Research Paper

From Subordinate Marker to Discourse Marker: que in Andean Spanish


This paper proposes an analysis of a redundant use of que ('that') found in Andean Spanish as an expression which has undergone a grammaticalization process. Evidence suggests that the function of que as subordinate marker is much more generalized in this variety than in other dialects of Spanish. que is found to be used as a marker introducing both nominal and adjectival clauses, suggesting that adjectival subordinates behave as nominal subordinates in this variety of Spanish. An intrusive que appears in restricted syntactic and semantic contexts with clauses that have nominal and adjectival functions, and even appears replacing adverbial expressions in some adverbial subordinates (temporal, spatial, and manner). Furthermore, it is found to be sensitive to the degree of the argument’s thematic/semantic function in the subordinate clause. In particular, it seems to occur more often with low-agency arguments in adjectival and nominal contexts, and, in nominal subordinates, tends to appear with a restricted set of epistemic and evidential main verbs (e.g. creer 'to believe', saber 'to know', decir 'to say'). The analysis suggests that que has developed a new function in this variety of Spanish, namely, one of indicating that the information contained in the subordinate clause does not constitute background information (as would be expected in non-contact varieties of Spanish) but instead contains information relevant to the discourse.

How to Cite

Escobar, A., (2005) “From Subordinate Marker to Discourse Marker: que in Andean Spanish”, Journal of Portuguese Linguistics 4(1), p.93-113. doi:







Anna María Escobar (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)



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