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Tutor Francisco José Martínez Vicente 's Column

DELE exam: learn the emphatic structures in Spanish.

Apr 20, 2017

Introduction.

 

There are some emphatic structures in Spanish constituted with the verb "ser" in which one of its components stands out. It means an advanced grade of difficulty for B2 and C1 level students who are going to do DELE exam. Sometimes, they feel confused, because they cannot hardly understand and integrate them into their learning. One reason could be the lack of such structures in their mother tongue.

In this article, we will explain the syntactic and pragmatic functions of emphatic structures in Spanish, as well as providing contextualized examples and practical exercises to get started. After reading this article, the advanced Spanish student will be able to write and express himself orally using these emphatic structures effectively and correctly.

Key words: Emphatic structures; Targeting; Informative progression.

 

Definition.

 

The emphatic structures, known as constructions of relief in the Real Academia de la Lengua Española (2009), are the copulative structures constructed with the verb ser in which stands out one of its components (RAE, 2009: 3020). These constructions, as an important focal mechanism, have peculiar features both at the syntactic and pragmatic levels.

In the Spanish language, according to the RAE (RAE, 2009: 3020), relief constructions are usually divided into three types:

a)      Copulativas enfáticas de relativo: “Eso es lo que digo yo”.

b)      Copulativas de “que” galicado: “Fue en este lugar que lo encontraron”.

c)      Copulativas enfáticas condicionales: “Si lo hace será porque le gusta”.

 

For the same grammar, the second type constitutes a variant of the first in which all relative are reduced to a single "que" form.

 

Estructuras enfáticas en español: copulativas enfáticas de relativo y condicionales.

 

·        Copulativas enfáticas de relativo.

 

Rasgos sintácticos de las copulativas enfáticas de relativo.

 

The relative emphatic copulatives are also called equational structures (Gutiérrez Ordóñez, 1997), periphrasis of relative (Moreno Cabrera, 1999) and split constructs (Fant, 1984). These constructions are composed of three elements:

  • Magnitude to be highlighted. 
  • Rest of the sequence introduced by a relative categorial, functional and semantically concordant with the term emphasised. 
  • The verb “ser”, in present or in the verb form of the original verb.

 

For example:

El matrimonio heterosexual, a diferencia de la unión homosexual, garantiza un bien social imprescindible como son los hijos. De aquí que el ordenamiento jurídico proteja el matrimonio entre hombre y mujer por el bien social que conlleva. Entiendo que es el bien lo que funda el derecho del matrimonio (El Diario Vasco, 23/01/2004).

 

In this example, the verb “ser” appears in the form “es”, the focal segment is “el bien” and the relative is without express antecedent is “lo que funda el derecho al matrimonio”. As for the arrangement of the three elements, three possibilities are allowed:

 

  • A ser B: El bien es lo que funda el derecho del matrimonio.
  • B ser A: Lo que funda el derecho del matrimonio es el bien.
  • Ser AB: Es el bien lo que funda el derecho del matrimonio.

 

Let us see with another example the process of emphasising:

a.      Él te hizo daño.

b.      Él fuequien te hizo daño.


In English, it would be:

a)      He hurt you.

b)      He was who hurt you.


In case b) a kind of periphrasis occurs to refer to the same event described in a). They share “él” and “te hizo daño”, but b) it also encompasses a verb “fue” and a relative pronoun “quien”. This “quien” plays the subject of "te hizo daño", which is exactly what presents “él” in a). It is a relative sentence without antecedent.

 

The speaker can highlight a certain element according to his communicative intention, when he or she organizes the information that he or she is about to give. Consequently, "the emphatic copulatives of relative that can be constructed from prayer as many segments as can be emphasized can be recognized" (RAE 2009: 3025). For example:


A Lucía le falta sentido del humor.

Lucía es quien le falta sentido del humor.

El sentido del humor es lo que le falta a Lucía.

 

Lo que pasa es que a Lucía le falta sentido de humor. 

 

 

Principles of emphatic structures.

 

The relative must be semantically congruent or compatible with the split constituent (RAE, 2009: 3023): person (quien, el que y la que); place (where); time (when); mode (como), etc.

 

For example:


  • Es hoy cuando tienes que ir al médico.
  • En este lugar es donde yo estudié historia del Arte.
  • Es de este modo como debes escribir una carta formal. 

 

 

Another relevant principle is the concordance of function marks between the split constituent and the pronoun of the relative sentence (Moreno Cabrera, 1999: 4278). That is, there is a functional equivalent between the two elements. For example, if the split element plays the role of subject in the neutral form, so does the relative pronoun of the relative free relation.

For example:


  • Con quien trabajo es con Pedro.
  • De lo que depende el paro es de la situación económica. 

  

As for the concordance of number and person between the split constituent and the relative pronoun, when the split constituent is a pronoun of first or second person, the verb “ser” always agrees with him in person and number and the induction of concordance in the verb Main of the relative is optional.

 

For example:

  • Has sido tú quien ha dejado la puerta abierta.
  • Soy yo quien te pide que limpies tu habitación. 

Regarding the grammar category of number, the Split sentence without number concordance is forbidden when the split constituent denotes humans and the relative pronoun is “quien”.

 

The discursive use of the relative emphatic copulatives.

 

Main uses:

 

  1. Especificativos: a conceptual domain is specified.
  2. Posespecificativos: it is accurate, corrected or insisted on a prior specification.

In the words of the RAE (2009: 3023), in the relative emphatic copulatives, the value of an unknown is always specified.

Process:


  1. Existe un X.
  2. En X el hidalgo tuvo su primer contacto con la prensa.
  3. X es Barcelona. 

The specific function of relative emphatic copulatives contributes to the informative organisation.

The posespecificación consists of the revision of a previous specification to specify it, to insist on it or to modify it. In this sense, the post-specific function corresponds to the focalization, which the split constituent is always the element over which the main attention of the discourse lies. With this type of emphatic structures, a certain element of the discourse is emphasised, considering it new, unexpected or counter-expected. According to the RAE (2009: 3023), the focus of relative emphatic copulatives can be informative or contrastive.

For example:

 

Será en esta ley en la que se marquen los criterios para decidir qué magistrados forman parte de cada sección.

 

The phrase “en esta ley” is the informative focus, since the relative emphatic copulative is used in this case to punctuate and affirm that element without needing to reject other options with it.

 

·       Copulativas enfáticas condicionales.

 

They are introduced by the conjunction “si”.

 

For example: Si alguien tiene que decidir, es el jefe.

 

 They consist mainly of the following elements:

  • Hypothetical segment.
  • Verb “ser”.
  • Emphasized segment.

The hypothetical segment is always placed in the first position.

For example: Si de algo se arrepiente es de haberse marchado de su pueblo. 

 

An essential condition for a sequence to be considered emphatic is that the language has a primitive sentence with respect to which it manifests enhancement.

For example:

 

  •       Si algo me sorprende, es su afición por la aventura.
  •       Su afición por la aventura me sorprende.

 

The first example is the emphatic form of the second example.

 

Didactic proposal.

 

When we want to emphasise our opinion against information received, this training is resumed in the discourse and through the verb “ser” introduced the emphasised element that either brings new information or corrects the received.

 

Structure:

  • El, la, los, las, lo que + información dada + verbo ser + término enfatizado
  • Quien, quienes + información dada + verbo ser + término enfatizado

 

Siguiendo el modelo, enfatiza las siguientes oraciones según el ejemplo.

Es inadmisible que Juan haya llegado tarde à Lo que resulta inadmisible es que no nos haya llamado.

  1. Los amigos de mi hijo hablan inglés à 
  2. Laura no tiene sentido del humor à 
  3. Alberto tiene mucha gracia contando chistes à 

Para indicar lugar, tiempo o modo. Estructura: Donde, cuando, como información dada verbo ser término enfatizado

 

  1. Picasso nació en Barcelona. à 
  2. Se pisó la Luna por primera vez en 1973. à 
  3. Esto tienes que hacerlo así. à 

 Estructura de la oración enfática condicional:

Si algo/alguien + información dada + verbo ser+ término enfatizado

 

Si + pronombre personal + información dada + verbo ser + porque + término enfatizado 

 

  1. Mi amigo tuvo la culpa. à 
  2. El conserje quiso gastar una broma a los inquilinos. à 
  3. Ayer expulsaron del colegio a Jiménez, el chico ese que siempre iba con los cascos puestos. à 
  4. Ayer expulsaron del colegio a Jiménez, el chico ese que siempre iba con los cascos puestos. à Haga clic o pulse aquí para escribir texto.

 

The key answers are available, so if you need them, click here.

 

To reinforce what you have learnt in this article, I recommend that you read online newspapers and magazines, so that you could check the uses of the emphatic structures in Spanish. You will see that they are very common in informal and formal writing, in fact, it is also usual in spoken Spanish. Write down some examples of your reading (include the references, for instance, from El País, 9 agosto 2016) and don’t forget to write a small comment about the intention of the writer, for example, he wanted to express irony. It will help you to analyse a writing style of a gender or the practical use of the oral Spanish.

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