Bare English-origin nouns in Spanish: Rates, constraints, and discourse functions

Rena Torres Cacoullos, Jessi Elana Aaron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


We test the hypothesis that single other-language-origin words are nonce loans (Sankoff, Poplack, & Vanniarajan, 1990) as opposed to code-switches in a corpus-based study of English-origin nouns occurring spontaneously in New Mexican Spanish discourse. The object of study is determinerless nouns, whose status is superficially ambiguous. The study shows that, even with typologically similar languages, variable rule analysis can reveal details of the grammar that constitute conflict sites, even when relative frequencies for variants are similar. Though the rate of bare nouns is identical, their distribution patterns in Spanish and English differ. Linguistic conditioning parallel with the former, and at odds with the latter, shows that the contentious items are loanwords. In information flow terms (Dubois, 1980; Thompson, 1997), it is not lack of grammatical integration but nonreferential uses of nonce-loan nouns to form recipient-language predicates that is manifested in zero determination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-328
Number of pages40
JournalLanguage Variation and Change
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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