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Pragmatic weight and face: pronominal presence and the case of the Spanish second person singular subject pronoun tú

Stewart, Miranda (2003) Pragmatic weight and face: pronominal presence and the case of the Spanish second person singular subject pronoun tú. Journal of Pragmatics, 35 (2). pp. 191-206. ISSN 0378-2166

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Studies of the presence or absence of the subject personal pronoun in Spanish have typically taken place within the fields of theoretical syntax or variationist sociolinguistics and have sought to correlate pronominal occurrence either with linguistic features or with speaker variables. This study places the occurrence of the second person subject pronoun tu within the framework of interactional pragmatics and investigates the potential effects of extra-linguistic factors on the linguistic choices of speakers within a broad framework of Gricean pragmatics and politeness theory. It argues that the pronoun functions as a multi-functional Gricean hedge which allows speakers both to construct a social identity and to negotiate face (their own as well as that of their interlocutor) in interpersonal interaction. The mere inclusion of the pronoun by the speaker in contravention of the Gricean maxim of quantity invites the hearer to draw an implicature; this may be discoursal and relate to the frames of belief of the speaker and hearer, or conversational as in the use of the second person singular pronoun in an attempt by the speaker to cede the floor. The article focuses in particular on the use of the pronoun tu and argues that its presence responds to the face wants of speaker and hearer.