The 39th edition of New ways of analyzing variation will take place on November 4-6, 2010, in San Antonio de Texas, TX (USA). This year’s NWAV conference theme is «New» New Ways of Analyzing Variation: Diversity, Interdisciplinarity, and Intersectionality. This is the most important forum on variation in United States and it usually shows the most recent advances in the subject.
Whether the research project is developing a new method for studying syntactic variants in communicative interaction and discourse based on cognitive properties of grammar, it is undoubtedly interesting to attend this scientific event and present our recent results on syntactic variation. As the conference title is very stimulating, it encourages to make an effort in arranging findings and just expose and bring them out in the international community at the NWAV’s roundtable session on Friday, November 5th.
The first part of the presentation deals with the main theoretical issues which bear the empirical research. It will be argued that the alternance or variation between two grammatical structures should be explained not just as the correlation of forms with social and linguistic factors, but also as the possibility for speakers to make meaningful choices in discourse and interaction. The cognitive approach to language, with its principle that any change in form conveys some difference in meaning, favors a methodology for the analysis of syntactic variation that takes into account the underlying perceptions and conceptualizations of reality. From this viewpoint, syntactic variants constitute resources to construct communicative styles which may be socially and situationally distributed, and what is more, this all might be ultimately explainable with regard to the cognitive properties of grammar like the conceptualization of salience.
Furthermore, we will launch findings on usted/ustedes subject variation. Expression/ omission in Spanish have indicated that such variation is related to the cognitive property of salience and on informativity process, both disposed on a gradual scale. An express subject (Usted tiene ‘you have’) is more informative than an omitted one (Tiene ‘(you) have’), which is in turn more salient in interaction as it is activated or accessible in the speaker’s mind. Moreover, variation in the position of the subject regarding the verb is also meaningful: a preverbal pronoun (Usted tiene ‘you have’) will be more salient than its postposed alternative (Tiene usted lit. ‘have you’), since postposition signals an assimilation to the typical formal traits of syntactic objects as well as a higher degree of informativity.
We will also move forward from these results and focus on the covariations between usted/ustedes variation (expression/omission as well as preverbal / posverbal position) and social and stylistic traits such as gender and socioprofessional category within two Spanish corpuses: Corpus Conversacional del Español de Canarias (CCEC) and Corpus de los Medios de Comunicación de Salamanca (MEDIASA). Such a study will make it possible to ascertain whether the meanings derived from syntactic variation help perform different communicative styles in interaction, which should in turn be cognitively shaped along the discursive axis of evidentiality-objetivity/non evidentiality-subjectivity.
We are very excited in contributing to the 39NWAV edition and hope a very fuitful and successful scientific exchange abroad.