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The Expression of Futurity in the Urban Speech of Seville
The ,r.3ainina.3r of the contCe -ipor.r, Spanish 13na ,u.3. ujorl.id jie includes S. er.31 conscruCtionS [hat. e'. .re
future time. There exists a morphologic future tense, but this form is not favored in daily use in many
dialects (Moreno de Alba 1977). Other forms often used to express futurity are the simple present and
periphrastic future. Spanish-speaking people also utilize adverbial phrases to demonstrate futurity, though not
always with a syntactically future verb. The presence of each of these constructions in speech is well-
documented, but distinctions between them are not, particularly in Andalusian Spanish.
There have been several studies on the expression of futurity, mainly in American Spanish, with different results.
The most extensive study was carried out by Silva Corvalin and Terrell (1989) in four Caribbean countries: Chile,
the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. They established that the form preferred in these dialects is
the periphrastic future and that the use of the morphologic future for the modal, or probabilistic, sense
varies between 18% in Puerto Rico (formal register) and 88% in the Dominican Republic.
Gutidrrez (1995) studied the occurrences of various expressions of the future among bilinguals in four cities of
the United States. Considering that the minority status of Spanish in the United States accelerates changes
that remain latent in dialects with majority status, Gutidrrez compared his North American data with those of
two Mexican cities. He documented a reduced use of the morphologic future to talk about future events
among bilingual speakers, who preferred this tense for modal uses. Gutidrrez's data also suggest that speech
register has to do with the selected form of expression, as is noted above in the reference to Puerto Rican speech.
A variety of expressions of futurity exists in the Sevillian dialect, as in others, and it is probable that
selection between them is influenced as much by discursive context as by social variables. The forms analyzed
are the morphologic future,
Pero tendra que introducirse en un ambiente [C2H1] ,
the periphrastic future,
No, no lo va a poder pasar muy bien [M1V4],
the present tense indicative,
Sabe ella lo que es trabajar fuera y lo que es venir cansado [C1H2],
and the present tense subjunctive
Luego, en cuanto que termine los studios, precisamente este afo... [C1V2].
It is also possible that different constructions are correlated to particular pragmatic motivations, such as proximity.
I investigate how sex, age and class influence the selection of the form of future expression and what effects
the pragmatic notion of proximity has on this process in the dialect of Seville.
To determine the usage patterns of the various expressions of futurity in Sevillian Spanish, I examined the speech
of forty-eight people interviewed in the SociolingQistica andaluza: Encuestas del habla urbana de Sevilla series,
edited by Vidal Lamiquiz and published by the University of Seville in three volumes. Each volume includes
twenty-four native Sevillian speakers. These speakers are evenly distributed among three generations and
both sexes. One socioeconomic group comprises each volume, and I analyzed the speech of the upper- and
With all the instances of future expression in these interviews gathered, the analyzed linguistic variable will be
the verbal form chosen by the speaker. I analyze the variable in terms of linguistic context, primarily the proximity
of the future event to the speech act and the presence of future-time adverbials. I also analyze the
expressions according to the age, class and sex of the speaker.
Overall, the data indicate that in Sevillian speech, the morphologic future tense (n=161) tends to be used mostly
to express probability (63%):
No se si sera por culpa del alumno o quizas por nosotros mismos en algunos casos [C3H3].
This usage occurs across both sexes and classes and in all three age groups. The tendency to favor the modal use
of the synthetic future tense is more pronounced in the middle class (71%) than it is among all speakers, but
all groups use this form more often with modal motivations than with temporal ones. In terms of sex and age,
the differences do not appear to be significant.
The overall preference for expressing futurity (n=255) is more toward the periphrastic future (50%) than toward
the morphological form (24%), with a higher degree of use of the morphologic future by the upper-class
speakers than by middle-class speakers. Present verbal forms are used in the remaining 26% of future
expressions, but the lack of a future subjunctive form in the modern language allows for syntactic motivation
in subordinate clauses. Present indicative occurrences account for 13% of the data. There is no clear effect
on selection by the single variable of sex; however, the speaker's age is correlated to the selection of
future expression. Speakers in the oldest age group select the morphologic future nearly twice as often as those
in the middle group.
Between the two sexes, there seems little significant difference between the choices of forms for future
expression. Utterances by male speakers (n=113) and by female speakers (n=142) are approximately equally
likely to be of any given form. Male speakers choose the morphologic future in 20% of occurrences and
the periphrastic future in 52% of occurrences. Female speakers use the synthetic form with 27% frequency and
the analytic form with 46% frequency. Female speakers select the present indicative form with a somewhat
lower frequency (10%) than men do (18%).
When class is considered within the sex distinction, it becomes evident that class is a greater differentiator among
the speech of men than among women in Seville. While women of both the upper class and the middle class
select the morphologic future in 27% of cases, middle-class men select the morphologic future at a rate (16%)
less than half that of the upper-class men. Also, while the rate for middle-class women's selection of the
periphrastic future (53%) is not exactly the same as that of upper-class women (42%), the difference is
much greater between middle-class (58%) and upper-class (37%) men.
Considering the age variable within sex gives very different results. Among men, the morphologic future's
temporal use is declining: the oldest speakers use it at a 39% frequency while the middle group selects it for 19%
of possible occurrences, and the youngest group uses it in a fraction of these cases (9%). Young women,
though, select this form more often (35%) than either the middle generation (17%) or the oldest group (30%).
Alone, socioeconomic class appears to be a more significant correlate to future expression selection. Upper-
class speakers' future-referent utterances (n=94) are more likely to be in the morphologic future (29%) than
all future-referent utterances (24%), and upper-class speakers are less likely to select the periphrastic future
(40%) than all speakers (50%). Twenty-one percent of middle-class speakers' future expressions were in
the morphologic future, slightly less than the sample overall, and middle-class selection of the periphrasis was
higher than the norm at 55%.
Factoring sex into these figures shows that middle-class male speakers tend to favor the periphrastic future
(58%) and that their use of the present indicative (19%) is inflated at the expense of the morphologic future
(16%). Upper-class male speakers tend to select the morphologic future more often (33%) than the norm, while
both men (37%) and women (42%) in this socioeconomic category select the periphrastic future less.
Age is the most salient single predictor for the selected form of future expression in the Sevillian dialect. Speakers
in the oldest age group select the periphrastic future as often (47%) as those in the youngest age group
(45%), while the middle generation selects that form in 58% of their future-referent utterances. The
generational differences for morphologic future selection are also notable. Young speakers select the synthetic
form for 24% of future references, and speakers in the oldest generation choose it in 33% of these instances
while the middle generation uses it only 18% of the time.
The proximity of the future event (here defined as the expectation of a future event's taking place within
the interview) had one particularly interesting effect on speakers' selection of a future form (n=45): no speaker
used a present tense verb form to refer to an action in the very near future. It may be noted that no occurrence of
a [+PROXIMITY] verb occurred in a context that could require or allow a subjunctive form - only three instances
were in subordinate clauses. The only permissible forms, then, were the morphologic future:
Tu me diris a mi [M1H4]
and the periphrastic form:
Vamos a hablar de mis tios, ino? [M3H1].
Between the upper- and middle-class speakers, both groups preferred the periphrastic future to discuss
proximal events. The middle class used this form in 75% of instances and the upper class in just 57%. Thus, the
use of the morphologic future to discuss near-future events is much reduced in the middle class (25%). As
among the overall data, the upper class in this instance has a higher rate of use (43%) of the morphologic future.
Adverbials of future time also affected verbal form selection uniquely. The presence of an explicit reference to
the tense, for example "en el future" [C1V1] or "el dia de mahana" [M3V4], allowed for a tendency toward
the unmarked verbal form. Adverbials in future-referent sentences, then, did not preclude any particular forms,
but they did stimulate present-tense indicative forms, as in
Y este aho, pues, no s6, esti la cosa a ver adonde vamos [M3H3].
Among utterances not containing future-time adverbials (n=201), the overall rate of selection for he
present indicative was 7%. For sentences that did contain the adverbials (n=54), the present indicative
form appeared in 35%. There was no significant difference between the present indicative selection among
the middle class (35%) and the upper class (35%). Female speakers selected the present indicative slightly
more often (40%) than male speakers (31%). While the middle generation selected the present tense more
often (40%) than the younger speakers (26%), there were not enough data from the oldest generation (n=4)
to establish patterns.
The modal use of the future tense is not prestigious in Seville, but it does overshadow the use of the future tense
to express temporality. As far as the social variables show, this usage is stable.
It might seem that the disuse of the future tense is promoted further by the presence of future-time
adverbials. These encourage the presence of unmarked present tense forms instead of more distinctly
[+FUTURE] verbal forms. There is, though, no significant decrease in morphologic future use in the presence
of future-time adverbials. Periphrastic future selection is reduced.
The morphologic future is the prestige variant of the future expression variable in Seville. Young women show a
high usage rate relative to young men and to older women. The upper class favors the morphologic future to
the other forms, indicating this form's higher social value.
It is also apparent that the use of the morphologic future tense to express futurity is disappearing. Its frequency
of use among young men is much lower than that among older and middle-aged men. The form will survive,
though, due to the stability of its modal function.
1. Gutidrrez, Manuel, 1995. "On the Future of the Future Tense in the Spanish of the Southwest." 214-226,
Carmen Silva Corvalin, Spanish in Four Continents: Studies in Language Contact and Bilingualism. Washington,
DC: Georgetown University Press.
2. Lamiquiz, Vidal, series ed., 1983-1992. Sociolingiistica andaluza: Encuestas del habla urbana de Sevilla.
Sevilla: Universidad de Sevilla.
3. Moreno de Alba, Jose, 1977. "Vitalidad del future de indicative en la norma culta del espahol hablado en
Mexico." Estudios sobre el espahol hablado en las principles ciudades de America, Juan M. Lope Blanch, ed. 129-
46. Mexico: Universidad Aut6noma de Mexico.
4. Silva Corvaldn, Carmen y Tracy David Terrell, 1989. "Notas sobre la expresi6n de futuridad en el espahol del
Caribe." Hispanic Linguistics. 2:2, 191-208.
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