Spanish Students Explore Linguistic Variation Using Digital Corpora

Students in Dr. Faber’s Advanced Spanish Grammar course are exploring authentic language use and variation through digital corpora available online. They presented data from their searches in an infographic, which provides us with a quick glipse into different aspects of Spanish language use. They explored grammatical gender, preferences for expressing the future, uses of “you”, neologisms, and archaisms. Check out their findings below!

El voseo

Many people know that Spanish has a formal translation of “you” (usted) and an informal “you” (tú), but did you know that in many parts of Latin America, there is a 3rd variant of singular “you” (vos). The use of this form is known as voseo and is explored in this infographic.


El futuro

Spanish, like English, has a grammatical form of the future (known as the morphological future) as well as a future tense formed with the verb go (called the periphrastic future). Below are findings about its use comparing the forms of llegar ‘to arrive’ in Mexico and Costa Rica as well as the frequency of voy a ir ‘I’m going to go’, voy a comprar I’m going to buy’, and voy a comer ‘I’m going to eat’.


El arcaísmo

An arcaísmo (or achaism) is a word that was used in the past but has disappeared from use in most standard dialects nowadays. The verb form haiga(n) is one such form whose current standard form is haya(n).

haiga(n) infographic

Los neologismos

On the other end of the temporal spectrum, we have neologisms, which are new words that have recently entered into the language. Many terms related to technology and social media are neologisms, since people have had to invent ways to refer to new tools and modes of communication. This infographic explores the spelling of Google in its use as a verb in Spanish. And the infographic below examines the incorporation of Google and Tweet in Spanish.


Students also examined how the use of these neologisms have evolved over the course of the last decade or so.

We see orthographic differencesSpanish infographic in other borrowed words, as well. The following infographic examines the use of the word gay vs. gai to refer to members of the LGBTQ+ community. While the results indicate that Spanish speakers largely use the English spelling of the borrowed word, we see that in Spain, there is a larger  use of the gai spelling as compared to Latin America countries.















Grammatical gender

Since Spanish has grammatical gender, neologisms pose another problem: should the new word be masculine or feminine?

In general, students find that it is more common to find internet used as a masculine noun; however, the preference for masculine over feminine varies by country. As one student noted, the use of internet as a feminine noun likely corresponds to the Spanish word red (net) which is feminine. The feminine gender of red is then extended to the word internet as it is incorporated into Spanish.

There are other words that are ambiguous when it comes to gender. For instance, mar ‘sea’ can be either masculine or feminine. This infographic examines how different countries employ gender with the word mar and in which in which genres of text and language use each mar is used as a masculine or feminine noun.

Another interesting phenomenon in Spanish is that feminine nouns that begin with a stressed ‘a’ take a masculine article in the singular form. Two students examined if variation was found with the word artea feminine word that is not marked overtly with the typical “a” ending. They found that, in general, Spanish speakers follow the norms of the language, using the masculine articles in the singular and the feminine articles in the plural.

Digital Corpora

Online digital corpora allow students to examine how language is used in different geographic zones and across the span of time. These types of tools allow us to see how language is used in real contexts by real speakers. Here are some of the corpora that we have explored:

El Corpus del Español

El Corpus de Referencia del Español Actual (CREA)

El Corpus Diacrónico del Español (CORDE)


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