Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

On the Interaction between Syntactic and Information Structures in Spanish

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies (2003), 80, (1), 1–20.

Abstract

Part of our pragmatic competence involves discourse competence: knowledge about the appropriateness of our utterances in a particular situation. A discourseadequate utterance has to be informationally relevant in that context. That is, it has to have an appropriate information structure so that it is coherent with the previous discourse. This information structure, expressed in dichotomies such as theme-rheme or topic-focus, does not always coincide with the syntactic order subject-predicate, which can result in interesting conflicts between both structures. These conflicts can be resolved in Spanish by the use of the following strategies: a) the use of left-dislocations, which serve to maintain an appropriate information structure, but which alter the subject-predicate order; b) the use of intonation, which can mark a focal subject in situ, without moving it to the end of the sentence; c) the use of the passive; that manages to maintain both orders by reversing the roles of subject and object; and d) the use of Focus Preposing, which reverses both structures, and definitely succeeds in attracting the addressee's attention.

La competencia pragmática incluye lo que se puede llamar competencia discursiva: el conocimiento de si una frase es o no es adecuada en una determinada situación. Para que una frase sea adecuada en un determinado contexto ha de ser, entre otras cosas, informativamente relevante. Esto es, ha de tener una estructura informativa que la haga coherente con el discurso previo. Esta estructura informativa expresada en dicotomías como tema-rema o tópico-foco no siempre coincide con el orden sintáctico sujeto-predicado, lo cual puede producir interesantes conflictos entre las dos estructuras. En español, estos conflictos pueden resolverse mediante el uso de las siguientes estrategias: a) el uso de dislocaciones de izquierda, que permiten mantener una adecuada estructura informativa, pero que alteran el orden sujeto-predicado; b) el uso de la entonación, que puede servir para marcar un sujeto remático o focalizado in situ, sin colocarlo al final de la frase; c) el uso de una estructura pasiva, que permite mantener los dos órdenes (sujeto-predicado y tópico-foco) incluso cuando el tópico es el objeto, al transformar a éste en sujeto; y d) el uso del Movimiento de Foco que altera ambas estructuras y definitivamente capta la atención del oyente.

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Casielles-Suárez, Eugenia