Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Ricardo Otheguy

Committee Members

Beatriz Lado

Gita Martohardjono

Subject Categories

Anthropological Linguistics and Sociolinguistics


Sociolinguistics, Spanish, New York City, Generation, Gender, Subjunctive


This dissertation investigates the variable treatment of the Subjunctive in Spanish in New York City. Both Mood choice (Subjunctive versus Indicative) and Linguistic context availability (the presence and absence of Subjunctive-inducing contexts in speech) are studied. Data are from sociolinguistic interviews with 142 informants, stratified with respect to immigrant generation, gender, age, socio-economic status, national origin, etc. Subjunctive rates are analyzed, at the macro-level, in nine linguistic contexts and, at the micro-level, in the four most popular contexts (Modal, Protasis Si, Temporal, and Apodosis Si). Results of bivariate Pearson correlations and Chi-square tests reveal consistent usage patterns of the Subjunctive in all informants; speakers who show a relative preference for the Subjunctive in one context are also Subjunctive-inclined in another context, as well as overall. Different speakers have different preferences for particular linguistic contexts. Results of independent samples t-tests demonstrate that the presence or absence of particular contexts shapes speakers’ Subjunctive rates in two of the most popular contexts, suggesting that Subjunctive rates and Linguistic context availability should be analyzed together. Regression analyses show that women, the young, and the New Yorkers (long-term residents or New York raised) have lower Subjunctive rates than men, the Newcomers and older consultants. These three groups’ greater usage of the Indicative is linked to the composition of their social networks, which largely comprise non-Spanish speakers. These denser contacts with the out-group are held to intensify their social aspirations. Similarly, the messages that some of these same groups convey might also hinge on their standings in the New York City social order. It is posited that group differences may be indicative of a language change in progress.

This study’s methodology and findings contribute to the field of variationist sociolinguistics and have implications for language pedagogy. An exploration of Linguistic context availability represents a new, critical component in an analysis of Subjunctive rates. It was shown that the availability of particular contexts functions as a dependent variable, offering additional insight into speakers’ Subjunctive usage. It was noted that all informants, as well as specific subgroups, have consistent patterns of Subjunctive usage, showing that variation is anything but arbitrary. It was discovered that generation is not the only predictor of Subjunctive usage; other variables (e.g., gender and age) are just as useful. Certain linguistic contexts tend to be more available to New York Raised participants; both of these findings taken together suggest that the grammar of New York Raised speakers is not defective.