Word of the Day

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Anomalous Spanish present continuous

In the book I am reading, Inés del Alma Mía, there are some grammatical constructions used by Catalina, a Peruvian Indian woman who speaks Spanish as a second language, that have drawn my attention. Here is a sample: (1)¿Qué vamos a estar haciendo con él, mamitay (What are will we be doing with him, mamitay)? (2) No está queriendo irse, pues. (He isn't wanting to go, that's it.) (3)Quedarse está queriendo, no más.(Staying he is wanting, simply.) (4)¿Y quién va a estar vigilando al salvaje, pues, señoray? (And who will be watching this savage, huh, señoray?) 5)Ladrones y flojos están siendo estos mapuche. (Thieves and bums are being these mapuche.) This can an influence from Catalina's first language or from the existence of both possibilities in Spanish and her inadequate understanding of the scope of usage of each one.

This reminds me of the overuse of English continuous tenses by some Indians (from India) and also some Brazilians' overuse of the continuous tense in Portuguese, known as gerundismo (the Brazilian linguist Sírio Possenti doesn't agree with his designation, but it's the widest one used), something purportedly thrown around as a means of embellishing one's speech or making one's assertions less definite, as some linguists argue, which is especially relevant at a call center, whence most of this language irradiates. Nevertheless, the use of the continuous tenses is sentences 2 and 3 sounds idiomatic to me in Portuguese, at least in my dialect/idiolect.

Another interesting feature of Catalina's Spanish is topicalization, but I won't even go into this right this now.

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