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La (des) pluralización del verbo haber existencial en el español salvadoreño: ¿Un cambio en progreso?

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This study analyzes the pluralization of the verb haber in Salvadoran Spanish. Spanish uses the verb haber ‘to have’ for existential sentences. According to traditional grammars, existential sentences with haber are impersonal, that is, they are conjugated only in the third-person singular. However, it is common in most Spanish varieties to conjugate haber in the plural when the nominal phrase is plural.

Recent studies have suggested that the pluralization of haber is an innovation in modern Spanish and that it is advancing from lower to higher classes. My study shows that on the contrary there is little evidence indicating that pluralization is new in modern Spanish. In fact, the phenomenon has been known to grammarians since as early as 1833, recorded in examples showing all tenses and reflecting the usage of all social classes. Since other Romance languages also have variation between an impersonal and a plural form in existential sentences, the phenomenon is likely to be a manifestation of a universal tendency.

I have used written questionnaires, sociolinguistic interviews and written documents from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries to analyze existential sentences with haber in different contexts of Salvadoran Spanish. My results show that the 12 pluralization of haber has a significant presence in Salvadoran Spanish, and that it is disfavored only in formal language, in the speech of the highly educated, and in contexts where speakers have been immediately exposed to the impersonal use. Thus, given the fact that the use of existential haber has been constant in Salvadoran Spanish since the 19th century, and that there is no significant variation among speakers of different ages, I conclude that the pluralization of haber does not represent a linguistic change in progress in this variety.


This is an electronic copy of a Doctoral Dissertation. Archived with permission. The author reserves all rights.