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Usage of Imperfect and Imperfect Progressive Verb Forms in Spanish as a Majority and Minority Language: Is There an Effect for Language Contact?
Scott Lamanna
251-264 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


The current study examines the variation between the imperfect (IM) and the imperfect progressive (IP), both of which can communicate progressive meaning in past temporal contexts, in a corpus of written Spanish representing four different countries. These include the United States, where Spanish is a minority language in contact with English, and Mexico, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, where Spanish is the majority language. English only has one form, the past progressive, that communicates progressive meaning in the past, and it corresponds in its morphosyntactic structure to the Spanish IP. Consequently, the principal hypothesis investigated is that U.S. Spanish will show a greater relative frequency of IP usage as a percentage of all past-reference indicative imperfect usage (IM + IP) than the other varieties due to its greater degree of contact with English. The study includes the linguistic variables of verb frequency and type of imperfect usage, as well as the extralinguistic variables of country, genre and decade of publication. Results are mixed, but provide some evidence that contact-induced language change may be occurring in U.S. Spanish. The IP is used more frequently in this variety than in non-contact varieties, and the direction of the results for the other variables in U.S. Spanish is as predicted by a language contact hypothesis. However, only in the case of genre do the results of the statistical analyses provide unequivocal evidence of an effect for language contact. The study contributes to the literature on IM/IP variation in U.S. Spanish by looking at previously unexamined written data, by going beyond Mexican-American Spanish to include a range of Hispanic-American varieties, and by including data from several countries where Spanish is the majority language.

Published in

Selected Proceedings of the 10th Hispanic Linguistics Symposium
edited by Joyce Bruhn de Garavito and Elena Valenzuela
Table of contents
Printed edition: $250.00