Hedging your bets - the use of yo in face-to-face interaction

Miranda Stewart


Miranda Stewart

University of Strathclyde


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 first person subject pronoun yo 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 an explanation for the high occurrence of yo with verbs of cognition can be found in the interactional need for speakers to hedge their opinions. Consequently, the use of yo as a hedge to the Gricean maxim of quality can serve simultaneously to protect the speakerâs face and to allow the construction of self. Pragmatic rather than linguistic factors make yo a multifunctional linguistic resource; its inherent ambivalence leads speakers to use it and hearers to interpret it in the ways that they do.
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