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Towards a corpus-based analysis of Anglicisms in Spanish: a case study.


Today, the influence of English on the languages spoken in the world is an undeniable fact; and Spanish, of course, is no exception. As Pratt (1980) demonstrates in a pioneering study on Anglicisms in contemporary Peninsular Spanish, the presence of English is felt at all the levels of the system. orthographic, lexical, semantic, morphological and even syntactic (Pratt, 1980: 229). However, it is at the level of lexis that this phenomenon is greater and most noticeable. Indeed, more and more English loanwords enter Spanish every day, sometimes even in their native form, like the so-called 'patent' Anglicisms (Rodriguez and Lillo, 1997), e.g., airbag, byte, lifting. Together with these, Spanish also borrows other English words which are far less common and noticeable. The latter, also known as semantic or content Anglicisms (Rodriguez, 2004), occur when Spanish receives from English not words but part of the meaning of a cognate form in that language. This type of borrowing often involves an extension of the denotational range of the target language term. A case in point is ignorar (='not to know') (1), a verb that has recently extended its meaning to include an additional sense 'not to pay attention to sb/sthg' (2) as a result of the influence of English ignore. These Anglicisms, which include many a 'false friend' (Prado, 2001), often bring about changes in the collocation and colligation patterns of the Spanish host forms and even change their semantic or discourse prosody (3). Thus, Sp. ignorar, for instance, can now take a human object, like En. ignore. Similarly, Sp. versatil, an adjective with negative connotations a few years ago, has recently lost them to become positively loaded, like En. versatile.

As such a pervasive phenomenon, the study of Anglicisms in Spanish has given rise to a number of studies. Worth mentioning are, among others, Pratt (1980), Lorenzo (1996) and Rodriguez and Lillo (1997), for they are all key contributions to this area of research. Besides, their merit is even greater if we take into account that their authors could not enjoy the advantages of large generic corpora of Spanish, unavailable at the time these works were published4. Fortunately, the situation has changed in the last few years. The recent advent of large electronic corpora of Spanish can now help linguists and lexicographers explore aspects of Anglicisms which have traditionally remained unnoticed, neglected or vaguely dealt with, and this makes it possible for them to draw conclusions about some aspects of a kind of lexicon difficult, if not impossible, to confirm before. For instance, corpus data allows us to reliably assess whether Latin American Spanish really is more receptive to and abundant in Anglicisms than European or Peninsular Spanish, as has often been suggested (Gimeno y Gimeno 2003); or if the media, especially the press and TV, are the main vehicle for their spread. In short, digitized corpora, as Rodriguez (2003. 574) puts it and Lorenzo (1996: 30) foresaw more than a decade ago, have become an indispensable tool for research on English loanwords and their compilation.


In this paper, a case study is presented using the empirical data provided by the CORDE and the CREA, the historical and contemporary corpora, respectively, of the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE)5. Since the aim is to show in what ways the Spanish lexicon is being influenced by English, evidence from two major English corpora will be used, namely the British National Corpus (BNC) (6) and the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) (7). The reason for using two English corpora is mainly one of chronological coverage: these two corpora together span more or less the same period as CREA (1975-2004): BNC 1980-1993; COCA 1990-2008. Besides, even though the purpose of this study is not to identify differences in British and American use of dramatically, the data obtained from these corpora may offer some interesting insights in this respect. The example under scrutiny is the adjective dramatico/a, and its derivative adverb dramaticamente.

The complexity of the meaning changes undergone by these words makes them paradigmatic examples of semantic Anglicisms, especially by dramaticamente, on which the paper focuses. Exploring these words through the data in the CORDE and the CREA sheds new light on how the study of English loanwords can benefit from the use of corpora. For instance, the possibility of comparing the data concerning dramatic(a)/mente provided by the historical corpus with those in the contemporary one allows us to verify on the grounds of their frequency whether occurrences of dramatico/a and dramaticamente used in the English sense are really Anglicisms and not simply odd instances of careless translations. Moreover, since the corpora permit different search parameters (geographical, thematic, etc.), valuable information can be obtained about their distribution across themes, text-types and registers, about the ratio of occurrences in Peninsular and Latin American Spanish, or the degree of entrenchment of these forms. Finally, because the two corpora give access to the co-text of the forms searched for, they also allow us to explore to what extent English is affecting the Spanish language. This is especially useful in the case of semantic Anglicisms like the ones selected here, given the impact they may have on the collocations and colligation patterns in which they are involved.

III. CASE STUDY: dramatic/dramatically [not equal to] dramatico(a)/dramaticamente

As has just been said, the pair dramatica(o)/mente / dramatic/ally is a paradigmatic example of the type of semantic Anglicism generally known as false friend (Prado, 2001), since it is the superficial similarity of the two forms that may lead to misuse in Spanish. Seco's (1998) Diccionario de dudas y difucultades de la lengua espanola and the Academy's (2005) recently published Diccionario Panhispanico de Dudas warn us against the 'incorrect' use of this adjective and its derivative adverb. Seco's (1998) entry for dramatico reads as follows:
   dramatico. Este nombre significa 'del drama' (los personajes
   dramaticos), o 'de las obras de teatro' (literatura dramatica);
   tambien 'que tiene caracteres de drama' (Nos encontramos en una
   situacion dramatica). El uso de dramatico en textos como Se ha
   registrado un crecimiento dramatico en las exportaciones -debido a
   un sentido que tiene la voz dramatic en ingles- es inadecuado;
   corresponde al espanol espectacular. Del mismo modo, el adverbio
   dramaticamente ("Se reduce dramaticamente [en el televisor] la tasa
   de reflexion se consigue un 33% mas de contraste", Pais, Supl.,
   22.9.1985) es en espanol espectacularmente.

And in the Diccionario Panhispanico de Dudas we find the following gloss: "dramatico--ca. En espanol significa 'del drama (genero literario)' y 'que tiene caracteres de drama'. No debe usarse con el sentido de 'drastico o espectacular', como se hace a veces por influjo del ingles dramatic [...] Lo mismo cabe decir del adverbio dramaticamente, que no debe usarse con el sentido que corresponde a las voces espanolas drasticamente o espectacularmente'".

As these two dictionaries explain, the meaning of dramatico/a largely derives from, and is strongly connected to, the primary senses of its nominal base drama, namely, '1. Obra literaria escrita para ser representada' and '2. Obra teatral de tono serio' (Seco et al 1999). Thus, dramatico/a is most properly used in Spanish as a classifier (8): 'poesia/arte dramatico', 'autor/actor dramatico', etc. Moreover, out of these senses drama developed a third one between the 19th and 20th centuries, '3. Suceso o situacion lamentable' (Seco et al 1999), whose negative connotations turned the adjective into an equally negatively loaded form (9). Used in this sense, the derivative adjective functions as a descriptor, as in the following two examples, where dramatica and dramaticamente mean 'sad(ly)' or 'tragic(ally)': 'Hace unas horas llegaba la dramatica noticia de diez muertos mas, ahogados en el Estrecho al hundirse una patera' (CREA, 2001, Prensa); 'La violencia contra la mujer esta dramaticamente presente en nuestro dias' (CREA, 2002, C. Alborch, Malas). In cases like the latter, the adverb adds an element of evaluation that permit its classification as a stance adverbial also (10).

English dramatic(ally), on the other hand, is quite different from its Spanish paronym, especially as far as its semantic relation with the noun drama and its connotations are concerned. To begin with, in its primary sense of 'sudden' or 'marked', it is far removed from its noun base and consequently it is most frequently used as a descriptor (source COBUILD):
   Dramatic. 1 A dramatic change or event happens suddenly and is very
   noticeable and surprising. EG I expect to see dramatic
   improvements. [??] dramatically. EG The way in which information is
   transmitted has changed dramatically.


[up arrow] sudden

= marked

[??] ADV

= radically

Then, since English drama is not evaluatively loaded, the derived adjective does not convey any evaluative meaning, modifying a wide variety of nouns that can carry either positive, negative or neutral prosody, such as improvement, increase, fall or change; and the same applies to the adverb, which has among its most frequent collocates the corresponding verbs (improve, increase, fall, etc.).

Apart from this primary sense of dramatic, this English adjective, like its Spanish paronym, also has the sense directly derived from its base form drama, i.e., something connected with the theatre or written in the form of a play. Used in this sense, dramatic also functions as a classifier. But except for this partial overlapping of meaning, the semantic profiles of the Spanish adjective and adverb differ substantially form their English paronyms, due to the negative evaluative sense developed by the Spanish forms, which is lacking in English.

It is clear then that dramatica(o)/mente and dramatic/ally are false friends, that is, cognate forms with different meanings that may also have very different semantic prosodies. These two paronyms are as disparate in sense as English impressive and Italian impressionante, or English incite and Italian incitare, to give two examples provided by Partington (1998: 7). This is the reason why translators and even proficient users of EFL should be alert, because it is precisely in translation or in any other process in which the two languages interact that false friends proliferate.

In reference to the problems that such prosodic differences may pose, especially in adjectives -the most trickery type of false friends-, Prado (2001: 11) gives some interesting examples of the processes of

pejoration and amelioration undergone by some English forms in comparison with their Spanish counterparts, and viceversa:
   Sin duda los adjetivos son los falsos amigos mas traicioneros
   debido a que muchos degradan la denotacion original en una lengua,
   pero no en la otra; por ejemplo, jesuit, que traduce intrigante,
   maquinador, en vez de jesuita. Otros adjetivos ennoblecen el
   sentido etimologico de una lengua, causando discrepancias notables
   con la otra; y en esta categoria hay una serie de vocablos que han
   pasado al mundo comercial en ingles con version muy positiva, como
   versatile, que traduce talentoso, flexible, frente a versatil, que
   es bastante negativo como fickle / flaky (voluble).

Even though it is quite true that formal similarities like the ones mentioned by Prado may mislead both translators and EFL users alike, it is no less true that on some occasions false friends may also become very good friends; and even in the case of pairs with different semantic prosodies, like the ones commented on above, the pressing influence of English may alter the semantic profile of the Spanish host word which may eventually have its meaning extended into a new sense with a different prosody. Thus, versatil, for example, has been a negatively loaded adjective in Spanish for a long time, as Prado (2001) rightly pointed out above -'2. De caracter voluble e inconstante' (DRAE 1992, 21st ed.)-, but very recently it has had its meaning extended with the English positive sense included in a later edition of the Academy's dictionary as sense 2, replacing the negative one: 'versatil 2. Capaz de adaptarse con rapidez y facilidad a diversas funciones' (DRAE 2001, 22nd ed.) (11).

A similar semantic change is taking place today in the use of dramatico/a and dramaticamente. These Spanish forms are losing their negative evaluative load to become more neutral, closer to their English counterparts. In fact, Seco et al's (1999) corpus-based dictionary gives 'espectacular' as sense 6 of 'dramatico -ca'. Surprisingly, the dictionary does not extend this new sense of the adjective to the adverb: 'dramaticamente adv De manera dramatica [1, 2 y 3] (12).

In order to trace the source of the changes undergone by dramaticamente, a careful look at the meaning and prosody of dramatically is imperative. This will permit us, for example, to show some of the shifts presently taking place in the Spanish form. In other words, a corpus-based analysis of the English adverb will give us the information required for a proper and full explanation of the shift of meaning undergone by this Spanish adverb. In the next section, the collocational profile and the meaning of the English adverb is established on the grounds of the information provided by the BNC and the COCA. Dramatically is explored in its most frequent position, i.e., immediately before or after the verb it modifies (LI [verb] R1) (13). Then, in section III.2, the CORDE and the CREA are used to see the evolution of dramaticamente in Spanish. Since it is only recently that this adverb started to shift its meaning, the three decades covered by the CREA will be split into two equal periods and compared so that the changes can be best appreciated.

III.1. Collocational profile of dramatically

In order to see how 'dramatically' functions as a verb modifier, an initial search for the sequences 'verb.LEX + dramatically' and 'dramatically + verb.LEX' was carried out, first using the BNC. The search yielded the following 20 most frequent collocates for the two patterns:

After this, the forms in the table were filtered to obtain a list of the different verbal lemmas. Then, each verbal lemma was searched for as a collocate L1 and/or R1 of the adverb. Table 2 below shows the results:

Finally, both lists were fused to obtain the most frequent collocates of dramatically L1 and R1 together. The twelve verbs that appear in the BNC with a minimum frequency of 10 are shown in table 3:

The same search for 'verb.LEX + dramatically' and 'dramatically + verb.LEX' was carried out in the COCA for the collocational profile of the adverb in American English:

Here is the table showing the verbs after filtering:

And finally, these are the twelve most frequent collocates of dramatically (L1 and R1) in American English:

As can be seen in the previous tables, the collocational profile of the adverb looks almost identical in British and American English. Although there seem to be some small differences -e.g., a preference for increase over change in British English or a higher frequency of occurrences in American English-, the verbs that this adverb collocates with are practically the same. Besides, they seem to be semantically related. Indeed, dramatically tends to be selected most frequently by verbs denoting an indefinite change of state, known as gradual completion verbs (Bertinetto & Squartini, 1995) (14). When it modifies these verbs, dramatically normally functions as a circumstance adverbial of manner which, as often happens with other manner adverbials like radically, may also include a meaning of degree (15).

Be that as it may, whether we classify dramatically as an adverb of manner or degree, what makes it different from dramaticamente is its lack of any negative connotations or prosody. Besides, none of the verbs that dramatically collocates with seems to be positively or negatively loaded, with the sole exception of improve. Thus, the positive or negative connotations that propositions containing these verbs may convey will ultimately depend on the participant that changes or is caused to change (or increase, rise, etc). So, among the positive things that can change or increase dramatically in English we find sales, life expectancy or number of employees; and among the negative ones, food prices, death or mortgage rates.

Other verbs that dramatically collocates with and that appear further down in the frequency list are those that have to do with the 'theatrical' sense of dramatic, such as pause, point, say or gesture. Used in this sense, the adverb functions as a typical manner adverb describing the way in which the process is carried out, e.g., "'My trust has been betrayed', she said dramatically" (BNC-EVG); "He released the quivering vixen and gestured dramatically" (COCA 2003 FIC).

III.2. Collocational profile of dramaticamente in the CORDE and the CREA (16)

III.2.1 Dramaticamente in the CORDE

The search for dramaticamente in the section of the CORDE corresponding to the 20th c. (1900-1975) yields 64 hits (1.09 p/mil) (17). Since neither CORDE nor CREA permits the type of search by parts of speech available in the BNC and the COCA, all the occurrences of dramaticamente were explored manually. In twenty cases the adverb modifies an adjective (e.g., dramaticamente largo, ... actual, ... realista, etc). In practically all the other occurrences18, dramaticamente functions as a verb modifier, normally appearing in preverbal position, most often in L1:

As the table shows, up to 1974 the Spanish adverb collocates with a wide variety of verbs, but there is no trace of the type of gradual completion verbs that English dramatically modifies. A large group of them include verbs related to the theatrical sense that both languages share, such as contar (tell), exclamar (exclaim), expresar (express), hablar (speak), interrumpir (interrupt), proclamar (proclaim) or narrar (narrate). As a modifier of these verbs, the Spanish adverb functions as a circumstance adverbial commenting on the manner of conveying the message: e.g. 'mientras arrancaban los caballos, exclame dramaticamente levantando los brazos al cielo--!Mira ...' (1924, Teresa de la Parra, Ifigenia). when it modifies other verbs, dramaticamente may contain an element of negative evaluation thus conveying very often the speaker's attitude towards the propositon (19): 'Una semana despues, un rumor sin origen [...] confirmo dramaticamente el presagio. El Coronel Aureliano Buendia habia sido condenado a muerte' (1967, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Cien anos de soledad).

III. 2.2 Dramaticamente in the CREA

Things look quite different in contemporary Spanish. To begin with, the number of occurrences is much higher, with a total of 410 hits (2.66 p/mil). In view of this larger number and the difficulties of processing the data manually, an automatic search was done. The text of the concordance generated by the search engine of CREA was processed by means of WordSmith Tools 4.0 (20). Since the manual search had shown that the adverb normally collocates in position L1, a search was made for words appearing in this position. After obtaining the list of collocates, the ten most frequent ones were selected and then searched again in the text of the concordance to find them in other positions. The table below shows these top ten verbs arranged by frequency (21):

As can be observed, the most striking feature that the corpus reveals is that in contemporary Spanish the adverb collocates with several gradual completion verbs such as cambiar (change), aumentar (increase), bajar (decrease), caer (drop/fall), reducir and disminuir (reduce/decrease), incrementar (increase) and even mejorar (improve), as happens in English. The presence of this latter verb in the corpus is especially significant. In fact, due to the negative prosody of the Spanish adverb, the collocation 'mejorar dramaticamente' ('improve dramatically') could be regarded by many speakers of Spanish as a 'collocative clash' (Louw, 1993: 157) (22).

A careful reading of the data also reveals a steady increase in the frequency of the adverb throughout the thirty years covered by the CREA. So, in order to assess the entrenchment of this Anglicism, the span was split into two fifteen-year periods: 1975-1989 /1990-2004 (23). The results show that even though the two halves present a balanced distribution of the adverb -116 hits for the first half (2.54 p/mil), 266 (2.46 p/mil) for the second-, the gradual completion verbs that dramaticamente begins to collocate with in contemporary Spanish are far more frequent in the second period. Thus, in the first half of the span, only cambiar (change) and caer (drop/fall) begin to emerge as verbs in this new pattern, accompanied by incrementar (increase), disminuir (decrease) and reducir (reduce), with the striking presence of the first occurrence of mejorar (24):

Processing of the second half of the span reveals not only that the number of gradual completion verbs rises steeply but also that two new ones appear, namely, aumentar (increase) and bajar (drop/fall):

In fact, as can be observed, the list of verbs for the span 1990-2004 is beginning to look very much like the ones for dramatically from the BNC and the COCA shown above (Tables 3 and 6, respectively).

The unexpected presence of a positively loaded verb like mejorar (improve) is surely the clearest sign of the influence of English on Spanish. And that influence comes very often through translation, an important gate of access for Anglicisms, as the corpus shows. For instance, we find the phrase 'mejora dramatica' in what seems to be the translated speech of an English-speaking person: "'En terminos absolutos', aseguro McNamar, 'se ha producido una mejora dramatica de la economia norteamericana durante los pasados anos y frente a la japonesa y especialmente la europea'. 'Mi conclusion es clara', termino McNamar, 'y es que los inversores piensan hoy que la economia norteamericana es la mas atractiva del mundo' (1985, PRENSA, El Pais, Espana).

Now in contemporary Spanish things can also 'improve dramatically', as the results from the search of the sequence 'mejor * dramaticamente' show:

1 nuestro entorno cotidiano mejoro dramaticamente, y asi pudimos

2 desventaja economica han mejorado dramaticamente sus vidas a

3 chances de los democratas mejorarian dramaticamente.

4 as. El receptor guayanes "mejoro dramaticamente de sus dolencias

5 la tecnologia de Internet mejoren dramaticamente en el proceso

6 do dos meses: La creatina mejora dramaticamente la recuperacion del

Used in this sense, the adverb is closer in meaning to 'radically' rather than to 'sadly'/'tragically'. Something similar happens with aumentar and bajar. Here are the texts of the eleven occurrences of 'aument * dramaticamente':

171 nflacion y la recesion, aumentaron dramaticamente el numero de pe

216 tas y homosexuales "han aumentado dramaticamente" en 1995. Entre e

268 je de cumplimiento va a aumentar dramaticamente", dijo Soderberg,

270 anticipa que el numero aumente dramaticamente. El 30 de julio el

295 eriales, pero la cifra aumentaba dramaticamente con el correr de

305 e la tasa de desempleo aumento dramaticamente, y lo mismo puede

317 fermedad cardiovascular aumenta dramaticamente con un IMC mayor de

321 mejora. La decision de aumentar dramaticamente la ayuda militar a

342 Datastream nos permitira aumentar dramaticamente la capacidad de

350 o. La diabetes tipo 2 ha aumentado dramaticamente en la poblacion

395 morragica del dengue ha aumentado dramaticamente, primero en Asia

Hits 268, 270, 321 and 342 show positive increase. In the rest of the occurrences the adverb conveys degree and negative evaluation, sometimes both simultaneously, e.g., 'La tase de desempleo aumento dramaticamente', or 'La diabetes tipo 2 ha aumentado dramaticamente'. And the same happens with 'baj * dramaticamente'; out of the following seven occurrences, three (236, 356 and 359) are definitely positive 'dramatic drops/falls'; while the others show again degree and evaluation:

236 hacer muchas acciones y bajar dramaticamente los casos de colera

292 8 por ciento, cifra que bajo dramaticamente esta vez a un 17,94

331 o domestico. Las ventas bajaron dramaticamente y en 1923 Columbia

356 ice de pobreza del pais bajo dramaticamente, de 59% a 48%.En esos

359 productos de WLANs han bajado dramaticamente, por ejemplo: las t

373 e, porque la fecundidad bajo dramaticamente y la poblacion hoy jo

378 cada y luego empezara a bajar dramaticamente. El problema de los

So now dramaticamente is used both in its native Spanish sense of 'sadly'/'tragically' and in its English sense 'drastically'.

Another interesting aspect that the data reveals is the distribution of Anglicisms across registers and on both sides of the Atlantic. we find that all the six occurrences of 'mejor * dramaticamente' come from Latin American Spanish, as shown below in column two and four respectively:
1   PRENSA       El Nuevo Herald, 28/04/1997           EE. UU.
2   PRENSA       El Nacional, 26/07/2000               VENEZ.
3   PRENSA       Diario de las Americas, 09/04/1997    EE. UU
4   PRENSA       Excelsior, 17/09/2001                 MEXICO
5   PRENSA       Caretas, 18/12/1997                   PERU
6   Palavecino   Norberto Edgardo                      ARGEN.

And the same happens with 'aument * dramaticamente' and 'baj * dramaticamente'; in the former, the occurrences of 'dramatically' = radically' come from American Spanish; in the latter, all the instances of the collocation come from that variety of Spanish (Mexico 2, Chile 2, Cuba 1, Puerto Rico 1, Costa Rica 1).

It seems then that the pressing influence of English is contributing to the extension of dramaticamente into a different type of adverb, playing down the negative connotations and imbuing it with the degree meaning of its English counterpart. Now, in contemporary Spanish, not all the things that 'change dramatically' are necessarily negative. The adverb is progressively losing its evaluative meaning, like its English paronym, and the positive or negative sign of the piece of discourse in which dramaticamente is found depends more and more, also like in English, on the 'things' that change, rather than on the adverb. A close reading of the thirty three texts that contain the sequence 'cambi * dramatic *' in the CREA shows that some of those instances are indeed changes for the better. Here is an example: "Estas teorias pueden cambiar dramaticamente la forma en que la medicina actual utiliza vacunas, terapias anti-sida, medicamentos para prevenir rechazos de trasplantes y el tratamiento de enfermedades como la esclerosis multiple o la artritis reumatoide". (1996, PRENSA, ABC Cultural, Espana).

The evidence found in the corpus reveals again the important role of translation in the diffusion of Anglicisms. Thus, Diario de Yucatan (1996, Mexico) translates an extract from a Pentagon report on terrorism: "Luego de senalar que 'no existian grupos terroristas o insurgentes significativos en el pais', agrega que esta situacion 'cambio dramaticamente' en enero de ese ano". Notice also the metalinguistic comment in the first occurrence of 'camb * dramaticamente' in the CREA: "El pais ha cambiado dramaticamente, como dirian los anglosajones" (1976, Joaquin Garrigues Walker, Una politica para Espana, ESPANA).

As for register and geographical distribution, the corpus provides valuable information again. Most of the thirty three examples come from the press (64 %) and from Latin American Spanish (74 %). These figures demonstrate empirically not only the importance of the press in the spread of Anglicisms--for this one, at least--but also a far greater presence of them in American Spanish in comparison with Peninsular Spanish. Moreover, since 50 percent of the data in the CREA comes from Spain--the other half is 'shared' by twenty American countries and the Phillipines--, in absolute terms the figures for Anglicisms in the latter countries are higher (the population of Spain represents approximately 10 percent of the Spanish-speaking community in the world).


This case study has used corpus evidence to support some of the suggestions made in the major studies on Anglicisms, and also to show how the influence of an English word can contribute to changes in the meaning of a cognate form in Spanish. Needless to say, the observations made in this paper apply only to this particular Anglicism; for not all the English words that enter the Spanish lexicon are necessarily more abundant in American Spanish or in the press. Intuition would also suggest that translation is a very frequent gate of access for Anglicisms, and, although not fully explored in this study, there appear to be indications in the corpus that this is so.

Reasons of space have limited the number of case studies to just one, but it seems very likely that the analysis of any of the many Anglicisms found in Spanish today would have proved as illustrative for the purpose of the paper. I hope this example has been sufficient to show that corpus data can give us a better informed view of Anglicisms in contemporary Spanish; and also that lexicographers interested in this area of research should, as Rodriguez (2003: 574) strongly recommends, make use of this tool if they want to explore these or other linguistic phenomena more objectively.

The analysis has also revealed some of the limitations of the two corpora used. obviously, the better the design of a corpus, the more useful it will be for scholars with an interest in this or other related areas of research. In this sense, even though the CORDE and the CREA may not be as user friendly as other corpora of English, they are the largest corpora available for Spanish so far and also the main source of information and tool for the making of the Diccionario de la Lengua Espanola--or so the Spanish Royal Academy claims. Thus, they constitute indispensable tools for linguists and lexicographers alike.


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Rodriguez, F. (2004) Calcos y traducciones del ingles en espanol actual, in P. A. Fuentes Olivera (ed.) Lengua y sociedad: Investigaciones recientes en linguistica aplicada. Valladolid: Universidad de Valladolid, pp. 177-192.

Rodriguez-Ramalle, M.T. (2003) La gramatica de los adverbios en -mente. Madrid: Universidad Autonoma de Madrid.

Sanchez, A., Sarmiento, R., Cantos, P. and Simon, J. et al. (1995) Cumbre. Corpus linguistico del espanol contemporaneo: fundamentos, metodologia y aplicaciones. Madrid: SGEL.

Scott, M. (2004) WordSmith Tools version 4. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Seco, M. (1998) Diccionario de dudas y dificultades de la lengua espanola. Madrid: Espasa Calpe.

Seco, M., O. Andres and G. Ramos. (1999). Diccionario del espanol actual. Madrid: Gredos.

Sinclair, J.M. (1991) Corpus, Concordance, Collocation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Stubbs, M. (1996) Text and Corpus Analysis: Computer-Assisted Studies of Language and Culture. Oxford: Blackwell.

Stubbs, M. (2001) Words and Phrases: Corpus Studies of Lexical Semantics. Oxford: Blackwell.

Tognini-Bonelli, E. (2001) Corpus Linguistics at Work. Amsterdam/ Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Whitsitt, S. (2005) 'A critique of the concept of semantic prosody'. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics, 10: 3, 283-306.


(1) 'Ignorar. 1. tr. No saber algo, o no tener noticia de ello' (Diccionario de la lengua espanola [1991], 2lst ed., henceforth DRAE).

(2) Cf Ignorar in DRAE (2001, 22nd ed.): '1. tr. No saber algo, o no tener noticia de ello. 2. tr. No hacer caso de algo o de alguien'.

(3) The concept of semantic prosody I am drawing on is the one proposed and explained by Sinclair (1991), Louw (1993) or Stubbs (1996; 2001), among others, and more specifically as used by Channell (2000) for the analysis of evaluative lexis. For a recent critique of the concept see Whitsitt (2005).

(4) Large generic corpora of Spanish have not been available until very recently (Davies and Face, 2006: 133). The CORDE and the CREA, the largest corpora of Spanish to date, were made available to public use only a few years ago, c. 1997. There are other generic corpora of Spanish, if smaller, very useful for this type of research. Worth mentioning for its pioneering nature is the one developed by Sanchez et al. (1995) at the University of Murcia. Likewise, there are some corpus-based studies of Anglicisms in Spanish (see, e.g., Gimeno & Gimeno 2003), but the corpora they use are normally smaller and specific.

(5) These two corpora are freely available at the website of the RAE:

(6) The BNC was used through the interface created by Mark Davies: BYU-BNC: The British National Corpus. Available at

(7) Davies, M. (2008-) The Corpus of Contemporary American English: 385 million words, 1990-present. Available online at

(8) The semantic categories for adjectives (descriptors and classifiers) and for adverbs (circumstance adverbials, stance adverbials and linking adverbials) are from Biber et al. (1999).

(9) Accoding to the information contained in the DRAE, this negative sense of drama developed between the 19th and the 20th centuries. Up to the second half of the 19th c. drama was used to refer to the genre, irrespective of its more serious or comic tone: 'drama. Composicion poetica en que se presenta una accion por las personas que el poeta introduce, sin que este hable o aparezca. Es nombre comun a la comedia, la tragedia y a cualquiera otra fabula escenica, y modernamente se distingue tambien con el solo nombre de DRAMA el que participa del genero comico y el tragico' (DRAE 1869). Towards the end of that century, the word started to develop a negative sense: 'drama. Poema dramatico de asunto lastimoso ...' (DRAE 1984). Together with this meaning shift, and related to it, a figurative sense developed at the same time, also registered in the same edition: 'drama fig. suceso de la vida real, capaz de interesar y connover vivamente'. This definition has remained unaltered in the dictionary for more than a century, until very recently, when the 23rd edition of the DRAE, available online at present to be published soon, has introduced the adjective 'infortunado' that reinforces the negative sense: 'drama 3. suceso infortunado de la vida real, capaz de conmover vivamente'.

(10) See note 15 below for the semantic overlapping of adverbs of manner and stance adverbials.

(11) Cf. Tognini-Bonelli (2001, 33-9) for a view of synonyms as false friends, or Berber-Sardinha (2000) for a comparison of semantic prosodies in English and Portuguese.

(12) These are senses 1, 2 and 3 of dramatico--ca in Seco et al. (1999): 1 De(l) drama [...] 2 Que tiene caracter de drama [3]. [...] 3 Que emociona o conmueve vivamente'.

(13) The prepositional phrase 'in a dramatic way'--registered in the BNC (5 hits) and in the COCA (20 hits)--has not been taken into consideration.

(14) These verbs are also called degree achievement verbs (Dowty, 1979) and atelic verbs of state (Levin & Rappaport, 1995). For a study comparing this type of verbs in English and Spanish see Bosque and Masullo (1999).

(15) As Biber et al. (1999: 782) point out, not all occurrences of circumstance adverbials fit clearly in only one of the seven major semantic categories they propose. Very often an adverbial may fit primarily into one category but have a secondary role that fit another semantic category. Manner adverbials, Biber et al. say, often include aspects of another semantic category; for example, a manner adverbial like radically can include a meaning of extent/degree: "The disease pattern has changed radically (ACAD)" (Biber et al. 1999: 782). In fact, radically is classified as a degree adverb in the Collins Cobuild English Grammar (1990: 293), while dramatically is included in the table of manner adverbs (Collins Cobuild English Grammar, 1990: 291).

(16) As with dramatically, the search was limited to the form dramaticamente, ignoring the periphrastic construction 'de forma/manera dramatica'.

(17) CORDE = 236 mil words; CREA = 154 mil words. 90% of the occurrences of dramaticamente in CORDE come from 20th c. texts, so only data from CORDE 1900-1975 (58.686.214 words) were considered.

(18) There are three occurrences in which the adverb modifies a participial form in a passive construction: 'dramaticamente escrita y dicha', 'dramaticamente percibida' and 'dramaticamente turbada'.

(19) As Biber et al. (1999) remind us, circumstance adverbial can imply some comment on the form or the style of a proposition. For instance, drastically 'can be interpreted as showing the speaker/writer's assessment of the situation: The disease pattern has changed radically (ACAD)' (Biber et al., 1999: 853). Thus, radically can function not only as an adverb of manner cum degree, but also as a stance adverbial. The same could be said about dramatically/dramaticamente.

(20) Each concordance line includes about 10 words to the right and to the left of the node.

(21) Other verbs that dramaticamente collocates with are descender, acortar, reflejar, terminar (3 occurrences), aparecer, crecer, detener, dividir, ilustrar, interrumpir, materializar, modificar, representar, transformar or variar (2 occurrences).

(22) Indeed, the presence of this collocation strikes us as extremely odd, since the evaluative load of the adverb, inherited from its adjectival base, seems to be incompatible with the positive denotation of the verb mejorar. This incompatibility has been pointed out by Rodriguez-Ramalle (2003) in her study on adverbs ending in--mente in Spanish: "Los adjetivos valorativos negativos poseen unos rasgos negativos que perviven en su lectura de grado y que parecen resultar incompatibles con nombres y verbos que expresan una accion o estado que pueden ser entendidos como positivos" (Rodriguez-Ramalle 2003: 104).

(23) The period 1975-1989 contains 45.674.229 words; 1990-2004 has 108.538.432 words.

(24) 'Iberia mejoro "dramaticamente" sus resultados en 1986' (1987, PRENSA, El Pais). Notice the auhtor's awareness of the odd collocation, as signalled by scare quotes.

Jose L. Oncins-Martinez [1]

University of Extremadura

[1] Address for correspondence. Jose L. Oncins-Martinez. Dept. Filologia Inglesa. Facultad de Filosofia y Letras. University of Extremadura. Campus Universitario, s/n--10004 Caceres. Telf.. 927-257400. E-mail.
Table 1: 20 most frequent verbal forms collocating with
dramatically  L1 and R1 (BNC)

     verb.LEX+dramatically        P/mil

1    INCREASED               84   0.84
2    CHANGED                 73   0.73
3    IMPROVED                37   0.37
4    DROPPED                 25   0.25
5    RISEN                   24   0.24
6    CHANGE                  23   0.23
7    FALLEN                  22   0.22
8    FELL                    19   0.19
9    INCREASE                17   0.17
10   RISE                    15   0.15
11   DECLINED                14   0.14
12   ROSE                    14   0.14
13   IMPROVE                 12   0.12
14   GROWN                   LL   0.11
15   ALTERED                 10   0.1
16   FALL                    10   0.1
17   PAUSED                  10   0.1
18   EXPANDED                9    0.09
19   INCREASES               9    0.09
20   REDUCED                 8    0.09

     dramatically+verb.lex        p/mil

1    REDUCED                 35   0.35
2    INCREASED               16   0.16
3    CHANGED                 15   0.15
4    IMPROVED                14   0.14
5    IMPROVE                 13   0.13
6    REDUCE                  LL   0.11
7    CHANGE                  10   0.1
8    INCREASE                7    0.07
9    BROUGHT                 5    0.05
10   AFFECT                  5    0.05
11   ALTERED                 5    0.05
12   HIGHLIGHTED             5    0.05
13   CUT                     5    0.05
14   REDUCING                5    0.05
15   ILLUSTRATED             4    0.04
16   OPPOSED                 4    0.04
17   REDUCES                 4    0.04
18   INCREASES               3    0.03
19   FOLLOWING               3    0.03
20   EXPANDED                3    0.03

Table 2: most frequent verbal lemmas collocating with dramatically
L1 and R1 (BNC)

     Verb*+dramatically         P/mil

1    INCREASE             121   1.21
2    CHANGE               105   1.05
3    RISE                 63    0.63
4    IMPROVE              54    0.54
5    FALL                 42    0.42
6    DROP                 31    0.31
7    GROW                 23    0.23
8    ALTER                17    0.17
9    DECLINE              16    0.16
10   EXPAND               13    0.13
LL   REDUCE               13    0.13
12   PAUSE                10    0.13

     dramatically+verb *       P/mil

L    REDUCE               55   0.55
2    INCREASE             37   0.37
3    IMPROVE              30   0.30
4    CHANGE               26   0.26
5    ALTER                9    0.09
6    AFFECT               8    0.08
7    EXPAND               7    0.07
8    HIGHLIGHT            6    0.06
9    CUT                  6    0.06
10   BRING                5    0.05
11   ILLUSTRATE           5    0.05
12   OPPOSE               4    0.04
13   FOLLOW               3    0.03

Table 3: 12 most frequent verbs collocating with dramatically (BNC)

1    INCREASE   158   1.58
2    CHANGE     131   1.31
3    IMPROVE    84    0.84
4    REDUCE     68    0.68
5    RISE       63    0.63
6    FALL       42    0.42
7    DROP       31    0.31
8    ALTER      25    0.25
9    GROW       23    0.23
10   EXPAND     20    0.20
LL   DECLINE    16    0.16
12   PAUSE      10    0.10

Table 4: 20 most frequent verbal forms collocating with
dramatically L1 and R1 (COCA)

     verb.LEX+dramatically         P/mil

1    CHANGED                 493   1.28
2    INCREASED               367   0.95
3    IMPROVED                154   0.4
4    DROPPED                 142   0.36
5    CHANGE                  138   0.35
6    INCREASE                100   0.25
7    RISEN                   84    0.21
8    VARY                    69    0.17
9    GROWN                   68    0.17
10   DECLINED                65    0.16
11   RISE                    55    0.14
12   ROSE                    51    0.13
13   FALLEN                  42    0.1
14   DECREASED               39    0.1
15   INCREASES               39    0.1
16   SHIFTED                 38    0.09
17   IMPROVE                 36    0.09
18   EXPANDED                35    0.09
19   DIFFER                  29    0.07
20   DROPPED                 29    0.07

     dramatically+verb.LEX         P/mil

1    INCREASED               146   0.37
2    CHANGED                 136   0.35
3    REDUCE                  135   0.35
4    REDUCED                 122   0.31
5    INCREASE                119   0.3
6    IMPROVED                89    0.23
7    CHANGE                  79    0.2
8    IMPROVE                 75    0.19
9    ALTERED                 57    0.14
10   ALTER                   47    0.12
11   CUT                     41    0.1
12   AFFECT                  37    0.09
13   AFFECTED                33    0.08
14   INCREASING              33    0.08
15   INCREASES               31    0.08
16   REDUCING                31    0.08
17   CHANGING                27    0.07
18   REDUCES                 26    0.06
19   EXPAND                  22    0.05
20   ILLUSTRATED             20    0.05

Table 5: most frequent verbal lemmas collocating with dramatically
L1 and R1 (COCA)

     Verb*+dramatically         P/mil

1    CHANGE               709   1.84
2    INCREASE             545   1.41
3    RISE                 230   0.59
4    IMPROVE              206   0.53
5    DROP                 200   0.51
6    GROW                 133   0.34
7    DECLINE              95    0.24
8    VARY                 94    0.24
9    FALL                 92    0.23
10   DIFFER               67    0.17
11   SHIFT                60    0.15
12   DECREASE             46    0.11
13   EXPAND               44    0.11
14   SLOW                 41    0.1
15   PAUSE                36    0.09
16   REDUCE               34    0.08
17   SHRINK               26    0.06
18   SAY                  22    0.05
19   ESCALATE             19    0.04
20   ALTER                16    0.04

     dramatically+verb *        P/mil

L    INCREASE             378   0.98
2    CHANGE               259   0.67
3    REDUCE               314   0.81
4    IMPROVE              213   0.55
5    ALTER                124   0.32
6    AFFECT               81    0.21
7    EXPAND               58    0.15
8    CUT                  48    0.12
9    ILLUSTRATE           40    0.1
10   DECREASE             30    0.07
LL   BOOST                24    0.06
12   DEMONSTRATE          23    0.05
13   ENHANCE              23    0.05
14   TRANFORM             23    0.05
15   LOWER                22    0.05
16   SHIFT                22    0.05
17   INFLUENCE            17    0.04
18   SLOW                 17    0.04
19   REVERSE              14    0.03
20   RISE                 12    0.03

Table 6: 12 most frequent verbs collocating with dramatically (COCA)

           Total   P/mil

CHANGE     968     2.51
INCREASE   923     2.39
IMPROVE    391     1.01
REDUCE     348     0.08
RISE       242     0.62
DROP       203     0.52
GROW       135     0.35
ALTER      131     0.34
DECLINE    108     0.27
EXPAND     97      0.25
FALL       96      0.24
VARY       95      0.24

Table 7: Collocates of dramaticamente L1 (CORDE 1900-1974)

                 Total   P/mil

ACERCARSE        1       0.01
AFRENTAR         1       0.01
AMENIZAR         1       0.01
APARECER         1       0.01
APRETAR          1       0.01
ARRANCAR         1       0.01
AVECINARSE       1       0.01
BATALLAR         1       0.01
CALLARSE         1       0.01
CANTAR           1       0.01
CONFIRMAR        1       0.01
CONTAR           1       0.01
CONTORSIONARSE   1       0.01
DESPLOMARSE      1       0.01
DECIR            3       0.05
EXCLAMAR         2       0.03
EXPRESAR         2       0.03
FERTILIZAR       1       0.01
HABLAR           1       0.01
GIRAR            1       0.01
ILUMINAR         1       0.01
INTERRUMPIR      1       0.01
MIRAR            1       0.01
NARRAR           1       0.01
OPONER           1       0.01
PROCLAMAR        1       0.01
PROYECTAR        1       0.01
QUEDAR           1       0.01
REACCIONAR       1       0.01
RECORRER         1       0.01
REGISTRAR        1       0.01
REPETIR          1       0.01
REVELAR          1       0.01
SENTIR           1       0.01
SALTAR           1       0.01
TAPAR            1       0.01
TOMAR            1       0.01
VIVIR            2       0.03

Tabla 8: Ten top collocates of dramaticamente (CREA 1975-2004)

                            Total   P/mil

CAMBIAR (CHANGE)            33      0.21
AUMENTAR (INCREASE)         11      0.07
CAER (DROP/FALL)            11      0.07
BAJAR (DECREASE)            8       0.05
EXPRESAR (EXPRESS)          7       0.04
MEJORAR (IMPROVE)           7       0.04
QUEDAR (REMAIN)             7       0.04
INCREMENTAR (INCREASE)      6       0.04
DISMINUIR (DECREASE)        5       0.03

Table 9: Collocates of dramaticamente 1975-1989

                           Total   P/mil

CAMBIAR (CHANGE)           5       0.10
CAER (DROP/FALL)           4       0.08
INCREMENTAR (INCREASE)     3       0.06
QUEDAR (REMAIN)            3       0.06
EXPRESAR (EXPRESS)         2       0.04
DISMINUIR (DECREASE)       1       0.02
MEJORAR (IMPROVE)          1       0.02

Tabla 10: Collocates of dramaticamente 1990-2004

                            Total   P/mil

CAMBIAR (CHANGE)            28      0.25
AUMENTAR (INCREASE)         11      0.10
BAJAR (DECREASE)            8       0.07
CAER (DROP/FALL)            7       0.06
MEJORAR (IMPROVE)           6       0.05
EXPRESAR (EXPRESS)          5       0.04
DISMINUIR (DECREASE)        4       0.03
QUEDAR (REMAIN)             4       0.03
INCREMENTAR (INCREASE)      3       0.02
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Author:Oncins-Martinez, Jose L.
Publication:International Journal of English Studies
Article Type:Case study
Geographic Code:4EUSP
Date:Dec 1, 2009
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