Dealing with emergent lexical differences in Spanish interdialectal conversations

Dealing with emergent lexical differences in Spanish interdialectal conversations

Although Spanish dialects are assumed to be mutually intelligible (Merino & Grijelmo 2019), they present certain dialectal features that can be oriented to as problematic in interdialectal conversations (Raymond 2018). This paper specifically focuses on lexical differences that emerge in naturally-occurring conversations among dialectally divergent speakers of Spanish. Drawing upon Conversation Analysis (Schegloff, 2007), the paper aims to answer the following questions: How do interactants deal with lexical differences that emerge as the interaction unfolds? To what extent do speakers hold each other accountable for interdialectal (mis)understanding? How do they negotiate the boundaries between dialectal and standard Spanish?

By looking at sequences of other-initiated repair (Dingemanse et al. 2014) and self-reformulation (Svennevig, 2023), it is possible to identify two main ways of dealing with emergent lexical differences: (1) providing alternative referring expressions or (2) defining the meaning of words. By providing an alternative, participants orient to differences in the normative status of the equivalents (standard, dialectal or global) rather than orienting to differences in meaning. By defining the meaning of a word, speakers display their unawareness, or inappositeness, of alternatives. The dialectal status of a word can be locally questioned and negotiated, showing how interactants themselves explore the boundaries of their respective dialects and hold each other accountable for interdialectal comprehension. It is argued that these interactions are intercultural moments that advance the dialectal competence of speakers. The findings highlight how the micro-level of social interaction provides new insights into macro-level issues like pluricentrism and dialect contact. Data stem from video recorded conversations among Spanish speakers in Germany.



Dingemanse, M., Blythe, J., & Dirksmeyer, T. (2014). Formats for other-initiation of repair across languages: An exercise in pragmatic typology. Studies in Language, 38(1), 5–43.

Merino, J. M., & Grijelmo, Á. (2019). Más de 555 millones podemos leer este libro sin traducción: La fuerza del español y cómo defenderla. Taurus.

Raymond, C. W. (2018). On the relevance and accountability of dialect: Conversation analysis and dialect contact. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 22(2), 161–189.

Schegloff, E. A. (2007). Sequence Organization in Interaction: A Primer in Conversation Analysis. Cambridge University Press.

Svennevig, J. (2023). Self-Reformulation as a Preemptive Practice in Talk Addressed to L2 Users. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 56(3), 250–268.

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