‘We’ are not ‘nosotros’ in Spanish media texts

The paper “Seguimos con la actualidad… The omission of nosotros ‘we’ across Spanish media genres” has been presented by María José Serrano at Grammar and Genre: Interfaces and Influences symposium hold on Åbo Akademi, Turku, Finland (October 24-26, 2012).

The aim of this study is to apply this dynamic, creative view of linguistic variation to the analysis of a particular syntactic choice in Spanish, namely the use of plural first-person nosotros ‘we’ clauses with an omitted subject and its distribution across textual genres. Contrary to the likely intuition of most common speakers, nosotros is not just the plural form of yo. It indicates that what is said concerns the speaker, but not just him/her. Thus even if yo were ‘the speaker’ and nosotros ‘the speakers’, the latter would promote a wider and more diffuse interpretation of referents.The use of omitted nosotros will be investigated across two corpora of contemporary Spanish mass media language, namely the Corpus Conversacional del Español de las Islas Canarias (CCEC) and the Corpus de Lenguaje de los Medios de Comunicación de Salamanca (MEDIASA). The possible pragmatic motivations of exclusive, and inclusive plurals are multiple and often quite subtle; it is our intention to outline the most relevant ones found in our corpus, namely a) hearer-exclusive, b) empathic-hearer-exclusive and c) hearer-inclusive.

One relevant finding is that both corpora have a considerable amount of items of omitted nosotros referring to no other person than the speaker—most often the broadcaster in genres like news reports or informational debates—, who apparently wants to involve the audience in what he/she is saying. This is the use we label empathic-hearer-exclusive, combining an exclusive reference with an iconic and pragmatically involvement of hearer or audience. In the following example the verbal forms (contamos, decíamos, vamos a contarles) refer to the program broadcaster, or perhaps include other people contributing to his/her communication with the audience, particularly the staff of the program. On their part, the hearers are not included, just iconically involved in the utterance by the use of the first plural omitted form.

Esta semana leíamos varias entrevistas a Soria\y analizábamos los titulares de las prospecciones petrolíferas\ (CCEC)
This week we read some interviews to Soria\ and analyzed the headlines of oil prospecting’/

Informational debates and news reports, characterized by their scarce interactiveness, should be more inclined to the hearer-exclusive variant because they include abundant stretches where speakers expose their personal experiences, generally by phone, about a topic proposed by the broadcaster. Hearer-exclusive uses of the plural appear to be more typical of argumentation-persuasion genres, and empathic-hearer-exclusive uses of information-exposition ones: the former indicate what a group thinks or does, whereas the latter intend for the audience to share the positions expressed by means of pragmatically involving them in the utterances. On its part, the hearer-inclusive variant performs the highest degree of objectivity in the continuum informational debates and news reports, since the propositional content is really shared by the speaker and the interlocutor or audience, and it is seldom based on any personal or subjective or empathic stance. Most often omitted nosotros ‘we’ seems to act as a moderator of subjectivity through the broadening of the perspective and the iconic blurring of the subject when it is in fact a personal viewpoint that is being expressed.

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