Null Subjects in Andalusian Spanish: The Role of Context in Marking Person

By Diana L. Ranson.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The goal of this study is to show how contextual information, in the form of same reference and knowledge, accounts for the vast majority of the 3096 null subjects in a sample of Andalusian Spanish from Puente Genil, a town of 30,000 people located 42 miles south of Córdoba. The specific proposal is that a hearer can identify the referent of a null subject for a verb whenever it is indicated through same reference, that is by having the same subject as the previous verb, or through knowledge, which takes the form textual knowledge, based on information provided by the speaker in the text of the conversation, or extra-textual knowledge, derived from shared or general knowledge or from the situation. The results show that the null subjects of 1604 verbs (52%) are explained through same reference and 1169 (32%) are explained through knowledge. This leaves only 318 null subjects (10% of the total) unexplained once contextual information is taken into account. Thus, contextual information plays an important role in helping hearers identify the referents of null subject verbs.

Keywords: Andalusian Spanish, Puente Genil, Null Subjects, Context, Same Reference, Knowledge, Person Marking, Disambiguation

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 9, Issue 10, pp.49-62. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 777.715KB).

Dr. Diana L. Ranson

Associate Professor of French and Spanish, Department of Romance Languages, University of Georgia, Athens, USA

Diana L. Ranson specializes in historical linguistics and language variation and change of the Romance languages. Her 1989 book, Change and Compensation, compares the weakening of /s/ and its morphological consequences in the Romance languages, especially Italian, French, and Spanish. Her articles on historical linguistics deal with velarization, consonant epenthesis, compound tenses, the relative chronology of voicing and syncope in the history of Spanish, the variation between “aqueste” and “este” in Old Spanish, and subject expression in Old and Middle French. Her variationist analyses of Modern Spanish deal with number and person marking in the wake of /s/ deletion and with demonstrative adjective position. She is also the author of articles on phonological variation in Modern French on liaison, postconsonantal /R/ and /l/ deletion, and word-final schwa in a sample of spontaneous speech recorded in Southern France in 2005 and 2006. Her ongoing book project, Pronoun, Noun and Null Subjects in Spanish: A Total Accounting Approach to Subject Expression, from which this article is taken, combines innovative methods in quantitative pragmatics to explain a speaker’s choice of subject for 4660 verbs in a sample of Modern Andalusian Spanish.

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