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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.
  • Symbolic power in the heritage language classroom: How Spanish heritage speakers sustain and resist hegemonic discourses on language and cultural diversity
    • Author: Rachel Elizabeth Showstack
    • Source: Spanish in Context, Volume 9, Issue 1, 2012, pages: 1 –26
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    • This study examined classroom discourse in two Spanish language courses for Spanish-English bilingual students at a large university in central Texas, in order to investigate the ways that participants used language to construct their linguistic and cultural identities. The study found that students’ identities as bilinguals are linked to socially constructed discourses on the value of different language varieties and cultural experiences that draw from an oversimplification of the reality of the sociolinguistic world. Participants constructed essentialized categories of different kinds of U.S. Hispanics, often assuming an essential connection between language and identity. Students constructed their identities by positioning themselves and others within these categories and by constructing their language skills and cultural backgrounds as either a value or a deficit. Results suggest the need to further develop methodologies for raising heritage language learners’ consciousness about the heteroglossic nature of the social world.
  • Natural speech vs. elicited data: A comparison of natural and role play requests in Mexican Spanish
    • Author: J. César Félix-Brasdefer
    • Source: Spanish in Context, Volume 4, Issue 2, 2007, pages: 159 –185
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    • This study investigates issues of reliability and validity in pragmatics research and examines the extent to which role-play data approximate naturally-occurring discourse with respect to the content and frequency of requests in Mexican Spanish. The data were gathered from naturally-occurring conversations and field notes in a wide array of contexts and included requests from males and females in formal and informal situations. The results of the current study indicate that natural data represent the most valid way of observing different aspects of speech-act (verbal and non-verbal) behavior in social interaction, as there are various types of request forms that cannot be generated if one follows the role-play path. However, open role plays, if constructed with sufficient contextual information, may offer some advantages over natural data in that they have the potential of eliciting interactional data for research purposes while controlling for various sociolinguistic variables.
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