The present project aims to study the pragmatic strategy of attenuation in spoken Spanish from a variationist approach. The overall objective is to obtain formal and functional behavioral patterns of this phenomenon in different diaphasic and diatopic varieties of Spanish. By carrying out a contrastive analysis of these phenomena, this project also aims to map the pragmatic factors triggering the use of attenuation. We will work on discursive corpus of Spanish; primarily, we will focus on colloquial conversations; in a second phase, the results will be compared with other genres (interviews, oral trials, transactions).
The specific objectives are related to the resolution of some theoretical and methodological problems yet to be addressed in the study of attenuation (see Albelda 2010, Briz & Albelda 2013):
1) Providing a precise theoretical characterization of attenuation and a unified methodology for recognizing this phenomenon from a pragmatic perspective. Our main goal is to establish unambiguous and apprehensible criteria for the discernment of the genuine cases of attenuation;
2) Establishing the boundaries of attenuation as well as their mutual relationship with other phenomena related to the expression of epistemic modality, such as evidentiality and intensification. Our main goal here is to solve the seemingly contradictory interpretation of Spanish evidential structures, which appear to meet attenuating and/or enhancing functions (“al parecer, la verdad, por lo visto, se ve”, etc.);
3) Encouraging the study of some (para)linguistic strategies in Spanish, the mitigating function of which has barely been addressed so far: in particular A) the role of prosody, and B) the role of some structures whose mitigating nature was discovered during the research project to which the present project would continue (polysemy of verbs of cognition –“creer, pensar, parecer”-, code switching, subdivisions of the statement, both syntactic and prosodic, reformulations, impersonalizations via quotation, etc.)
4) Promoting the creation (collection and transcription) of a new corpus of colloquial conversations in various dialects of Spanish (the future Ameresco corpus), based on the methodology of the Val.Es.Co. corpus (Briz & Val.Es.Co. 2002)
The theoretical and empirical approaches will be combined. Two complementary and mutually required perspectives will be adopted: on the one hand, a micro perspective, where particular mitigating structures will be analyzed, as well as specific pragmatic factors (position of the mitigating element, discursive unit in which the element is located, type of speech act, images of conversationalists involved, etc.). On the other hand, a macro, textual analysis will be executed of the mitigating forms and functions found in complete discourses. The micro perspective, in deepening the study of concrete forms, will allow researchers to advance on the methodological and theoretical characterization of the attenuation.
The macro perspective, implemented by the results of the micro analysis, will provide global, general data such as the frequencies of each variety, necessary to make comparisons and contrasts, and will also establish the incidence of pragmatic factors in the use of attenuation.
The expected results are
a) An unambiguous system for recognizing attenuation
b) Support for diatopic and diaphasic contrastive studies
c) Application of a) and b) to the newly created Ameresco corpus of colloquial conversation