Desubjectivizing discourse through the use of the periphrasis haber que + infinitive in Spanish




desubjectivization, impersonals, periphrasis, salience, syntax, variation


The present investigation analyzes the use of a construction traditionally described as impersonal: the periphrasis haber que + infinitive. This is a variable phenomenon in Spanish grammar studied as a meaningful choice based on the cognitive conceptualization of salience. The construction conveys a meaning of duty, obligation, recommendation or convenience by which the speaker accepts the situation described as unavoidable. Its use is analyzed in the texts of the Corpus Interaccional del Español, which comprises a wide range of genres and communicative situations. The hypothesis posed is that the meaning conveyed by haber que + infinitive contributes to the shaping of a communicative style based on the desubjectivity cognitive dimension.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

María José Serrano, Universidad de La Laguna

Full Professor of General Linguistics, Department of Spanish Philology



Aijón Oliva, M.A. (2018). "Not just you: The construction of radio audiences through second-person choice in Peninsular Spanish", Language and Communication, 60, 80-93.

Aijón Oliva, M.A. (2019). Constructing us. The first and second persons in Spanish media discourse. Mouton de Gruyter.

Aijón Oliva, M.A. (2020). "Talking about 'others': Referential readings and pragmatic functions of non-phoric plural third persons in Spanish media discourse", Lingua. An International Review of General Linguistics, 243, 1-18

Aijón Oliva, M.A. & Serrano, M.J. (2013). Style in syntax. Investigating variation in Spanish pronoun subjects. Peter Lang.

Aijón Oliva, M.A. & Serrano, M.J. (2016). "A matter of style: Gender and subject variation in Spanish", Gender and Language, 10, 2, 240-269.

Angermuller, J., Maingueneau, D. & Wodak, R. (2014). "Enunciative pragmatics. Introduction", in J. Angermuller, D. Maingueneau, D. & R. Wodak (eds.), The discourse studies reader. Main current in theory and analysis. Amsterdam, Benjamins, 135-139.

Athanasiadou, A., Canakis, C. & Cornillie, B. (2006). (eds.), Subjectification: Various paths to subjectivity. Mouton de Gruyter.

Bell, A. (2016). "Succeeding waves: Seeking sociolinguistic theory for the twenty-first century", in N. Coupland (ed.), Sociolinguistics: Theoretical debates. Cambridge: University Press, 391-416.

Benveniste, E. (1997) (1991). Problemas de Lingüística General I. Siglo Veintiuno Editores.

Blevins, J. (2003). "Passives and impersonals", Journal of Linguistics, 39, 473-52.

Brannon, L. (2010). Gender: Psychological perspectives. Boston: Pearson Education.

Bravo, A. & García Fernández, L. (2016). "Perífrasis verbales", in J. Gutiérrez-Rexach (ed.), Enciclopedia de Lingüística Hispánica. Routledge, 785-796.

Calsamiglia, H. & Tusón, A. (1999). Las cosas del decir. Manual de Análisis del Discurso. Ariel.

Cameron, D. (2011). "Performing Gender Identity: Young Men's Talk and the Construction of the Heterosexual Masculinity", in J. Coates & P. Pichler (eds.), Language and Gender: A Reader. Wiley-Blackwell, 250-262.

Charlow, N. & Chrisman, M. (2016). (Eds.) Deontic modality. Oxford University Press.

Croft, W. & Cruse, A.D. (2004). Cognitive Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dirven, R. (2005). "Major strands in cognitive linguistics", in F. Ruiz de Mendoza Ibáñez & S. Peña Cervel (eds.), Cognitive Linguistics: Internal Dynamics and Interdisciplinary Interaction. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 17-67.

Fauconnier, G. (1984). Espaces mentaux. Aspects de la construction du sens dans les langues naturelles. Minuit.

Fernández Soriano, O. (1999). "Two types of impersonal sentences in Spanish: Locative and dative subjects", Syntax, 2, 101-140.

Gast, V. & van der Auwera, J. (2014). "Towards a distributional typology of human impersonal pronouns, based on data from European languages", in D. Bakker & M. Haspelmath (eds.), Languages across Boundaries: Studies in the Memory of Anna Siewierska. Mouton de Gruyter, 120-158.

Gauntlett, D. (2008). Media, Gender and Identity. Routledge.

Germon, J. (2009). Gender: A Genealogy of an Idea. Palgrave.

Gili Gaya, S. (1980). Curso superior de sintaxis española. Biblograf.

Gómez Torrego, L. (1992). La impersonalidad gramatical. Descripción y norma. Arco Libros.

Herring, S. & Stoerger, S. (2014). "Gender and (A)nonymity in Computer-Mediated Communication", in J. Holmes, M. Meyerhof & S. Ehrlich (eds.), The Handbook of language, gender, and sexuality. Wiley Blackwell, 567-586.

Johnson, D.E. (2009). "Getting off the GoldVarb Standard: Introducing Rbrul for Mixed-Efects Variable Rule Analysis", Language and Linguistics Compass 3/1, 359-383.

Kratzer, A. (1991). "Modality", in A. von Stechow & D. Wunderlich (eds.), Semantics: An international handbook of contemporary research. Mouton de Gruyter, 639-650.

Kristiansen, G. & Dirven, R. (2008). "Cognitive sociolinguistics: rationale, methods and scope", in G. Kristiansen & R. Dirven (eds.), Cognitive Sociolinguistics: Language variation, cultural models, social systems. Mouton de Gruyter, 1-17.

Langacker, R.W. (2006). "Subjectification, grammaticization and conceptual archetypes", in A. Athanasiadou, C. Canakis & B. Cornillie (eds.), Subjectification: Various paths to subjectivity. Mouton de Gruyter, 17-40.

Langacker, R.W. (2009). Investigations in Cognitive Grammar. Mouton de Gruyter.

Lavandera, B. (1984). Variación y significado. Hachette.

Lyons, J. (1977). Semantics. Cambridge University Press.

NGLE: Real Academia Española and Asociación de Academias de la Lengua. (2010). Nueva Gramática de la Lengua Española. Espasa-Calpe.

Nuyts, J. (2005). "Modality: Overview and linguistic issues", in W. Frawley (ed.), The expression of modality. Mouton de Gruyter, 1-26.

Palmer, F.R. (2001). Mood and modality. Cambridge University Press.

Rampton, B. (2006). Language in late modernity. Interaction in an urban school. Cambridge University Press.

Serrano, M.J. (2011a). "Morphosyntactic variation in Spain", in M. Díaz-Campos (ed.), The Handbook of Hispanic Sociolinguistics, Wiley-Blackwell, 187-204.

Serrano, M.J. (2011b). Sociolingüística. Ediciones del Serbal.

Serrano, M.J. (2016). "La variación sintáctica", in J. Gutiérrez-Rexach (ed.), Enciclopedia de Lingüística Hispánica. Routledge, 809-821.

Serrano, M.J. (2018a). "Análisis cognitivo-discursivo y situacional de las formas de tratamiento en función de sujeto y de objeto en español", Spanish in Context, 15/1, 105-128.

Serrano, M.J. (2018b). "The management of subjectivity: Omission and expression of first-person singular object a mí in Spanish media discourse", Canadian Journal of Linguistics/Revue Canadienne de Linguistique, 63/3, 1-21.

Serrano, M.J. (2018c). "Deictic and desubjectivizing meaning in advertising discourse: te and se clitics", Lingua. An International Review of General Linguistics, 216, 28-46.

Serrano, M. J. (2018d) "La construcción del discurso publicitario a través de la variación del objeto de persona te y del clítico se", Pragmática Sociocultural 6/2, 173-196.

Serrano, M. J. (2020). "La textualización de la desubjetivización: variación entre la perífrasis haber que+infinitivo y el clítico se", Oralia, 23/1, 131-164.

Siewierska, A. (2011). "Overlap and complementarity in reference impersonals: 'Man'-constructions vs. third person plural-impersonals in the languages of Europe", in A. Siewierska & A. Malchukov (eds.), Impersonal constructions: A Cross-linguistic perspective. Benjamins, 57-89.

Siewierska, A. & Papastathi, M. (2011). "Third person plurals in the languages of Europe: typological and methodological issues", Linguistics, 4/2, 575-610.

Suikkanen, J. (2018). "Deontic modality", Analysis, 78/2, 354-363.

Talbot, M. (2010). Language and gender. Wiley-Blackwell.

Uehara, S. (2006). "Toward a typology of linguistic subjectivity: A cognitive and cross-linguistic approach to grammaticalized deixis", in A. Athanasiadou, C. Canakis & B. Cornillie (eds.), Subjectification: Various paths to subjectivity. Mouton de Gruyter, 75-117.

Van der Auwera, J. & Plungian, V. (1998). "Modality's semantic map", Linguistic Typology, 2, 79-124.

Vázquez Laslop, M.E. (1999). "Modalidad deóntica objetiva y subjetiva", Nueva Revista de Filología Hispánica XLVII, 1, 1-32.

Verstraete, J.C. (2005). "Scalar quantity implicatures and the interpretation of modality: Problems in the deontic domain", Journal of Pragmatics, 37, 1401-1418.







Funding data