Deixis and epistemic modality: Romanian, Spanish and Catalan in contact
Subjectification is a tendency that is pervasive in natural speech and greatly affects language change. It can affect different linguistic categories, including deictics, as has been shown by Stavinschi 2009. In that case what changes is the semantics of deictics, not their categorial status. Their main purpose will be the same, i.e. to identify a referent inside or outside the discourse.
Our aim is to show that the opposite also holds true: in some cases their semantics (i.e. reference to first vs second person, or proximity vs distance) is maintained, but their main purpose is no longer to identify a referent. They are used to convey the speaker’s subjective stance towards the utterance. In other words, they have turned into modality markers.
We will discuss two cases, involving Romanian spatial and personal deictics. This development is typical of colloquial speech. It has been rarely pointed out in the literature and has never been accounted for. It is not paralleled in any other Romance Language.
To conclude, we will analyze a number of strategies that native speakers resort to when switching to another language. Our study is based on a survey carried out among members of the Romanian community in Barcelona and is hoped to shed light on some aspects of the linguistic contact between Romanian, Spanish and Catalan.