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Style in syntax

Investigating variation in Spanish pronoun subjects


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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Acknowledgements 9


Acknowledgements This book was made possible thanks to the research project “Los esti- los de comunicación y sus bases cognitivas en el estudio de la varia- ción sintáctica en español” (FFI2009-07181/FILO), funded by the Spanish Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación and Ministerio de Eco- nomía y Competitividad between 2010 and 2012. The purpose of this project was to develop an explanatory approach to syntactic variation, its cognitive correlates and its potential for the creation of socio- communicative styles, taking variability in Spanish first- and second- person subjects as the main topic of research. Many of the results ob- tained in the course of the investigation are presented and discussed across the present volume. We gratefully acknowledge the feedback and support provided during these years by a number of scholars working on linguistic vari- ation and related research fields who gave some advice and assistance at some point along the way; among them Douglas Biber (Northern Arizona University), José Luis Blas Arroyo (Universitat Jaume I), Nikolas Coupland (Cardiff University), Nicole Delbecque (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven), Dirk Geeraerts (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven) and Rena Torres Cacoullos (Pennsylvania State University). We are also grateful for all the inspiring ideas we have found in the works of Erica García and Beatriz Lavandera.

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