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First-Person Plural Subject Pronoun Expression in Mexican Spanish Spoken in Georgia

  • Limerick, Philip P.1
  • 1 Centre College, 40422 , (United States)
Published Article
Studies in Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics
De Gruyter
Publication Date
Sep 16, 2021
DOI: 10.1515/shll-2021-2050
De Gruyter


Variationist research on subject pronoun expression (SPE) in Spanish typically incorporates all grammatical persons/numbers into the same analysis, with important exceptions such as studies focusing exclusively on first-person singular (e.g., Travis, Catherine E. 2005. The yo-yo effect: Priming in subject expression in Colombian Spanish. In Randall Gess & Edward J Rubin (eds.), Selected papers from the 34th Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages (LSRL), 329–349. Amsterdam, Salt Lake City: Benjamins 2004; Travis, Catherine E. 2007. Genre effects on subject expression in Spanish: Priming in narrative and conversation. Language Variation and Change 19. 101–135; Travis, Catherine E. & Rena Torres Cacoullos. 2012. What do subject pronouns do in discourse? Cognitive, mechanical and constructional factors in variation. Cognitive Linguistics 23(4). 711–748), third-person singular (Shin, Naomi Lapidus. 2014. Grammatical complexification in Spanish in New York: 3sg pronoun expression and verbal ambiguity. Language Variation and Change 26. 303–330), and third-person plural subjects (Lapidus, Naomi & Ricardo Otheguy. 2005. Overt nonspecific ellos in Spanish in New York. Spanish in Context 2(2). 157–174). The current study is the first variationist analysis (to the best of my knowledge) to focus solely on first-person plural SPE. It is well-established that nosotros/nosotras exhibits one of the lowest rates of SPE relative to the other persons/numbers; however, factors conditioning its variation are less understood. Conversational corpus data from Mexican Spanish are employed to examine tokens of first-person plural SPE (n=660) in terms of frequency and constraints, incorporating factors such as TMA, switch reference, and verb class in logistic regression analyses. Results suggest that nosotros, like other subjects, is strongly impacted by switch reference and tense-mood-aspect (TMA). However, the TMA effect is unique in that preterit aspect is shown to favor overt nosotros relative to other TMAs, diverging from previous studies. Furthermore, verb class — a factor found to be repeatedly significant in the literature — is inoperative for nosotros. These results suggest that nosotros does not respond to the same factors as other persons/numbers. Additionally, the findings lend support to researchers regarding the importance of studying individual persons/numbers in subject variation research.

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