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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: Perfect evolution and change: A sociolinguistic study of preterit and present perfect usage in contemporary and earlier Argentina Add Dissertation
Author: Celeste Rodriguez Louro Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Melbourne, Department of Linguistics and Applied Linguistics
Completed in: 2009
Linguistic Subfield(s): Historical Linguistics; Morphology; Sociolinguistics;
Subject Language(s): Spanish
Director(s): Nicholas Evans
Jean Mulder
Barbara Kelly

Abstract: This thesis is a sociolinguistic study of Preterit and Present Perfect (PP)
usage in contemporary and earlier Argentinian River Plate Spanish (ARPS).
The data analyzed stem from a 244,034-word corpus collected for the
purposes of the study, including contemporary casual conversation,
sociolinguistic interviews, participant observation, written
questionnaires, and newspapers spanning the 19th–21st centuries.

The study is motivated by previous claims that in Latin America the PP is
restricted to contexts that extend into the present time, resembling
Peninsular medieval and Renaissance usage (e.g. Lope Blanch 1972: 138;
Harris 1982: 50; Squartini & Bertinetto 2000: 413). I challenge this
proposal showing that (1) ARPS has undergone its own development, and (2)
Latin American varieties do not represent earlier frozen developmental
stages akin to earlier Peninsular Spanish.

Although low in overall frequency, the contemporary ARPS PP is used in
experiential settings to express indefinite past (a vernacular use).
Moreover, multivariate analysis of the contemporary oral data reveals that
the ARPS PP is not aspectually restricted to repetitive and iterative
contexts extending into speech time – contrary to Schwenter and Torres
Cacoullos' (2008) findings for contemporary oral Mexican Spanish. Indeed,
the data show that the ARPS continuative PP is losing its link-to-present
requirement. The ARPS PP also features minimally in resultative and
continuative settings, supporting layering of old and new grammaticalizing
structures (Bybee, Perkins & Pagliuca 1994: 21). Present relevance does not
determine ARPS PP usage and is instead encoded through the Preterit and
temporal adverbials (TAs).

Historically, the PP has dwindled in usage frequency since the 19th century
and the Preterit has invaded the spaces erstwhile occupied by the PP. PP
functions like result, continuity, current relevance, and hot news are
currently fulfilled by the Preterit, in combination with TAs (TA +
VERB-PRET). I argue that the TA + VERB-PRET construction has emerged as a
periphrastic encoder of PP nuances, a development reminiscent of perfect
periphrases in languages such as Yoruba and Karaboro (Niger-Congo) (Dahl
1985: 130). A contemporary example of this construction includes the
widespread temporal marker ahí 'at this point in time (lit. 'there') in
combination with the Preterit to indicate temporal immediacy.

The contemporary ARPS PP is sociolinguistically constrained; men use it
significantly more often than women. The PP is also employed by younger
speakers, challenging the position that this form is on the verge of
extinction (Kubarth 1992a: 565; Burgos 2004: 103). In contrast to the
contention that the PP occurs more frequently in written media (e.g. De
Kock 1989: 489; Squartini & Bertinetto 2000: 413), the contemporary oral
and newspaper corpora show similar distributional tendencies. Only in the
questionnaire is the PP used more readily in ways unattested in oral
interaction (i.e. in current relevance and past perfective settings). ARPS
ambivalent use of the PP represents the essence of the so-called 'actuation
problem'; that is, the contention that the process of linguistic change
involves stimuli and constraints from both society and from the structure
of language (Weinrech, Labov & Herzog 1968: 186).