Studying grammatical variables in Spanish: New approaches and insights for sociolinguistics
Investigating grammatical (i.e., morphological, syntactic, discourse-pragmatic) variables poses some well-known challenges. To begin with, the approach pioneered for phonic variables (Labov 1963) must be modified in order to successfully apply variationist methods to the study of grammatical variables. As well, there is a long-standing assumption (see Schwenter 2011) that the social or stylistic significance of grammatical variables is harder to capture than it is for phonic variables, particularly because grammatical variants are typically less frequent in discourse. In this talk, I will draw on my research with Spanish speakers in distinct settings to show how the study of grammatical variables can lead to fruitful areas of discovery for sociolinguistics, similar to what has been shown for phonic variables. The range of phenomena to be covered include variation of the simple present and present progressive among classroom learners of Spanish, subject pronoun expression by bilingual Latino children in the U.S. South, and double possession in Peruvian Amazonian Spanish.