Date of Degree

2-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Hispanic & Luso-Brazilian Literatures & Languages

Advisor

Ricardo Otheguy

Committee Members

Laura Callahan

José del Valle

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Spanish and Portuguese Language and Literature | Spanish Linguistics

Keywords

subject pronoun, co-referential clauses, Spanish, discourse theme, functional linguistics Columbia School Linguistics, PRESEEA-México

Abstract

This dissertation examines subject expression in co-referential clauses in Spanish from a functional and discourse perspective. The purpose of this quantitative and qualitative investigation is to provide a strategy of communication that accounts for the presence or absence of subject expression in the second clause of a co-referential clausal sequence. Specifically, it is proposed that that subject expression, in this environment, is a discourse strategy for the use of the meanings of the personal pronouns and nominal phrases available for the speaker’s communicative purposes, and that this discourse strategy forestalls the competition for the status of discourse theme in the presence of competitors in the context. The meaning of the personal pronouns used in this study is the one proposed by Columbia School of Linguistics, that of In-Focus. The analysis employs the constructs of discourse theme and discourse theme competitor and the unit of analysis is (taken to be) the thematic passage. This investigation demonstrates that for co-referential clausal sequences whose syntactic subject is the discourse theme of the thematic passage, the overt expression of a subject pronoun in the second of a co-referential clause sequence is due to the fact that the discourse theme is threatened by other referential entities within the thematic passage that could become the discourse theme of the discourse. Said differently, the most prominent referent of the discourse requires explicit forms, that is pronouns and nominal phrases, to signal that prominence, most especially in situations in which its status as a discourse theme is threatened by locally salient referents. Conversely, results also showed that for co-referential clausal sequences whose syntactic subject is the discourse theme of the thematic passage, the non-overt expression of the subject pronoun in the second co-referential can be explained with respect to the absence of competitors in the passage. In short, findings support an interpretation of subject expression in the second of two co-referential clauses as a discourse strategy for employing the meanings of the personal pronouns (In-Focus) and nominal phrases and that this discourse strategy forestalls the competition for the status of the discourse theme in the presence of competitors in the thematic passage.

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