Going beyond address forms: Variation and style in the use of the second-person pronouns and usted

María José Serrano

Abstract

The cognitive properties of morphosyntactic choices are at the base of any usage, patterns and tendencies they could possibly reveal; thus, by means of the cognitive properties of salience and informativeness, variation in second-person and usted must be considered as inherently meaningful, implying that each form conveys a different meaning that is used to pursue concrete communicative goals in discursive interaction. A qualitative and quantitative analysis of and usted and their syntactic variants (preverbal, postverbal and omitted) reveals that these forms are unevenly distributed across different textual genres and socioprofessional affiliations of speakers. It may be concluded that and usted contribute toward shaping the different communicative styles on the basis of the cognitive dimensions of objectivity and subjectivity, respectively. Considering these pronouns as meaningful choices by themselves, this study attempts to go beyond the traditional approach that treats them as terms of address, delving into the discursive and cognitive traits which underlie such a variation.

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