Two subjunctives or three?
A multimodel analysis of subjunctive tense variation in complement clauses in Spanish
This paper examines the use of the three non-periphrastic subjunctives in Spanish in embedded clauses under obligatory subjunctive predicates in the past tense in three Spanish varieties: Argentinean, Mexican and Peninsular Spanish. By means of random forest and logistic regression analyses, I demonstrate that a grammar where the two “past” subjunctives make up one group, such that the variation can be modeled on a binary opposition between (morphologically) past vs. (morphologically) present, achieves better prediction accuracy and goodness-of-fit parameters than a grammar with a three-way split. The results suggest that, at least in complement clauses of obligatory subjunctive predicates, there appear to be no semantic differences between the two past subjunctives but there are still relatively large differences in how the three subjunctive forms are used across the three Spanish varieties studied.
Keywords: Spanish subjunctive, random forest, morphosyntactic variation, sequence of tense, multinomial logistic regression
Published online: 09 April 2021
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