Displaced persons

A paper on the pronouns usted and ustedes by Miguel A. Aijón Oliva will be published in 2018 by the Hispanic Studies Review. It presents an investigation of the functional variation of these pronouns according to several features, and how the patterns obtained can be interpreted in cognitive terms. Usted and ustedes—to be respectively translated as you+ and you all+—entail a discordance between grammatical form and reference, insofar as they come from third-person NPs—vuestra merced and its plural—and correlate with third-person morphemes, but are used to index addressees. They can thus be understood as a special choice for the construction of others, based on a cognitive displacement from the prototypical second person. Through grammatical means, addressees and audiences are detached from the sphere of the direct participants and approach that of external entities.

The features of functional variation analyzed were object marking with the particle a; object agreement with the verb through clitics; the choice among different clitic forms; the variable formulation of the pronouns usted and ustedes; and their placement within the clause when formulated. In all cases, quantitative analysis—which in several cases results in a certain solution being categorical or nearly categorical—was complemented with the cognitive interpretation of each choice through contextual examination. The materials used were those of the MEDIASA corpus. The main findings are summarized and discussed below.

a) Object marking. In the corpus, all cases of usted and ustedes encoded as accusative or dative objects are headed by the particle a (example 1). This is also what happens with first- and second-person object pronouns in contemporary Spanish. Therefore, as regards this first morphosyntactic feature, usted and ustedes appear to be fully grammaticalized as pronouns, and no functional remnants of their lexical origin can be detected in the texts under analysis.

(1) Miguel Ángel Huerta nos ayuda: a repasar la cartelera de los Cines Van Dyck / todas las semanas / para: ponerles a ustedes al corriente acerca de las novedades  <Var-Co-230503-13:50>

‘M.A.H. will help us go through the movies showing at Van Dyck Cinemas, in order to inform [to] you all+ about the newest releases.’

b) Object agreement through clitics. In principle, all referents encoded as personal pronouns in accusative and dative object contexts require agreement, just as a-marking. This is usually the case with usted and ustedes as well. However, the corpus contains two examples of object encoding where ustedes is not accompanied by the morpheme, thus behaving more like a lexical unit than a personal pronoun, as in (2). The symbol Ø indicates the points where the clitic would have been expected—there are actually two possible slots, due to the fact that the nucleus is a pluriverbal construction.

(2) para ir finalizan:do este apartado que Ø hemos venido ofreciendoØ a ustedes / día tras día: durante la campaña electoral  <Var-Co-230503-13:20>

‘In order to put an end to this section we have been offering to you all+, day after day, during the election campaign.’

c) Clitic choice. Being correlative with third-person paradigms, usted and ustedes can distinguish between dative encoding with le/les and accusative encoding, further differentiated for gender, with lo/los (masc.) and la/las (fem.). However, the use of the dative forms is categorical in the 252 clitic indexations of usted or ustedes across the corpus (see 3 as well as 1 above). As observed with object a-marking and clitic agreement, this suggests that the displaced second persons tend to reproduce the functional patterns of the first and prototypical second persons rather than those of third ones.

Miguel Ángel Aijón Oliva