Variability in oral discourse: the case of seguramente (surely). A comparative analysis with quizá[s] (perhaps) and a lo major (maybe)


  • María José Barrios Sabador Centro de Estudios Hispánicos Universidad Nebrija C/ Pirineos, 55 – 28040 Madrid



probability, oral discourse, seguramente / surely, quizá[s] /perhaps, a lo major / maybe


The present study of seguramente (surely) is part of a wider research project, which seeks to analyze the use of probability markers in oral texts, focusing on their semantic, syntactic and pragmatic aspects. The linguistic expression of probability, which could be defined as the manifestation of an oriented uncertainty, shows great complexity on the descriptive level, given the wide range of lexical and morphological components involved. In order to elucidate the behavior of surely (seguramente), we have turned to oral texts from the Corpus de Referencia del Español Actual (CREA) [Reference Corpus of Current Spanish], focusing on the area of Spain. We compared this marker to quizá[s] (perhaps) and a lo mejor (maybe),[1] both of them quite different from surely in that they show a higher level of uncertainty. The analysis of the context of these expressions reveals that they are often associated with causality, particularly in causal, concessive and adversative constructions. Another feature of the discursive environment of these components is the presence of cognitive verbs and expressions of doubt, as well as the co-occurence of different markers in the probability sentence and its context. Less frequently, but not less significantly, the modal marker is inserted into an assertive clause. Finally, one of the dominant properties of these elements is their use to mitigate or hedge assertions.

[1]     It is essential to notice the approximate character of the translation of the exponents, given the larger number of lexical exponents of Spanish with regard to English. For example, a lo mejor is sometimes translated as maybe, sometimes as perhaps or as may. In the same way, seguramente can be found in the dictionary as surely, certainly or probably.



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How to Cite

Barrios Sabador, M. J. (2015). Variability in oral discourse: the case of seguramente (surely). A comparative analysis with quizá[s] (perhaps) and a lo major (maybe). Verba Hispanica, 23(1), 61–86.