Simplification in bilinguals' parallel structures? Spanish and English main-and-complement clauses

Dora LaCasse, Rena Torres Cacoullos

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


What is simplification, when may it occur in language contact, and does it especially affect discourse-pragmatic aspects? In this chapter, we assess parallel but differently variable structures across the languages in contact, in a bilingual speech corpus allowing comparisons of both bilinguals' languages. Spanish and English main-and-complement clauses are analogous but the locus of the variation differs across the languages. There is no corresponding variability in the other language when the subjunctive is chosen over the indicative in Spanish (variable subjunctive selection) or when the presence over the absence of the complementizer is chosen in English (variable complementizer presence). Overall rate may be an equivocal measure of contact-induced change, here masking productivity of the subjunctive, as shown by the range of subjunctive-licensing main verbs. Instead, comparisons can rely on the linguistic conditioning of variation, including contextual constraints operationalizing discourse-pragmatic factors, such as grammatical polarity for the Spanish subjunctive and subject form for the English complementizer. Bilinguals' Spanish and English each align with their respective monolingual speech benchmarks. Thus, in the northern New Mexico bilingual community, active bilinguals, who regularly use both languages, display continuity, rather than change, independently in each.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationMutual Influence in Situations of Spanish Language Contact in the Americas
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9781000806410
ISBN (Print)9780367651305
StatePublished - Dec 22 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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