Academic journal article Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Referent Accessibility of Appositive Constructions in the Spanish Press

Academic journal article Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Referent Accessibility of Appositive Constructions in the Spanish Press

Article excerpt

The term apposition has been interpreted in many different ways and used for a variety of constructions. Traditionally apposition is considered as a juxtaposition of two noun phrases placed alongside each other. Both segments are considered syntactically and semantically equivalent. Nonetheless, this apparently simple definition does not lead to a clear understanding of the concept of apposition, as can be concluded from the very different constructions listed by Acuña Fariña (1996: 15-18), see examples 1-10 below:

(1) The poet Burns.

(2) My friend Smith.

(3) Professor Brown.

(4) The city of New York.

(5) We boys.

(6) The idea that cats can fly.

(7) There is now ample accommodation for them here, no less than five hospital ships being available, viz. Maine, Spartan, Nubia, Lismore and Avoca.

(8) They met here, in London.

(9) Its use is that of any other definition; to enable us to agree what comes into our discussion and what does not.

(10) We might therefore ask two things about a theory of a change of state:

a) Does it give a satisfying physical picture of what is probably happening?

b) Is the numerical agreement with the observed facts in keeping with the number of adjustable parameters, or is the theory unduly 'forced' in that respect?

It is obvious that delineating the defining properties of an appositive construction is far from easy.

The aim of the present article is to share a more accurate analysis for two specific kinds of appositive constructions, illustrated by these examples: 'el presidente de los Estados Unidos, Obama' and 'el presidente Obama'.1 This study builds upon a research project on the different forms and uses of appositive constructions in the Spanish written press. In order to obtain a homogeneous set of examples, only the expressions referring to human beings were extracted. For this study, 3,842 appositive constructions were selected from informative articles published in El País (1998-2003) and submitted to an exhaustive analysis. Since I was also interested in contrasting the use of the appositive constructions with other nominal expressions used to refer to the same referents, the data were extended to 10,783 noun phrases, incorporating next to the 3,842 appositive constructions mentioned above, proper names used alone (for example, 'Obama') and descriptive noun phrases, such as 'el presidente de los Estados Unidos'. The data were submitted to a systematic analysis in which morphosyntactic, semantic and pragmatic criteria were exploited (cf. Vande Casteele 2010). This large quantitative background project now constitutes the basis for qualitative research on the accessibility status of two specific kinds of appositive constructions, which represent 2,750 instances. These constructions were selected because of their formal resemblance (the descriptive segment precedes the denominating part2), but a difference in discourse function.

After describing the syntactic and semantic characteristics of the different types of appositive constructions, an original functional discourse analysis is proposed, which intends to provide answers to the following questions: When are the different appositive constructions used in Spanish informative newspaper articles? Which is their particular discourse function and how are they graded in the scale of accessibility marking? The empirical evidence will enable us to correlate the two kinds of appositive constructions considered in this article with a different textual position and consequently a different discourse function.

For the theoretical background of this discourse analysis I build on Ariel (1990). She states that longer, more informative expressions are used when the degree of accessibility of the referent is relatively low. From her viewpoint, appositive constructions, which constitute rather long linguistic devices, should have a low accessibility status. Now, I wonder if each type of appositive construction occupies the same degree in this scale. …

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