Focus on speaker subjective involvement in Present Perfect grammaticalization: Evidence from two spanish varieties

José Esteban Hernández

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Present Perfect; Subjectivity; Variation; Narrative Clauses


As part of a widespread inclination in languages that draws attention to particular chunks of information over others, the variation of Present Perfect (PP) and Preterit (Pret) in Spanish provides speakers with an effective mechanism that projects one particular past event over others in narrative. In oral data from El Salvador and written data from colonial Mexico, the use of PP in narrative clauses is a practical device that speakers exploit to make certain events stand out to the interlocutor. And just as languages use special components -such as intonation, word order, and morphology- to make chunks of information more prominent, these varieties use PP and Pret variation to make temporal and psychological degrees of proximity and remoteness evident to the interlocutor. The breach of PP into narratives seems to be the product of a stylistic recourse with notable cognitive consequences that enhance the speaker's involvement in discourse. Through a grammaticalization process in which PP acquires readings more reminiscent of the Pret's function as a perfective gram, the PP form is reinterpreted as a valid form in those contexts previously reserved for Pret. In short, PP draws attention to greater speaker's affective closeness to the event, while Pret enhances detachment and dissociation.


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