This paper sheds light on the spread of deber with respect to deber de in the periphrastic construction deber(de) followed by Infinitive, which has been noticed in contemporary Spanish (cf. Sirbu-Dumitrescu 1988, Gómez Manzano 1992, Fairclough 2000), has received scant attention in the diachrony of this language, and has been considered a sort of «confusión» 'confusion' (Gómez Manzano 1992:161, RAE 1999:448, Gómez Torrego 1999:3349 y 2000:189, Seco 2001:135) on the part of the speakers. This «confusión» rests on the traditional assumption that deber followed by Infinitive indicates deontic modality while deber de followed by Infinitive indicates epistemic modality (RAE 1999:448). Taking into consideration the synchronic and diachronic variation of the referred construction in 17th and 19th century data in the envelope of the variationist and comparative approaches, the quantitative analysis suggests that the option deber increases its frequency of use and substitutes the option deber de first in the deontic contexts and then in the epistemic ones (Bybee, Perkins and Pagliuca 1994). Instead of «confusión» between the use of deber and deber de, the study points out the evolution of the variation: the use of deber goes from 40% in the sample of the 17th century to 80% in the sample of the 19th century. Alternately, the use of deber de in epistemic contexts decreases from 87% in the sample of the 17th century to 52% in the sample of the 19th century. Additionally, the analysis indicates that several linguistic restrictions govern the variation, and that the use of one or the other variant is a matter of the author's style in the texts analyzed rather than the topic of every text.
Selected Proceedings of the 4th Workshop on Spanish Sociolinguistics
edited by Maurice Westmoreland and Juan Antonio Thomas
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