gramática

comma splice in Spanish - oraciones yuxtapuestas

Something you soon discover when learning Spanish is that, compared to English, sentences can sometimes seem impossibly long.

In fact, Spanish-speaking learners of English are notorious for their so-called  'run-on' sentences, most notably the inappropriate use of a comma to join independent clauses without a conjunction (and, but, although, etc.); this is known as a comma splice.

 

In English, a comma splice is generally considered a blatant mistake, and several alternatives are offered to correct it:1

-It's my decision, I'm not going to argue. [Comma splice]

-It's my decision. I'm not going to argue. [Full stop]

-It's my decision; I'm not going to argue. [Semi-colon]

-It's my decision —I'm not going to argue. [Em-dash]

-It's my decision, and/but/so I'm not going to argue. [Coordinating conjunction]

-Since it's my decision, I'm not going to argue. [Subordinating conjunction]

In Spanish, this kind of construction is generally referred to as 'oraciones yuxtapuestas', and it seems to be somewhat of a grey area: some resources suggest that these are only possible when used in a distributive sense, e.g. 'Unos están fríos, otros están calientes'; yet, in practice, use is widespread and generally accepted in informal writing. 

 "Se separan por comas las oraciones yuxtapuestas de sentido distributivo: 'Unos se ganaban la vida cazando, otros pescando, los más cultivando los campos'; también las expresiones correlativas que reproducen un mismo esquema gramatical, propias de dichos populares o fórmulas fijas: 'Hecha la ley, hecha la trampa'; 'Ojo por ojo, diente por diente'". DPD

 

Wikilengua, normally a reliable source, claims that this use of the comma (la coma de yuxtaposición) is incorrect, except in certain cases; however, they have based their conclusion on the comma splice, which, as mentioned, is tolerated far less in English.

"Es uno de los errores más habituales hoy en la puntuación, junto con la supresión de la coma en casos donde es necesaria. No obstante, su uso es válido:

 

-en literatura como recurso estilístico (Caía la noche, llegaba el silencio)
-para unir oraciones yuxtapuestas de sentido distributivo
-en las expresiones correlativas características de los dichos populares o las fórmulas fijas (Hecha la ley, hecha la trampa)
-para reproducir la lengua hablada". Wikilengua

Ejemplode.com is another source that condemns the comma when not used in 'sentido distributivo'.

"La coma se utiliza para unir oraciones yuxtapuestas que tienen un sentido distributivo; de lo contrario, sería un error de redacción unir oraciones por medio de comas, como, por ejemplo es erróneo escribir 'Luisa llamó a su padre, él no le contestó'.

-'Unos están fríos, otros están calientes'
-'Unos dijeron la verdad, otros dijeron mentiras'". 

 

 

The following examples from the Wordreference entry for the verb 'callar' illustrate how the Spanish sentences tend to run on, while the English translation favours the full stop/period. In shorter sentences expressing spoken English, however, sometimes you will see the comma splice in the English translation —as seen in the Collins entry for "callar".

"De repente se callaron los cantos de los pájaros, su silencio presagiaba una tormenta.
— Suddenly, the bird songs fell silent. Their silence presaged a storm."

 

"David siempre calla y escucha, no le gusta acaparar la conversación.

David is always silent (or: always keeps silent). He doesn't like to monopolize the conversation."

 

"¡calla, que no puedo oír la radio! be o keep quiet, I can't hear the radio!" [Comma-splice] Wordreference/Collins

 

Fundéu, when consulted, suggested a semi-colon (punto y coma) would be "preferable" in the following examples, yet in practice, use of a semi-colon would seem stilted to many Spanish speakers.

-“Cuéntale la verdad, te quedarás más tranquila”

-“Tienes razón, te haremos caso”

-“En realidad, no había ninguna relación de causalidad entre las medidas del gobierno y los cambios en los indicadores, todo era al azar”

 

In conclusion, the use of the comma to link two independent clauses is widespread, especially in informal written Spanish and when expressing dialogues and other spoken communication.

However, having read novels written by several renowned Spanish authors, including Arturo Pérez-Reverte and Javier Marías, my impression is that the use of oraciones yuxtapuestas in literature is minimal, except in the cases mentioned above, i.e. expressing spoken Spanish or internal dialogue, in a distributive sense, and in certain fixed expressions.

 

 

In Español-Avanzado Articles

-Ilusiones causales

-La Rambla

˜
-comma splice in Spanish - oraciones yuxtapuestas-