Alicante Journal of English Studies / Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses

Language contact in Gibraltar English: A pilot study with ICE-GBR

Lucía Loureiro-Porto, Cristina Suárez-Gómez



The variety of English used in Gibraltar has been in contact with a number of European languages, such as Spanish, Italian, Hebrew and Arabic (Moyer, 1998: 216; Suárez-Gómez, 2012: 1746), for more than 300 years. Studies of this variety have traditionally been based on interviews and observation (e.g. Moyer, 1993, 1998; Cal Varela, 1996; Levey, 2008 2015; Weston, 2011, 2013, etc.), and a detailed morphosyntactic description is yet to be published. In this context, the compilation of a reliable Gibraltar corpus using the standards of the International Corpus of English (ICE) will constitute a landmark in the analysis of this lesser known variety of English. In the present paper we describe the ICE project and the current state of the compilation of ICE-GBR. In addition, we present a detailed comparison between the section on press news reports of ICE-GB (standard British English) and ICE-GBR, with the aim of identifying morphosyntactic features that reveal the influence of language contact with Spanish in this territory. We explore variables such as the choice of relativizer (assuming a higher preference for that in GBR, in agreement with Spanish que, the most frequent relativizer, Brucart, 1999: 490), the use of titles and pseudo-titles preceding proper names (which, as shown by Hundt and Kabatek, 2015, are very frequent in English journalese and extremely infrequent in Spanish), and the frequency of the passive voice (expected to be lower in ICE-GBR), among others. A preliminary analysis of these variables reveals that the influence of Spanish on the variety of English used in the Gibraltarian press, at the morphosyntactic level, is almost non-existent, limited to occasional cases of code-switching between the two varieties. We hypothesize that a possible explanation for this strong exonormative allegiance to British English, at least in press news reports, can be found in a strong editorial pressure to reflect the prestigious parent-variety.


Gibraltar English; Morphosyntactic variation; Language contact; International Corpus of English


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Copyright (c) 2017 Lucía Loureiro-Porto, Cristina Suárez-Gómez

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