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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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4. The development of socio-communicative styles in discourse 143

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4. The development of socio-communicative styles in discourse Building on the discursive and pragmatic analysis of pronoun subjects carried out in Chapter 3, the present chapter will address the relation- ship between form-meaning variation and the construction of style in social contexts. First, Section 4.1 resumes the discussion about the status of linguistic meaning in sociolinguistic and stylistic analysis (cf. §1.3). It then addresses the continuum between subjectivity and objec- tivity as a basic explanatory dimension of grammatical variability, and to which we already alluded several times across the previous chapter. Section 4.2 forms the core of the analysis, with the investigation of stylistic management through three different features of speaker iden- tity that become apparent in our corpora – sex/gender, communicative stance and socio-professional ascription. Many quantitative and quali- tative data will be reviewed in order to elucidate how the inherent meanings of syntactic choices contribute to the shaping of particular ways of speaker self-presentation, and how this is reflected on quanti- tative patterns of linguistic usage. In Section 4.3, the conclusions of the stylistic analysis are summed up. 4.1 Meaning and style. The subjectivity-objectivity axis Style arises from the meanings generated by communicative choices, linguistic choices being but a subset – even if probably the most im- portant one – of all those available to people in their interactions. As stated from the beginning of this work, linguistic variants are not merely formal alternatives, but rather form-meaning compounds. The construction of a theory of linguistic variation and style should start from...

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