Extending the notion of contrast and the scope of felicity

Spanish null subjects in contrastive contexts


  • Philip Limerick Centre College




felicity, pragmatics, subject pronouns, contrast, corpus linguistics


There is debate among linguists as to whether overt subject pronouns (SPs) are pragmatically obligatory in contrastive contexts. While many authors would argue that overt SPs are necessary to maintain a pragmatically felicitous utterance (e.g. Cameron 1995; Silva-Corvalán 1994; Solomon 1999; Mayol 2010; Posio 2011), numerous researchers have challenged this view (e.g. Enríquez 1984; Schwenter 2002; Amaral & Schwenter 2005; Otheguy & Zentella 2012; Travis & Torres Cacoullos 2012). The current study explores these contexts in further detail using spoken corpus data from Mexican Spanish. Through a qualitative analysis of contrastive environments in the discourse of 20 speakers, numerous cases of contrast are analyzed in terms of SP use, type of contrast conveyed, and pragmatic (in)felicity. The data demonstrate that there are several contrastive contexts that permit the use of null SPs, further corroborating previous studies. Furthermore, the analysis moves beyond existing research by revealing additional contrastive contexts not here-to-fore discussed in the literature (to my knowledge), which engender the establishment of new types of contrast, a broadening of the notion of contrast, and an extension of the scope of pragmatic felicity.


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How to Cite

Limerick, P. (2023). Extending the notion of contrast and the scope of felicity: Spanish null subjects in contrastive contexts. Borealis – An International Journal of Hispanic Linguistics, 12(1), 123–139. https://doi.org/10.7557/