Variable subject pronoun expression revisited: This is what the Paisas do

Rafael Orozco, Luz Marcela Hurtado


We explore subject pronoun expression (SPE) in Medellín, Colombia using 4,623 tokens to test eight predictors. The 28% overall pronominal rate found is significantly higher than those in other mainland communities. Grammatical person exerts the greatest conditioning effect, with uno ‘one’ strongly favoring overt subjects. Findings for verb class reveal that speech and cognitive verbs promote overt subjects. However, our in-depth analysis unveils opposing tendencies between different pronominal subject + verb collocations for the same verb. E.g., whereas (yo) soy ‘I am’ strongly favors overt subjects, (ellos) son ‘they are’ favors null subjects. These findings suggest that analyses focusing on infinitives do not constitute the most accurate way to explore verb effects on SPE. Moreover, the effect of age reveals a low pronominal rate among the youngest speakers, a finding that appears to have cognitive and acquisitional implications, as younger speakers would be expected to have higher pronominal rates. In general, this study contributes to expand our knowledge of SPE. Further, the findings regarding age and the lexical effect of the verb open promising research paths.


subject pronoun expression (SPE); sociolinguistics; language variation; Latin American Spanish; Colombian Spanish; lexical effects

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Copyright (c) 2021 Rafael Orozco, Luz Marcela Hurtado

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