Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Hispanic & Luso-Brazilian Literatures & Languages


Ricardo Otheguy

Committee Members

Laura Callahan

Marcel den Dikken

Eva Fernández

Subject Categories

Spanish and Portuguese Language and Literature


This dissertation is a variationist sociolinguistic analysis of the variable word order and prosody of copular constructions (Nicolás es feliz versus Feliz es Nicolás, Es Nicolás feliz, Es feliz Nicolás, ‘Nicolas is happy’) in the Spanish of first- and second-generation Spanish-English bilinguals in New York City (henceforth NYC). The data used for the study come from a spoken corpus of Spanish in NYC based on 140 sociolinguistic interviews (details of the corpus will be presented in Chapter Three). This dissertation addresses the question of whether secondgeneration bilinguals have a less flexible word order in Spanish as a result of their increased use of, and contact with, English, where a more fixed order prevails.

We will show that the informants in the present study, like their peers in Los Angeles and other parts of the US, exhibit a more rigid word order compared to their first-generation peers. We have established that this increase in rigidity of word order among the second-generation can be attributed in large part to their increased use of and contact with English. The studies mentioned above have interpreted their results to mean that these speakers are losing or have lost the discourse pragmatic constraints that govern word order. However, the data here show that the first- and second-generation speakers in the present study share many of the same conditioning variables and constraints for word order, although these variables appear to account for a smaller amount of variance among the second-generation. In this way, we have established that the second-generation is not losing the discourse pragmatic constraints that govern word order, but that they are differently sensitive to these constraints. In fact, we show that secondgeneration speakers are very capable of communicating the pragmatic functions that the firstgeneration speakers do using word order because they maintain the prosodic details of their firstgeneration counterparts. In other words, the second-generation communicates these functions in ways that are slightly different from the first-generation, relying more on prosodic resources than syntactic ones. Furthermore, the data indicate that their prosodic patterns are not modeled after the prosody of English. In general terms we show that the second-generation does not have a different grammar from their first-generation counterparts, as is claimed by other researchers. Instead we show that these speakers favor certain first-generation strategies over others.


Digital reproduction from the UMI microform.