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Style in syntax

Investigating variation in Spanish pronoun subjects

Series:

Miguel Ángel Aijón Oliva and Maria José Serrano Montesinos

This book merges variationist sociolinguistics, discourse analysis and cognitive science into a new, comprehensive approach to variation in syntax. It is based on a view of grammatical constructions as creative stylistic choices that generate particular meanings in context. This can be so because linguistic variants – traditionally regarded as synonymous forms differing only in ‘extralinguistic’ significance – are based on cognition and reflect human perceptions of real-world events. The analysis of the variable expression and placement of Spanish pronoun subjects will show that not only the intrinsic referential values of pronouns, but also their formal arrangement within the clause, may affect the contextual interpretation of utterances and discourse. Besides, social and pragmatic factors will not be approached as predefined external variables constraining the occurrence of syntactic variants, but rather as dynamic features whose meaning is incorporated into that of the linguistic form. In other words, language and any other social semiotic systems will be seen as co-constitutive. The book aims to take an important step towards the configuration of a scientific theory of variation.

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Contents 5

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Contents Acknowledgements .............................................................................. 9 1. Advancing the study of syntactic variation ................................... 11 1.1 Beyond synonymy in syntactic variation. Meaning, discourse and pragmatics ....................................................... 13 1.1.1 Linguistic diversity, the variationist approach and its application to the study of morphosyntax ........ 13 1.1.2 Grammatical meaning and some related problems...... 15 1.1.3 The road to solution: different ways to say different things ............................................................ 19 1.1.4 Meaningful vs. non-meaningful variation? ................. 24 1.2 The cognitive foundations of syntactic variation ................... 26 1.2.1 Cognitivism as a theoretical basis for variation studies ........................................................... 26 1.2.2 The main explanatory notions ..................................... 31 1.3 Communication, style, and syntax ......................................... 35 1.3.1. Structural-responsive models of style ......................... 36 1.3.2. Initiative models of style ............................................. 38 1.3.3. Towards a theoretical concept of socio-communicative style ........................................... 42 1.4 Conclusion: Some basic principles of syntactic variation and style ...................................................... 45 2. Corpora and methodology ............................................................. 47 2.1 The corpora ............................................................................ 48 2.1.1 Corpus Conversacional del Español de Canarias (CCEC) ........................................................................ 49 2.1.2 Corpus de Lenguaje de los Medios de Comunicación de Salamanca (MEDIASA) .................. 50 2.2 Variation and textual genre .................................................... 51 2.3 Variation and social factors ................................................... 56 2.3.1 Speaker socio-professional ascription ......................... 56 2.3.2 Speaker communicative stance ................................... 58 2.3.3 Speaker sex/gender ...................................................... 60 2.4 Relative variables .................................................................. 61 6 2.5 Absolute variables ................................................................. 64 2.6 The need for qualitative analysis ........................................... 68 3. Variation and meaning in Spanish pronoun subjects .................... 71 3.1 The syntax of Spanish pronoun subjects ............................... 72 3.1.1 The cognitive status of personal pronouns. Pronoun subjects and their syntactic variability .......... 72 3.1.2 General quantitative data ............................................. 77 3.2 First-person singular yo ......................................................... 79 3.2.1 The indexation of the speaker in discourse ................. 79...

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