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Sinia Bolaños Harris: Los Narcos También Lloran: Formas de Tratamiento en El Señor de Los Cielos


This dissertation describes and analyzes the address system used by the characters of the telenovela El Señor de los Cielos (Mintz, 2013) (ESDLC) in terms of regional, social, and stylistic variation. It also addresses forms of negotiation used among characters. An examination is done of the alternation in pronoun usage and in levels of intimacy, trust, and distance evidenced in both pronominal and nominal address. In addition, the Spanish variety used in the telenovela is compared to what is known as neutral Spanish, whose main characteristic is avoiding local accents. This work provides an answer to the following research questions: (1) What is the pronominal address system of El Señor de los Cielos?; (2) How do regional, social, and stylistic variations influence pronoun election according to the telenovela’s cultural and social context? The method of analysis follows an inductive approach. Qualitative data were collected using a method based on Oliveira’s model (1985, 2010). Her method consists of monitoring speakers’ individual choices and addressing negotiation according to the different communicative contexts, speakers’ social characteristics, their enacted roles, and relationships among the parties, in particular speech acts. Judgement sampling was used to gather data. Data was recorded, classified, and analyzed using Excel pivot tables. Measures of central tendency were used to establish pronoun usage and preference. Variables were set based on the features of the corpus consisting of two national dialects, each of them divided in regional varieties, and two different domains: legal and illegal. 

Findings reveal that ESDLC has an address system based on vernacular pronoun usage stylized and stereotyped with the purpose of giving dramatic force to the dialogue. Linguistic behavior is connected to regional variation to distinguish between Mexican and Colombian address systems. Social variation points to the characters’ origin, social level, and line of work. For example, characters from a Mexican rural setting, belonging to the narco world address their mother using usted (2sg dml), while the characters from the city use  (2sg infl). Stylistic variation defines the telenovela’s characters. For example, characters playing the role of tonto (dimwit) have more pronoun switching, while serious characters, or those playing the role of victims maintain conventional address. Pronoun switching is an indication of power and submission, or an intensification of emotion in relationships. Pronoun switching is more frequent among Colombian characters. Telenovelas that have similar characteristics to real life speech provide the researcher with a corpus of linguistic behavior that can be analyzed. Furthermore, because actors are allowed to freely create their characters —some dialogues or expressions, and perhaps pronouns, may come from the actor and no from the script— the researcher may encounter forms of address that were thought to be extinct, such as vestigial voseo employed by two Colombian characters. 

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