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The Spanish mood/subordination/reference interface.


Traditional grammars such as Bello (1981), Real Academia Espanola (1996), Alarcos Llorach (1994, 1999) and Gili Gaya (2002) generally characterize the mood contrast in terms of [+ or -] reality but then counterexamples demand that they modify these semantic claims with syntactic criteria (see Castronovo (1984) for an extensive if not exhaustive review of these traditional approaches). These grammars in general state that speakers tend to distinguish the content of their communication from their attitude, and that this attitude manifested morphemically is what is known as mode. These traditional descriptions, with the exception of Gili Gaya (2002), characterize indicative morphology as the forms capable of following the phrase Creo que, and subjunctive as the forms able to follow the matrix No creo que. According to Castronovo (1984), Bello was the first to analyze mood morphemes in their syntactic environment, thus being the first to apply the Structuralist principle of "distributionalism" to Spanish. Bull (1965) characterizes the mood contrast as one of [+ or -] PERSONAL EXPERIENCE. Gili Gaya (2002: 131), in the introduction to the chapter "Modos del verbo", explains the difference in function between matrix and subordinate clauses when he says that in every sentence comprised of both, with subjunctive in the subordinate we can distinguish between the content of the sentence and the speaker's attitude toward that content. He goes on to assert that we express our subjective attitude toward the verbal situation represented in our utterance by means of grammatical mood. Although he conforms to the convention of citing examples of matrices that portray the content of the subordinate clause as merely possible or as yet unknown, he later devotes some space to one of the foci of this paper: emotion expressed in relation to an event or situation that the speaker considers real and not potential. In contradiction to Gili Gaya's suggestion that grammatical mood is used to express subjective attitude, we will propose that the role of subjunctive morphology in a subordinate clause is to achieve discourse cohesion. The expression of subjective attitude is independent of use of grammatical mood.

Of the grammars mentioned above, only Gili Gaya (2002: 137) mentions the use of subjunctive to mark content the speaker considers real and not potential. He claims that, in these cases, the use of subjunctive is determined only by the affect expressed in the matrix verb. Nevertheless, he recognizes that a subjective response to a realized event or situation does not imply its unreality as in (1.1) below:

(1.1) Me alegro de que hayas venido.

Because que hayas venido represents a completed happening, one might ask why it is expressed in the subjunctive and not the indicative. In anticipation of this question, Gili Gaya proposes two possible explanations. The first suggestion is that since verbs of fear in all tenses (see 1.2) and verbs of emotion in future tense (see 1.3) do not assert the reality of an event or situation and therefore are dubitative by nature, then by analogy the subjunctive is propagated in present and past tense of any verb of affective nature.

(1.2) Temo que no llegaran/ hayan llegado/ lleguen. a tiempo.

(1.3) Me alegro de que vayas a poder asistir.

Gili Gaya's second proposal is that emotion as a subjective state engulfs the whole expression with its affect and thus encourages analogical extension of subjunctive to realized events, situations, and actions. One of the objectives of this paper is to demonstrate that this characterization is the result of considering only decontextualized sentences rather than taking their discourse context into account.

The following paragraphs, which comprise a brief overview of research advocating a pragmatic approach to mood in Spanish, explain one of the Spanish subjunctive's functions--that of communicating the speaker's assessment that the listener has been informed of or otherwise has knowledge of subordinate clause content.

Thirty years of linguistic research on the mood contrast in Spanish have focused on the notions of ASSERTION, NON-ASSERTION, and PRESUPPOSITION. Leaving behind analyses based on LOGICAL PRESUPPOSITION or TRUTH-VALUE (Terrell and Hooper 1974), PRAGMATIC PRESUPPOSITION was embraced as a means of reconciling subjunctive use not explained by the REALIS/ IRREALIS distinction (Lunn 1988, 1989a, 1989b, 1995; Mejias-Bikandi 1994; Sastre-Ruano 1997). A nice synthesis of the notions entailed in my use of the term PRAGMATIC PRESUPPOSITION can be found in Horn (1986: 171). Definitions in this article for the terms ASSERTION and PRESUPPOSITION are taken from Lambrecht (1994: 52), in which PRAGMATIC ASSERTION is a proposition expressed by an utterance that "the hearer is expected to know or take for granted as a result of hearing the sentence uttered". On the other hand, PRAGMATIC PRESUPPOSITION--PRESUPPOSITION from here on- represents one or more propositions expressed in an utterance that the speaker assumes the hearer already knows or is ready to take for granted. If the mood contrast is characterized in terms of [[+ or -]ASSERTION], PRESUPPOSITION as it relates to subjunctive use is -ASSERTIVE. Lavandera (1983: 234) claims that speakers use the subjunctive's [-ASSERTION] function to express propositions they want to consider as only marginal to their arguments. This article departs from Lavandera's claim to argue that, in fact, the mood contrast is a discourse-cohesive device.

We will argue that subjunctive clauses function referentially. Their referential charge can be anaphoric, cataphoric, or exophoric. In other words, their propositional referent (inferable or overt) could be an antecedent, an element of the discourse context, or a foreshadowed event or piece of information (1). For example, definite articles are primarily anaphoric devices since they designate a referent that is already present in the discourse context, physical or textual. On the other hand, indefinite articles introduce a referent to the discourse and thus are primarily cataphoric devices that alert the listener to expect more about that referent in subsequent discourse.

Normally, the GROUNDING effect of anaphora is discussed in terms of nouns or noun phrases; however, Givon (1987: 183) brings into sharp relief the role of adverbial clauses in GROUNDING -or reorientation- in discourse. Given this precedent, we will demonstrate that just as recognized anaphoric devices ground referents in discourse or the discourse context, the Spanish subjunctive grounds propositions. In the following sections, we will (1) review research related to reference, (2) present data analysis (2) including reanalysis of Lavandera's data, (3) discuss the data analysis in terms of the research questions posed in the following section, and (4) offer suggestions for future research on this topic.


Tomlin (1987), also referring to constraints on the speaker's short-term memory, discusses the speaker's attentional resources for focusing on a referent. As a manifestation of a speaker's limited attention span during discourse production, alternation between nouns or noun phrases and pronouns is a function of the allocation of the speaker's attentional faculties. As speakers construct discourse, they use the pronoun to maintain reference to a certain antecedent as long as their attention is sustained on that referent. If a speaker's attentional focus is disrupted, the referent is reactivated by use of a full noun, no matter the distance (measured in clauses or propositions) between consecutive references.

Focus of attention, according to Chafe (1987: 26), is closely related to STATES OF ACTIVATION. When speakers are at the point of expressing what for them is an activated concept, they will have assessed which concepts are also active for the listener. This assessment is what Lambrecht (1994: 53-54) refers to as CONSCIOUSNESS PRESUPPOSITIONS, that is, "the speaker's assumptions about the state of consciousness or awareness of the addressee at the time of utterance". Chafe and Lambrecht coincide in that those concepts judged active for the listener are syntactically marked for shared activation state. In fact, Horn (1986) posits a hierarchy of ASSUMED FAMILIARITY, which is manifested syntactically, comprehending saliency (activation), pragmatic presupposition, and predictability (recoverability from context). The concept of a specialized construction for indicating assumed familiarity is key to this study. Also of importance to the data analysis in this article is that the activation of concepts may inadvertently activate an entire schema, that is, "a cluster of interrelated expectations" (Chafe, 1987: 29) (3). When a schema is activated in a discourse, presumably some, if not all, of these expectations enter the semi-active state in which they are more accessible than they would have been as inactive concepts.

A word is in order here concerning overlapping terminology. Terms referring to shared knowledge include COMMON GROUND or CURRENT DISCOURSE SPACE (Langacker, 1991: 491) or the TEXT-EXTERNAL WORLD (Lambrecht, 1994: 36-37). All refer to a concept that forms the basis of communicative interaction by virtue of containing those elements and relations shared by the speaker and listener at a given point in the discourse (Langacker, 1991: 547). Having said this, "departure from the common ground...", according to Langacker (1991: 491) requires the use of overtly expressed referents rather than anaphoric forms. Since our focus is propositions rather than nominal referents, it also bears mentioning that for Langacker, the grounding of propositions is achieved by means of tense and modality (ibid: 549). In Spanish, not only do we have tense and modality (the formulation of possibility, impossibility, probability, certainty, etc.), we have grammatical mood (manifested through verbal morphemes), which as I argue is also implicated in the grounding of propositions in Spanish. In addition to the above modalities, there is an evaluative modality, that is, presenting a proposition as GIVEN in order to communicate an evaluative attitude. The term GIVEN brings us full circle back to the discussion of common ground. We shall see in the following sections how the notion of current discourse space dictates the form taken by propositions.

Langacker's (1991) notion of departure from the COMMON GROUND can help shape the discussion by providing a framework within which to consider the main themes of Chafe (1987), Givon (1987), and Tomlin (1987). The following is this researcher's vision, taking into consideration the research discussed above, of a COMMON GROUND regarding propositional content.

II.1 Elements of COMMON GROUND

The following are elements of COMMON GROUND for considering the behavior of subjunctive-marked clauses in Spanish:

1) Everything that has been said in the current discourse

2) All knowledge shared by interlocutors by virtue of any previous association

3) The physical surroundings

4) Activation state of proposition for listener and speaker

5) Distance from prior mention of proposition in discourse

6) Degree of ambiguity imposed by the presence of other propositional referents

7) Semantic redundancy of subordinate proposition with that of main clause, resulting in semantic continuity between constituents

8) Thematic redundancy between utterances resulting in thematic continuity in discourse

9) Division of discourse into conversational turns

We will need to keep in mind that Givon (1987), Tomlin (1987), and Chafe (1987) deal with narrative discourse, in which the anaphoric reference predominantly appears in the form of pronouns. By contrast, the present article analyzes argumentative style in which propositions as well as nouns and noun phrases are repeated. Therefore, the behavior of propositional anaphor versus full propositional expression is of major concern here. We have modified Tomlin's (1987) EPISODIC ORGANIZATION since a more logical organizational unit for present analysis is the conversational turn. In addition, preposed adverbial clauses are considered in terms of showing thematic continuity with previous discourse as well as semantic continuity with the main clause (Givon, 1987; Ramsay, 1987).

II.2 Research Questions

What does the current discourse space have to do with the overt expression of a proposition rather than its anaphoric representation? How do we synthesize the concepts 1) activation state, 2) distance from previous mention, 3) degree of ambiguity, 4) semantic and thematic continuity, etc? The questions we will be considering during the analysis are:

1) Do nominal clauses pronominalize under the same conditions as simple nouns and noun phrases?

2) Do adjectival and adverbial clauses also function referentially?

3) What function do subjunctive-marked clauses perform at the discourse level?

In addition to following Lambrecht's (1994) use of the terms ASSERTION and PRESUPPOSITION, we have also found it useful to incorporate his definitions of TOPIC and FOCUS. TOPIC is a pragmatic category such that if in a given situation a proposition expresses information relevant to a referent, that is, increases the addressee's knowledge of said referent, the referent is interpreted as the TOPIC of the proposition (ibid: 131). By contrast, FOCUS, also a pragmatic category, is the semantic element of a proposition whereby the ASSERTION differs from the PRESUPPOSITION (ibid: 213). In other words, the FOCUS is part of an ASSERTION without coinciding with it (ibid: 206). At several points in the following analysis, Lambrecht's elements of information structure will inform the present discussion.


All discourse segments presented here will be analyzed in terms of the list of common ground considerations posed in 2.1.

Lavandera (1983) presents natural speech data gathered in Argentina. She use (3.1) illustrates what she defines as an argumentative style involving shifting between moods to designate specific points as either prominent or peripheral. Alternatively, our analysis is based on the coherence and grounding considerations mentioned above.

(3.1) Lavandera's Text 1

a. Entonces yo le dije

b. "Mira, Gerardo, [??]a vos te falta algo?

c. Me dijo

d. "No me falta nada".

e. Digo

f. "Mientras que a vos no te falte nada, como vos decis

g. y a mi no me molesta dartelo en absoluto

h. y vos no tenes que sentirte nada avergonzado

i. porque te lo da tu madre,

j. empecemos por eso,

k. y todo aca es de todos,

l. vos segui estudiando,

m. vos no te preocupes".

The subjunctive marked adverbial clause in 3.1(f) is an example of anaphoric reference to a proposition active/salient for both speaker and listener. Gerardo's assertion in 3.1(d) serves as a starting point on which the speaker hinges her argument. In repeating the gist of Gerardo's statement, the speaker marks the proposition with the subjunctive because there is no need to assert in 3.1(f) the proposition already asserted in 3.1(d). Even though the subordinate clause in 3.1(f) is not far removed from its propositional antecedent, it is adverbial rather than nominal and thus the proposition cannot be pronominalized, that is, represented as a neuter pronoun (lo, esto, eso, aquello).

The adverbial mientras que conveys the meaning "as long as" and thus cataphorically advises there is more to come regarding this proposition. According to Givon (1987) and Ramsay (1987), the preposed adverbial clause serves to continue the topic from the previous discourse (as is in fact achieved by 3.1(f)), while at the same time enabling semantic continuity with its main clause (i.e., making allusion to what is forthcoming). We can see that the speaker makes the rest of her discourse contingent on 3.1(f): as long as Gerardo does not feel that he is lacking anything, and she is pleased to be able to support him as he studies, then he should just study and not work. In short, we see that this subjunctive-marked adverbial clause functions both anaphorically and cataphorically.

A similar dynamic is noted in 3.2 below (Lavandera, 1983: 219-220). "B" is Beatriz (the researcher) and "H" is Horacio. The segment that interests us is 3.2(b-e).

(3.2) Lavandera's Text 2

B: Ahora, para Buenos Aires mismo, ?seria beneficioso que viniera menos gente?

H: a. Si, yo creo que si.

b. Y no lo digo porque

c. por ser un tipo de hacerme el pulcro

d. ni mucho menos

e. porque a mi me moleste la gente del interior, [??]no?

f. simplemente que,

g. hay gente que esta de mas en Buenos Aires,

h. sinceramente.

i. Porque,

j. por mas que usted la deje

k. mil anos aca en Buenos Aires

l. no se va a adaptar a la Capital.

We do not know what precedes the question at the beginning of (3.2). It could be the interlocutors had just touched on the topic of people from the interior bothering him. Lavandera (1983: 221) seems to substantiate this with her observation, "'Bothering' in itself is not presented as a good enough reason for keeping [the people from the interior] out" (emphasis mine). In the probable case that they had already discussed his dislike of those people, the portion of his answer represented in 3.2(e) would be anaphoric reference to previous discourse. Lambrecht (1994: 109) would call the propositional antecedent of 3.2(e) TEXTUALLY ACCESSIBLE. In Horn's (1986) terminology, it would be PREDICTABLE. Another piece of evidence that they had already discussed this topic is Lavandera's (1983: 222) note that 3.2(e) was said "quickly and almost parenthetically". Furthermore, Horacio does not deny his aversion to certain newcomers in 3.2(e)--he simply does not offer the proposition as information, taking it for granted as being accessible in the current discourse context. In addition to quote from Lavandera's mentioned at the beginning of the present paragraph that acknowledges his irritation, there is evidence of his irritation at the end of his response--included in Lavandera's article but not included in 3.2--where he concedes that the people who do not adapt to the capital bother him.

However, as Lavandera (ibid: 223) questions, why does he even mention his dislike if he does not want to emphasize this fact? I submit that, rather than merely wanting to appear objective, as Lavandera suggests, the speaker uses the subjunctive in recognition of saliency of the proposition (again assuming the proposition originated in discourse before Lavandera's opening question). Since subjunctive is non-obligatory in a coordinate clause, and Horacio is not denying the proposition in 3.2(e), the use of subjunctive can only be explained as anaphoric reference. In other words, the fully expressed subjunctive clause indicates the textual accessibility or predictability of a proposition.

Finally, in 3.2(j-k) the preposed adverbial concessive clause is instrumental in maintaining cohesion by anaphorically continuing the topic gente from 3.2(g) and cataphorically conveying it to the assertion in 3.2(l). Therefore, although use of subjunctive might seem to form part of an argumentative style based on relevancy, the real issue here is that underlying discourse organization is constrained by limitations of short-term memory resulting in a syntactic mechanism that helps maintain topic saliency.

In (3.3) below (Lavandera 1983: 223-224), one can observe that the investigator's (B) question about the relation between economy and politics gives rise to the subject of communism. No doubt, the speaker (C) had discussed her views on economy and communism previously, and she is accustomed to justifying her position.

(3.3) Lavandera's Text 3

B: Yo creo que, por ejemplo, entiendo que la politica internacional se explica toda desde la economia.

C: a. La economia.

b. Verdaderamente es el quid de la cuestion.

c. Por eso llevamos tan mal aca

d. porque la economia esta mal.

e. Si estuviera bien la economia

f. nadie protestaria

g. Yo digo que el comunismo avanza

h. en la medida en que los pueblos estan mas pobres

i. en la medida en que hay mas problemas.

j. Porque si no hubiera este problema

k. el comunismo no tendria por que ser.

l. No es porque yo vea mal el comunismo.

m. No lo veo mal

n. porque la verdad que tiene muchas cosas buenas;

o. pero me parece

p. que si no estuvieramos con problemas economicos

q. no tendria cabida.

As Lavandera (1983: 225) notes, the occurrence of 3.3(l) preempts an anticipated accusation that the speaker asserted the proposition in 3(k) because she disapproves of communism. Although the proposition in 3.3(l) is not explicitly mentioned in prior discourse nor situationally available, it is recoverable (Lambrecht, 1994) from the schema associated with 3.3(k). Thus, it is not just that the speaker is trying to sound objective as Lavandera claims. Rather, the anticipated objection to 3.3(k) is part of the schema that is activated by the proposition in 3.3(k) (Chafe, 1987: 29). In projecting the possibility of an objection onto the researcher (B), the speaker (C) syntactically marks the proposition as activated for both listener and speaker. According to Langacker (1991), one only negates what one supposes is there to begin with. When one says "It's not that X" or "It's not because X" it is to negate and, at the same time, to activate or reactivate a proposition from a previous conversational turn or shared experience. Pronominalization of the nominal following no es in 3(l), e.g., no es eso, is not possible, precisely because the proposition has been inactive up to this point. Lambrecht (1994: 109) would say UNUSED, i.e., identifiable but inactive--identifiable from the schema the subject of conversation evokes in the speaker.

The three remaining texts contrast with Lavandera's (3.1-3.3) in that they are scripted for television. Texts 3.4 and 3.5 are from a popular Mexican telenovela, El privilegio de amar. In 3.4(j) below, the adverbial clause literally plays a pivotal role in the discourse cohesion of this text. The matter of current interest to which 3.4(g-i) refers is that Andres has regained his theater from Nicolas who, through unscrupulous means, took ownership of it.

(3.4) Text from El privilegio de amar

a. Abogado: Hoy vine tan rapido como pude.

b. Te felicito muy sinceramente.

c. Has logrado por fin cumplir tu largo anhelado sueno.

d. Mira, no mas, tener tu propio teatro.

e. Andres: [??]Ya viste que bonito esta?

f. [??]Nadie sabe para quien trabaja, eh?

g. Le voy a dar las gracias a Nicolas.

h. Me dan ganas de llamarlo

i. y decirle muchas gracias.

j. Abogado: En cuanto se entere,

k. va a morir

l. al tragarse su propio veneno.

m. Andres: El mundo no se perdera nada bueno

n. si se muere Nicolas.

o. Abogado: [??]Te acuerdas

p. cuando empezabas tu carrera?

q. Siempre quisiste tener un teatro.

r. Andres: Asi es,

s. yo empece a interesarme en esto

t. cuando Barbara me dio trabajo en su compania de teatro.

u. Con ella fue que realmente me forme como actor.

v. Abogado: iQue tiempos aquellos!

w. Andres: Inolvidables, tanto los buenos como los malos, Miguel. Pero inolvidables.

x. Abogado: Andres ?Cuando cumple Barbara su condena?

y. Andres: La condenaron a tantos anos que

z. no creo

aa. que salga viva de la carcel.

bb. De otra manera, yo no me hubiera atrevido

cc. a decirle a mi hijo, Victor Manuel,

dd. que su madre estaba muerta.

ee. En fin, para mi Barbara ya esta muerta y enterrada.

The preposed adverbial clause in 3.4(j) provides anaphoric reference to the proposition that is recoverable from what is said in 3.4(g-i). At the same time, the semantic meaning of en cuanto, possessing either a habitual or potential reading, coupled with the present subjunctive entere, anticipates Nicolas as topic continuation in the subsequent discourse. In fact, Nicolas is the subject of the following two propositions in 3.4(k-l) (4).

Later in Text 3.4, the conversation evolves into a reminiscence of how Andres became interested in owning his own theater. The topic (speaker owns theater) is maintained from 3.4(q) by means of the neuter demonstrative pronoun esto. After a bit more nostalgia in 3.4(u-w), the lawyer--by means of an innocent question 3.4(x)--leaks to the audience Andres' guarded secret: his first wife is in jail. In 3.4(y), Barbara continues as the topic from 3.4(x), via the direct object pronoun la with which Andres begins his turn. The presupposition from 3.4(x) (Barbara is in jail) enables Andres in 3.4(y) to add the new information that Barbara was sentenced to a lengthy prison term. In addition, tantos in 3.4(y) anticipates continuation of the topic (Barbara in prison). Also, the qualification in 3.4(z-aa) contains the new information regarding the length of her prison term by means of the assertion (speaker doesn't believe B. will leave prison alive). The assertion is made possible by the focus constituent que salga viva de la carcel, a subordinate nominal clause marked with the subjunctive (in fact, a subordinate embedded in another subordinate).

Here, it is worth mentioning a possibility that goes against the traditional analysis regarding use of subjunctive in the nominal clause (que salga viva de la carcel): that the occurrence of salga is not due to the expression of disbelief, no creo (5), but rather, to its anaphoric function in recovering the presupposition from the immediately preceding discourse. The change in subject from creo (first person) to salga (third person) along with the redundancy feature of Spanish that requires adjectives to agree in person and number with their referent allows the listener to recognize Barbara (identified as the topic of the presupposition) as the grammatical subject of salga, even in the absence of an anaphoric pronoun. In cognitive terms, the qualifier (que no creo que salga viva de la carcel) is just as much a reaction to a proposition in previous discourse as would be something along the lines of Me sorprende que salga viva de la carcel.

The remainder of this analysis becomes complicated in that, on the surface, we have a conversation between Andres and his lawyer, but on a more fundamental level, we are really dealing with communication between the actors and the audience. First, we will present the audience's point of view. Since the audience 'knows' from previous episodes that Andres' first wife is 'dead,' the present subjunctive in (aa) along with its propositional content creates a sense of expectancy--Could Barbara be his first wife? This cataphoric 'foreshadowing' provided solely by salga, along with the phrase de otra manera, serves to identify the resulting proposition in 3.4(z-aa), Barbara no sale viva de la carcel, as the justification for having told Victor Manuel that his mother was dead. Subsequently, de otra manera in 3.4(bb) shows that the combination of propositions in 3.4(z-aa) is now the presupposition, serving as the anchor to which Andres attaches the assertion: if I believed otherwise, I would not have dared tell my son a lie. The viewers had already been told that Victor Manuel believed his mother was dead. Without 3.4(aa) and in the absence of 3.4(ee), the viewer has no way of knowing that Barbara is Victor Manuel's mother. Given the new information (Barbara is the mother of Victor Manuel), the focus in this case can only be the constituent Victor Manuel, recoverable from the possessive pronoun su.

It is possible that Andres' lawyer is being informed that Victor Manuel has been told his mother is dead. The last statement 3.4(ee) seems to be a justification for the lawyer's benefit. However, in real life one would take precautions against a child discovering such a huge fabrication and bring the lawyer in on the cover up. Ultimately, the discourse is directed at the viewing audience.

In Text (3.5) below, we have dialog between three characters mentioned in (3.4) above. The viewers know that Barbara was having relations with both Andres and Nicolas before her imprisonment and the birth of Victor Manuel, and thus there is doubt about who fathered Victor Manuel. Nicolas intends to take advantage of this situation in order to get revenge on Andres (for the maneuvering regarding the theater). In order to fully appreciate the exchange, it is useful to know the background, presented here in abridged version: Andres' current wife and Victor Manuel's stepmother (who raised him as her own) has come between him and his true love, Cristina, even though Cristina has given birth to his child. Nicolas told Cristina in a previous conversation that Victor Manuel is really his son, not son of Andres. Cristina begged Nicolas not to tell Victor Manuel because she fears it would cause him to suffer. Immediately previous to (3.5), Victor Manuel overhead a conversation between Cristina and Nicolas that made him jealous and suspicious because he still loves Cristina and assumes that Nicolas is romantically interested in her. Cristina (C) has again asked Nicolas (N) not to reveal to Victor Manuel his alleged parentage.

(3.5) Text from El privilegio de amar

a. N: Comprende

b. que no puedo prometerte nada.

c. C: Pero, es que....

d. N: Cristina. Entiendo

e. que tengas miedo por el dolor

f. que le cause a Victor Manuel

g. al enterarse

h. que yo soy su padre.

i. Algun dia tendra que saberlo.

j. Y sere yo mismo el que se lo diga.

k. C: Se

l. que va a ser algo terrible para el.

m. Nadie, nadie mas que yo ...

n. que soy huerfana ...

o. lo puede entender.

p. Victor Manuel va a sentir

q. que lo ha perdido todo hasta su propia identidad.

r. Va a sufrir tanto

s. cuando se de cuenta

t. que ha vivido una vida de mentiras.

In addition to the anaphoric reference represented in 3.5(e) by tengas (not a typical context for subjunctive), there are two adjectival clauses providing cataphoric foreshadowing. The subjunctive in the adjectival clause of the NP in 3.5(e-f), el dolor que le cause a Victor Manuel, anticipates an elaboration on this pain. In fact, 3.5(g-h) explains the motivation for the pain. Additionally, Nicolas dramatically builds the tension in 3.5(i-k), foreshadowing imminent doom with 3.5(k). The proposition in 3.5(h), (speaker is father of Victor Manuel) is now active for the listener and so in 3.5(i), it is pronominalized (tendra que saberlo). The propositional referent 3.5(h) is maintained active in 3.5(k) by means of the same pronoun (el que se lo diga).

Moreover, in 3.5(j), the subject pronoun yo demands in depth scrutiny. Since the first person is morphologically marked in sere, there is no semantic reason to include yo. Its very presence is pragmatically significant. Its post-verbal position indicates focus marking; i.e., a focus relation between an element of the proposition and the proposition as a whole that is not the new information (Lambrecht, 1994: 210) (6). In order to discern the focus of 3.5(k), one must take into account the presuppositional structure of this utterance, as well as the components of its assertion. The presupposition required by 3.5(k) is that someone must tell Victor Manuel the truth. The truth (lo), topic continuation from 3.5(h-i), forms part of this presupposition. The yo mismo is placed in focus position reserved for the element that "makes an utterance into an assertion" (ibid, 207); however, that purpose is served by the first person verb morpheme. Nevertheless, the new information added is the identity of the one who will tell it to him, making 3.5(j) the assertion. However, can we say that the referent of the focus expression (the speaker) is not taken for granted at the time of speech? Is not this referent pragmatically recoverable since Nicolas has repeated at every opportunity that he will tell Victor Manuel the truth? There seems to be more at play in this text.

Not only is the focus expression a semantically unnecessary subject pronoun with a referent that is active in the discourse, it receives prosodic stress together with the intensifier mismo. According to Lambrecht (1994: 324-325), stress on a constituent indicates a deviation from the default; i.e., a referential constituent is unstressed if the speaker can assume that the mental representation of the referent is active in the listener's mind and that the addressee expects this referent to be a topic or focus. Although this condition obtains in 3.5(j), especially in view that Nicolas has repeatedly threatened to tell Victor Manuel the truth, the constituent yo mismo is stressed. In contrast to sere alone, this stress places the referent in opposition to the unspecified someone alluded to in the presupposition (someone must tell Victor Manuel the truth). I will now show that the preceding analysis is integral to understanding the use of subjunctive in 5(k).

The NP, el que se lo diga, provides a counterexample to Rivero's (1975) binary distinction, specific/ non-specific, which she claims characterizes mood choice in adjectival clauses. In preceding episodes, Nicolas has threatened to tell "his son" the painful truth and thus the referent of el que se lo diga could not be more identifiable (speaker is talking about himself). Butt and Benjamin (2000: 273) simply say that when the main clause verb refers to the future, subjunctive is normal in the adjectival clause. It bears mentioning that their book provides examples without discourse context and does not purport to provide a pragmatic analysis of subjunctive in subordinate clauses. We can postulate two alternative functions for the subjunctive marked relative clause in this utterance: (1) to lend to the air of foreboding by focusing attention on what is yet to come or, (2) to recognize that therein lies the presupposition (i.e., someone has to tell him the truth). Given the parallel function of many subjunctive-marked nominal clauses, the latter seems more likely. We suspect that using a corpus linguistic approach we would see that the entire construction, future tense verb + que + relative clause, inherently presupposes a proposition in current discourse space.

To complete the analysis of (3.5), we have one more example of cataphoric reference in 3.5(t). In 3.5(l-r), Cristina anticipates Victor Manuel's suffering, summarizing her fears in 3.5(s-u). We should note there are two subordinate clauses in 3.5(t-u), a nominal embedded in an adverbial clause. The adverbial clause, 3.5(t), headed by a potential reading of cuando resulting from the subjunctive de, is post-positioned with respect to the main clause, 3.5(s), and thus, rather than casting backward anaphorically, it focuses the listener's attention forward to the proposition of the nominal clause in 3.5(u).

Finally, (3.6) is from the Mexican TV reality-show, Bailando por un Sueno. Couples, comprised of a celebrity and a dreamer from the community, compete against each other in various genres of dance to win the opportunity to fulfill a dream. Text 3.6, in addition to providing a salient example of mood choice that clearly contradicts prescriptive rules (subjunctive in subordinate clause follows expression of emotion in the main clause), demonstrates how subjunctive-marked clauses can provide exophoric reference to propositions recoverable from the physical context. The pause between the couple's presentation and the judge's opinion represents the boundary between conversational turns.

(3.6) Text 6 from Bailando por un sueno

(To couple 1):

a. Me gusto que bailaron (IND) del corazon.

b. Me gusto que hubo (IND) entrega.

c. Me gusto que hubo (IND) pasion.

d. Me gusto que hubo (IND) acoplamiento.

(To couple 2--having just finished a number in which a flower worn in the hair of female was taken by the male and symbolically thrown to the ground with disdain as if to represent man's womanizing behavior):

e. Me gusto que usaran (SUBJ) el vestuario.

f. Me gusto que hubo (IND) seduccion.

g. Me gusto que hubo (IND) actitud.

The judge's use of indicative in 3.6(a-d) and (f-g) below communicates her perceptions and, at the same time, her subjective reaction. In contrast, the use of subjunctive in 3.6(e) refers to the male's use of the flower in the female partner's hair as a prop, thus verbally pointing to what all the judges and audience had just seen.


In this discussion, if a nominal clause with embedded subjunctive serves an anaphoric or exophoric function, it will be termed ANAPHORIC NOMINAL CLAUSE. On the other hand, a clause that serves a cataphoric function will be identified as a CATAPHORIC NOMINAL CLAUSE. Adjectival and adverbial clauses will likewise be termed anaphoric or cataphoric if they are marked with subjunctive.

Redundancy of grammatical information in Spanish takes the shape of noun-adjective agreement and person/number agreement between verb and grammatical subject. We should not discard the possibility that subjunctive morphology also serves a function redundant with that of its host subordinate clause, which can be to provide: (1) anaphoric reference to propositions in preceding discourse; (2) exophoric reference to something in the physical context; or (3) cataphoric introduction to propositions not yet reported. Moreover, assuming a referential role for subjunctive morphology supports the research on assertion and the subjunctive. That is, if the construction subjunctive-subordinate clause serves a referential function, it cannot participate in the assertion of the main clause. Such a framework would also take into account the role of the subjunctive in Classical Latin in the subordinate clause7. As we have seen in the texts analyzed here, propositional anaphor seems to be a common feature of argumentative discourse. It remains to be seen how frequent it is in narrative discourse. Corpus linguistics could provide more-conclusive evidence in both cases.

We have based our observations on, in addition to Lavandera's data, semi-natural discourse gathered from television broadcasts. The anomaly inherent in scripted dialog is that "participants" in the drama do not only construct discourse among themselves, they must also construct a common ground with the viewing audience. This duality does not exist in naturalistic discourse; nevertheless, the more desirable naturalistic type is difficult to elicit. Lavandera's data represents naturalistic discourse; however, because her research agenda, informed by the research findings of the time, restricted the amount of speech to be included in each example, some of my analysis of her data has been necessarily speculative.

In spite of the limitations mentioned above, the present analysis contributes by providing direction for direction for future research. Our study addresses the research questions posed in Section 2 as follows:

1) Do nominal clauses pronominalize under the same conditions as simple nouns and noun phrases?

Yes. The here and now of the text-internal and text-external worlds tends to favor the use of pronominal forms. A text-external entity or proposition can be introduced into a discourse with a gesture and immediately thereafter pronominalized. A specific instance of any nominal can be pronominalized; however, it is not the case that a nominal, once introduced into discourse, will always be pronominalized. Nouns need to be overtly expressed when ambiguity is caused by multiple referents or when there are constraints on the short-term memory such as distance from last mention or activation state. The same is true of nominal clauses. A pronominal form can stand in for a propositional antecedent in immediately subsequent discourse; however, if the distance from the prior mention of the proposition challenges the limitations of short-term memory, or if the proposition is situationally accessible from a previous rather than a synchronous situation, the proposition will not be pronominalized.

Conversely, an anaphoric nominal clause directs the listener to recover the proposition from the current discourse space, for example, from the listener's long-term memory or from non-synchronous states or actions pertaining to the common ground. It can also reactivate a proposition from earlier in the current discourse. Only propositions that are fully active for both interlocutors are maintained by use of pronoun. Conversely, unless a proposition is available in immediately preceding discourse, full linguistic representation via an anaphoric nominal clause is required.

2) Do adjectival and adverbial clauses also function referentially?

All clause types (nominal, adjectival, and adverbial) can anaphorically make reference to an antecedent or cataphorically introduce or anticipate a referent (either entity or proposition). In short, we noted that preposed adverbial clauses can be both anaphoric and cataphoric by extending topic continuity from preceding discourse or the previous conversational turn and/or serving as a point of departure for introducing new propositions or assertions. Preposed cataphoric adverbial clauses establish semantic continuity between themselves and the main clause.

3) What function do subjunctive-marked clauses perform at the discourse level?

Whether anaphoric, exophoric, or cataphoric, the reference is a means of grounding (or locating) the proposition that is (or will be) the focus of attention. Grounding with respect to related discourse elements (what has been said, what could have been thought, goings-on in the extralinguistic context, past experiences shared by interlocutors, anticipated themes, activation of schemas, etc.) is necessary in order to make evident relations between entities and propositions due to limitations on short-term memory.


We have seen in this study examples of subjunctive clauses in Spanish that ground propositions anaphorically, cataphorically and exophorically in parallel fashion to the grounding of nominal referents accomplished by pronouns. Our analysis of the limited amount of natural and semi-naturalistic data in this study has suggested that the interface of mood, reference, and subordination in Spanish is a potentially rich area waiting to be explored through corpus linguistic studies. In order to reach an accurate characterization of the Spanish mood contrast's function the next investigative step must be to identify or amass the appropriate linguistic corpus for the task--naturalistic dialog in which the participants argue a point, defend points of view, justify actions taken, etc. Due to the limitations of our data, we are unable to do more than theorize about the function of the mood contrast in subordinate clauses. Future research in this area must incorporate a corpus linguistic approach, which will enable discourse analysis of the pragmatic function of subjunctive-marked clauses that provide anaphoric, cataphoric or exophoric reference, in order provide conclusive results.


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(1) At times, we will use the term 'anaphora' in general opposition to cataphora.

(2) The examples included in this study represent Latin American Spanish and may seem unnatural to Peninsular Spanish speakers.

(3) See Tannen (1993) for a substantial review of the literature on the topic of schema.

(4) Lambrecht (1994) establishes that topic and subject do not always coincide; in this case, they do.

(5) Traditional grammars state that subjunctive is normal in subordinate clauses that follow statements of disbelief such as no creo.

(6) See Lambrecht (1994: 115) for a similar analysis for French and Italian.

(7) Nebrija (1492), in listing the grammatical moods available in his time, names the "subjunctive" as the mood of subordination, whereas the "optative" was the mood used with wishes/ desires.


University of Tennessee

* Address for correspondence: Amy Gregory. University of Tennessee. Dept. of Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures. 701 McClung Tower. Knoxville, TN 37996-0470. USA.; e-mail:
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Author:Gregory, Amy E.
Publication:International Journal of English Studies
Article Type:Report
Date:Jan 1, 2007
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