Subject pronoun expression in Mexican Spanish: ¿Qué pasa en Xalapa?

Rafael Orozco


This study is the first variationist analysis of subject personal pronoun expression (SPE) in the Spanish of Xalapa, Mexico. The overall pronominal rate (25%)—the highest such rate found in Mexican Spanish so far—also constitutes one of the highest in a mainland Spanish variety. Six predictors—four internal and two external—significantly condition SPE. The internal conditioning—congruent with what occurs elsewhere—reveals grammatical number and person of the subject as the strongest predictor. It also shows that verb class has tendencies similar to those found in other communities. However, further analysis uncovers that lexical frequency provides more definite answers regarding how verbs condition SPE, as within the copulative verb class category ser ‘be’ favors overt subjects but estar ‘be’ favors null subjects. Moreover, the unusually robust effect of age sets Xalapa Spanish apart from most other varieties. Interestingly, the pronominal rate among teenagers (11%)—below the lowest overall pronominal rate anywhere—is consistent with what occurs in other Spanish varieties such as Colombian, European, Dominican, and Mexican. These findings call for further research on the effects of verb semantics and age on SPE.


subject pronoun expression (SPE); sociolinguistics; language variation; Latin American Spanish; Mexico

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Copyright (c) 2016 Rafael Orozco

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