The yoísmo and imperialistic English, featuring Amando de Miguel and introducing the Yo Index ™

Amando de Miguel is prof emeritus of sociology at Madrid’s Complutense University and is also employed by Libertad Digital as its language maven. He is regularly criticised for making extravagant and unsourced claims–his party, the PP, specialises in this–about immigrants, women, unmarried couples, gays… Here’s a bit from his latest language post:

Rajoy could on many occasions do without the yo, of which he is so fond. The yoísmo is a genuine lexical epidemic that affects us all. It is evident that we are dealing with yet another influence of imperialistic English.

Mr de Miguel seems to have become aware of this peril around the time Franco died. It appears in his bestselling 1985 sociolinguistic SM thriller, La perversión del lenguaje, and he has demanded its extermination in a series of pieces over the years. However as far as I know he has never produced the slightest piece of evidence that the phenomenon exists. Using online corpses, let’s undertake a couple of simple experiments to see whether use of the first person singular pronoun in Spanish has increased to epidemic proportions, or whether Mr de Miguel is simply suffering from Anglophobe paranoia.

First, using the Corpus del Español, let’s take a long view of the Yo Index ™, the ratio of “[y|Y]o soy” to “[s|S]oy” statements:

Nope, nothing there. Let’s try the Corde corpus:

Hmm, not much comfort for Mr de Miguel there either. Maybe he’s comparing contemporary manners with when he was young, so let’s drill down to decades, using RAE Corde up to 1980 and Crea from then on:

Now, our samples are small, and divergence exists between the spoken and the written language, as well as between politicians Mr de Miguel listens to and those preferred by others. But here again there is absolutely no evidence for the phenomenon identified by Mr de Miguel. If anything, the trend might actually be towards less rather than more yos. I think he’s using a form of analysis fairly common among popular sociologists in these parts:

  • Pundit: Hey people, I’ve found something I don’t like.
  • The Common People: Oh, do tell!
  • Pundit: Hey, well it’s such-and-such, and it exists, and it’s getting worse, and you can’t ask me how I know, because I’m important, so I must know. Particularly if, like Amando de Miguel, I bear a disturbing and increasing resemblance to Fidel Castro.
  • The Common People: My God, that’s terrible. How did it happen?
  • Pundit: Well you see, it’s all the fault of the Anglo-Saxons/George Bush/the Tellytubbies/whatever.
  • The Common People: Hoorah! hoorah! A genius! Death to the Anglo-Saxons/George Bush/the Tellytubbies/whatever!
  • Pundit: Thank you, I do my best.

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