PublisherUniversity of Arizona Linguistics Circle
JournalCoyote Papers: Working Papers in Linguistics from A-Z, Studies on Native American Languages, Japanese and Spanish
AbstractThe purpose of this paper is to classify semantically the sentences and clauses of Spanish using the framework proposed in Chapter IV of Steele, Akmajian et al. (Steele 1981). The framework refines the hypothesis that "AUX is that part of a sentence which makes possible a judgment regarding its truth value" (Steele 1981:157). This paper will illustrate how Spanish instantiates the framework by schematizing the relationship among its clauses and sentences and will show that, in the set of verbal inflections classified as the indicative mood, there is an element that makes possible a judgment as to a sentence's truth value. Although a syntactic analysis arguing for the existence of AUX will not be undertaken here, any such analysis would have to reflect in some fashion the facts discussed in this paper. The issue of truth value is approached here from a semantic vantage point. There is good reason for classifying sentences according to their truth value. Steele has, by using her definition of AUX and its instantiation in four different (unrelated) languages, extracted from the interlinguistic comparison of the constituents identified as AUX a set of seven non -definitional properties (regarding position, composition, internal order, etc.) which these four unrelated languages have in common. It is the clustering of these properties that leads to the hypothesis that AUX is crucial in determining the truth value of a sentence. The hypothesis explains why all these properties should occur. In other words, the definition and the hypothesis "... simply represent the same linguistic fact, but at different levels of abstraction. The definition depends on...a syntactic analysis; the hypothesis is a characterization of an element identified in the syntax" (Steele 1981 :162). I will not specifically show here that there is something in Spanish which meets the definition of AUX given in Steele, but I will show that there is something which, through its presence or absence, determines the truth value of sentences. That "something" is the inflections of the indicative mood. The semantic classification of Spanish sentences utilizing the Steele framework validates the hypothesis in a language- particular way. Instantiation of the framework serves two purposes. First, the criterion for well-definedness for any general framework requires that it be applicable to individual cases. Second, the framework makes possible a contribution to the literature on the Spanish subjunctive. It makes explicit the relationship between sentences and clauses and provides a classification that makes clear the different character of indicatives, on the one hand, and imperatives, subjunctives and infinitives, on the other. Specifically, the difference between the indicative and the subjunctive /imperative /infinitive is due to their two different propositional bases. That there is a propositional difference between the indicative and the subjunctive /imperative is not new. As far back as 1920, Rodolfo Lenz distinguished between them: "The INDICATIVE expresses propositions which are considered real and actual (assertive judgments). The SUBJUNCTIVE and the IMPERATIVE express propositions which are real only in our imagination" (Lenz 1920:426; translation mine). What is new is the treatment of the infinitive together with the imperative and the subjunctive because of their identical propositional bases, which the framework elucidates.