The Expression of Futurity in the Urban Speech of Seville

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The Expression of Futurity in the Urban Speech of Seville
Landfair, David
Pharies, David ( Mentor )
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Gainesville, Fla.
University of Florida
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The Expression of Futurity in the Urban Speech of Seville

David Landfair

The ,r.3ainina.3r of the contCe -ipor.r, Spanish 13na ,u.3. 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

middle-level groups.

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%).

Socioeconomic class

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.

Future-time adverbials

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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