Subjunctive and subject pronoun realization: a study of "no creo que"


  • Sophie Harrington University of Toronto
  • Ana Teresa Pérez-Leroux University of Toronto



Spanish, subject pronoun, subjunctive mood, epistemic, contrastive focus, negation


Subjunctive mood in complement clauses is licensed under selection from certain predicates or under the scope of a modal or negation. In contexts where mood choice varies, such as the complement of a negated epistemic verb no creer, it introduces a contrast in interpretation. The subjunctive is thought to contribute to a shift in the modal anchoring of the embedded clause, and is consequently interpreted as indicative of a dissociation between the epistemic models of the speaker and the subject. We provide evidence that these uses also interact with pragmatic context. Given independent claims that 1) the overt realization of first person subject pronouns is contrastive and 2) it generally serves to anchor discourse to the speaker’s perspective and 3) overt use is particularly frequent with epistemic verbs, we examined the interaction between negation, first person subject pronoun realization, and mood of the dependent clause for the verb creer.  An analysis of oral speech from the Proyecto de Habla Culta revealed that for negative sentences (no creo que), yo is overtly realized more frequently for cases with exceptional indicative dependents than for those with canonical subjunctive dependents; there was no association with mood for affirmative uses of creer. These results support analyses where negation has specific scope over the contrastive subject, rather than over the epistemic clause. As a consequence, the matrix proposition remains an assertion and use of indicative complements is licensed.

Author Biographies

Sophie Harrington, University of Toronto

PhD candidate of Hispanic Linguistics

Ana Teresa Pérez-Leroux, University of Toronto

Professor of Spanish and Linguistics




How to Cite

Harrington, S., & Pérez-Leroux, A. T. (2016). Subjunctive and subject pronoun realization: a study of "no creo que". Borealis – An International Journal of Hispanic Linguistics, 5(1), 87–106.