurity. The results of this study also revealed the same eight factor groups which significantly constrain the expression of futurity in Colombia. These findings lend validity to Guy's theory. That is, the similarity of constraint effects found in New York and in Colombia suggests that, despite the influence of language contact, the two populations are still members of the same speech community. Additionally, the results of this study indicate that the change in progress from the preferential use of the morphological future to that of the periphrastic future seems to have been accelerated in the immigrant setting. These results help explain other instances of morphosyntactic variation, especially those involving analytic and synthetic variants. Furthermore, these findings augment our knowledge of language variation and change in Spanish as well as in all Romance languages.


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