Pragmalinguistic Variation in Electronic Personal Ads from Mexico City and London

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Sara Louise Zahler


The goal of the current study is to analyze variation in the description of one’s desired partner in electronic personal advertisements across two languages: Mexico City Spanish and London English. Variation in the “seeks” component of the typical schemata “X seeks Y for Z” (Shalom 1997:190) is operationalized in terms of its lexico-grammatical variation. The distribution of the different constructions employed to express the “seeks” portion of the personal advertisement was then observed across the social variables of sex and orientation. Results indicate that despite overall linguistic similarities between the two languages, social patterning of variation differed. The canonical variant was employed more often in personal ads directed toward men in Mexico City Spanish, while it was used more frequently in ads directed toward women in London. Additionally, same sex orientations were more likely not to include the partner description in London ads, while this difference was not observed in Mexico City personals. These results indicate that the variants have acquired different social meanings in the two languages and cultures. Results are discussed in terms of cultural and functional differences in personal ads between the two communities examined.


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