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Spanish in Context

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ISSN 1571-0718
E-ISSN 1571-0726


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  • Perseveration of subject expression across regional dialects of Spanish
    • Authors: Richard Cameron, and Nydia Flores-Ferrán
    • Source: Spanish in Context, Volume 1, Issue 1, 2004, pages: 41 –65
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    • Models of communication strictly as a function of intention and control founder when confronted by variationist findings of perseveration at different levels of linguistic structure in use. When Poplack (1981) finds that Spanish [s] leads to more [s] and that “zeros lead to zeros,” it is unclear how speaker intention is involved. But, it is clear that what a speaker says at one point will influence what this same speaker says next. Here we identify perseveration of pronominal and null subjects in three dialects of Spanish: Madrid, San Juan, and New York City. In null subject Spanish, expression of subject pronouns leads to more pronouns, and expression of null subjects leads to more nulls. We argue that a perspicuous account of perseveration may be found within Spreading-Activation Theory (Dell 1986), a psycholinguistic theory of production based on speech errors. Thus, this work integrates quantitative dialect description with psycholinguistic explanation.
  • Overt nonspecific Ellos in Spanish in New York
    • Authors: Naomi Lapidus Shin, and Ricardo Otheguy
    • Source: Spanish in Context, Volume 2, Issue 2, 2005, pages: 157 –174
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    • In general Spanish, references to nonspecific third-person plurals are usually made by means of a verb occurring with the null form of the subject pronoun, as in llamaron del banco, rather than by means of a verb occurring with the overt form of the subject pronoun. In contrast to the position in this discussion, the literature presents null pronouns in these nonspecific 3pl contexts as resulting from a categorical syntactic rule, when in fact we consider that they are the result of a strong pragmatic constraint: overt ellos for nonspecific references are rare, not ungrammatical. That is, one occasionally does find in the Spanish of Latin America nonspecific 3pl NPs with overt subject pronouns, as in the disfavored but grammatical ellos llamaron del banco. This study, based on a large corpus of sociolinguistic interviews from the CUNY Project on the Spanish of New York, reveals that, among bilinguals in New York City whose exposure to English is intensive, such nonspecific ellos are even more frequent. Three degrees of nonspecificity are recognized in the literature on 3pl nonspecific NPs. Among both contact and non-contact speakers, the use of overt nonspecific ellos increases as nonspecificity decreases, though the absolute numbers are much larger in New York. In this way, the contact dialect is a quantitatively enhanced copy of the qualitatively identical pre-contact variety. Since, as the evidence presented here shows, examples of overt nonspecific ellos are found in Spanish in Latin America, their appearance in Spanish in New York does not represent a radical change in the syntax of contact Spanish; instead, these usages are an example of the familiar situation where contact varieties expand usages that were already incipient in the pre-contact community. Thus, the study would appear to indicate that the use of overt nonspecific ellos in New York represents a quantitative change in the strength of a pragmatic constraint that guides the use of subject pronouns, not a qualitative change in a syntactic rule that governs their use.
  • The acquisition of requests by second language learners of Spanish
    • Author: Derrin Pinto
    • Source: Spanish in Context, Volume 2, Issue 1, 2005, pages: 1 –27
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    • This cross-sectional study in interlanguage pragmatics analyzes the requests employed by English-speaking learners of L2 Spanish, using data collected from university students at four different levels of language learning. The most common request strategies are first identified in a cross-linguistic analysis of Spanish and English and are then compared to the interlanguage data. The requests of lower-level students are found to be more idiosyncratic and pragmatically ambiguous than those of advanced learners, although not necessarily more direct. Advanced learners show signs of improvement, but still rely largely on L1 request behavior. Learners at all levels display more difficulties in areas in which there is cross-linguistic variation between the L1 and L2.
  • Taboo words in teenage talk: London and Madrid girls’ conversations compared
    • Author: Anna-Brita Stenström
    • Source: Spanish in Context, Volume 3, Issue 1, 2006, pages: 115 –138
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    • This paper reports on a corpus-based comparison of the use of taboo words amongst middle/upper class teenage girls in London and Madrid. Two corpora of spontaneous conversation were used for the comparison; these showed that the most frequent words used by both groups had sexual reference, followed by words to do with bodily functions. It also pointed to a higher frequency of taboo words in the London girls’ conversations, while the Madrid girls had a slightly higher preference for sexual words. The qualitative part of the study, which deals with the reasons for teenagers’ use of taboo words and with their various functions in the discourse, reveals that special emphasis is put on phatic use.
  • Reprendiendo y respondiendo a una reprimenda: Similitudes y diferencias entre peruanos y venezolanos
    • Author: Carmen García
    • Source: Spanish in Context, Volume 1, Issue 1, 2004, pages: 113 –147
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    • Este trabajo presenta una comparación y contraste de las estrategias de cortesía usadas por peruanos y venezolanos en la realización de un evento del habla: la reprimenda y la respuesta a la reprimenda. Los resultados demuestran que al reprender, tanto peruanos como venezolanos prefieren el uso de estrategias de cortesía directa y estrategias que amenazan la imagen del interlocutor (específicamente su imagen negativa). Al responder a la reprimenda, se encontraron importantes diferencias entre peruanos y venezolanos. Los peruanos prefieren estrategias de cortesía negativa y estrategias que amenazan su propia imagen (específicamente su imagen negativa) en vez de la del interlocutor. Los venezolanos, por su parte, prefieren nuevamente el uso de estrategias de cortesía directas. Sin embargo, al igual que los peruanos, prefieren amenazar su propia imagen negativa. Los resultados de este estudio destacan las similitudes y diferencias entre estos dos grupos culturales en cuanto a la expresión de poder y solidaridad.
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