LINGUIST List 7.869

Tue Jun 11 1996

Sum: ?quiero que vaya

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <>


  1. "Alan R. King", Sum: ??quiero que vaya

Message 1: Sum: ??quiero que vaya

Date: Tue, 11 Jun 1996 14:25:04 BST
From: "Alan R. King" <>
Subject: Sum: ??quiero que vaya
Several weeks ago (7.614) I posted a query, asking whether anyone could tell
me of any dialect of Spanish where the sentence "I want to go to Mexico" can
be translated as "Quiero que vaya a Mexico." With apologies for the delay,
here is the result. But first, a word about the context of the original

The above Spanish sentence was offered by one of half a dozen informants who
volunteered data about Spanish following my recent general query about
modals. Evidently these informants were not aware that I reside in the
southern Basque Country where I am surrounded by Spanish speakers, nor that
I have myself spoken this language on a daily basis for the past twenty-odd
years. Nonetheless I accepted the data with thanks and processed it as all
my other language data, partly on methodological grounds, partly with a view
to the possibility of using Spanish as a test case for evaluating my
methodology, and partly because I do not claim exhaustive knowledge of all
dialects of Spanish. Once again, I thank all those informants.

I initially wrote back to the informant questioning it, asking him whether
he was sure and if so, to specify where he had this from or where he claims
it is used. He stuck to his guns but didn't immediately answer the second
part of the question, so I insisted, whereupon he said he had heard it in
Uruguay and Argentina where he lived for two years. I remained skeptical,
but thought the scientific thing to do was to check further, hence my
specific query on LINGUIST.

The following eleven people sent replies: John Beaven, Sarah Eaton, Lee
Hartman, Jelly Julia de Jong, Patricia Macgregor Mendoza, Andrea Menegotto,
Rosa Graciela Montes, Bert Peeters, Jill Pellettieri, Susana Sotillo, Gladys
Vega Scott. Thanks to all.

Ten answered my question; one only commented. No fewer than three of these
happen to be speakers of Argentinean Spanish. (In my LINGUIST query I
refrained from specifying dialects.) Several other countries in Latin
America were also represented in the answers. All respondents were
unanimous in rejecting the possibility suggested by my informant. I also
made some inquiries with Latin American speakers in person, with identical

Some respondents pointed out that the sentence "Quiero que vaya..." is of
course grammatical but only with non-coreferential subjects, a reading
clearly excluded in the English source sentence. Several, apart from
expressing their doubts, also observed, and I can only agree, that if the
claim at issue turned out to be true for any variety of Spanish, this
information would be of great factual and theoretical interest. "Wow!",
"Wild!", "news to me", "simply incorrect", "impossible", and "I think your
correspondent is pulling your leg" are some of the comments I received
conveying the degree of surprise and skepticism of reactions. And as one
colleague added, tongue in cheek: "Quiero que sepa tus resultados!" ;-)

My excuse for dwelling on the issue is that it raises the broader
methodological question of how to deal with data obtained from email
informants. I feel that this is a sufficiently important and difficult
question to justify prolonging the discussion beyond the original query.

On the one hand, email informants, as I have found for myself, are a
valuable resource made available by the information revolution, and I
wouldn't want anything I say here to imply that I feel anything but
appreciation and gratitude towards all those who offer their
well-intentioned help. I also admit that as a linguist, I cannot blame an
informant for giving bad data; it is up to me as the professional researcher
to build necessary safeguards and filters into my data-gathering procedures.
The same applies, for that matter, to all other sources of data. I can
think of several ways to apply such safeguards and filters, and fully intend
to incorporate them. The supplier of the Spanish sentence that is the
subject of this summary has done me a service by providing an object lesson.

Still, I can't help thinking that I'm lucky it was Spanish, not West Futunan..

Alan R. King | EMAIL:
Indamendi 13, 7C | [alternative]
20800 Zarautz | FAX: +34-43-130396
Euskal Herria / Basque Country (Spain)
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue