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Register variation by Spanish users of English: The Nijmegen Corpus of Spanish English

  • Huib Kouwenhoven EMAIL logo , Mirjam Ernestus and Margot van Mulken


English serves as a lingua franca in situations with varying degrees of formality. How formality affects non-native speech has rarely been studied. We investigated register variation by Spanish users of English by comparing formal and informal speech from the Nijmegen Corpus of Spanish English that we created. This corpus comprises speech from 34 Spanish speakers of English in interaction with Dutch confederates in two speech situations. Formality affected the amount of laughter and overlapping speech and the number of Spanish words. Moreover, formal speech had a more informational character than informal speech. We discuss how our findings relate to register variation in Spanish.

Funding statement: This work was partly funded by an ERC starting grant (284108) to the second author.



Individual Spanish speakers’ proficiency levels.

Male speakersCEFR proficiency levelFemale speakersCEFR proficiency level

Number of Spanish speakers by proficiency level.

CEFR proficiency levelNumber of speakers

Excerpts of formal and informal speech produced by a female Spanish speaker (SP_F2) in interaction with female Confederate 1 (Conf1; informal conversation) and male Confederate 2 (Conf2; formal interview).

Formal interviewInformal conversation
SP_F2:eh I think that the prest\- the main reason [breath] is the ^speculuc\- spe\-SP_F2:in Andorra
Conf2:wh\- is that far?
-/culation about the buildings [breath] people working built a lot of flat [breath] eh and it cost a lot more than the real value of this this houseSP_F2:[breath] hm [click] near *Pirineos
Conf2:[laughter] oh th\- b\- th\-
SP_F2:between France and Spain
Conf1:hmConf2:Pyrenees ok
SP_F2:ok? [breath] and some people [click] eh have sorry some people eh in in this moment [breath] eh I do n\- [breath] obtain a lot of moneySP_F2:[breath]
Conf2:oh yeah oh that is quite far then
Conf1:hmSP_F2:a bit
SP_F2:ok for a work that [breath] is not eh necessaryConf2:yeah I have never been skiing I do not is it do you like skiing?
SP_F2:eh f\- eh for exampleSP_F2:[breath] [start laughter] no no [end laughter]
Conf1:give me an exampleConf2:no? [laughter] but did you go?
SP_F2:[click] [breath]SP_F2:no m\-
Conf1:give us an exampleConf2:no
SP_F2:eh [click] I think that eh nurse [breath] eh it is is more important than #ts eh *ˆconstructorSP_F2:but my partners hm eh hm went to this trip
Conf2:your your boyfriend?
Conf1:hmSP_F2:partn\- no hm sorry [breath]
SP_F2:of building ok [breath]Conf2:eh [breath]
SP_F2:and the the money which gain a nurse [breath] is e\- eh [breath] it is more small than #ts than the *ˆconstructor ok?Conf2:your partner
SP_F2:*companeros *que *no *se *acuerdo *a *ver
Conf2:is it friend?
SP_F2:yes m\- my [breath] friend of class


The authors would like to thank José Manuel Pardo for putting at our disposal a sound-attenuated booth in the laboratory of the Grupo de Tecnología del Habla at the Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingenieros de Telecomunicación of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. Also, many thanks to Juan M. Lucas Cuesta, Julian D. Echeverry and Syaheerah Lutfi for their assistance during the recordings.


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Published Online: 2018-4-6
Published in Print: 2018-4-25

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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