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Metodologia sobre la recerca sociolingüística

The sociolinguistics of variation: a methodological approximation (Part II), by Miquel Àngel Pradilla


The central idea behind this test was put into practice by Valdivieso in Chile in 1981. In study, some of the speech community’s characteristics and the objectives of research were adapted. The steps taken were the following. A) A text was created with the format and style of a short radio news broadcast, with a high concentration of lexical entries with the variable studied; b) a recording was prepared where the text was read five times – three readings reproducing the various sociolects of Benicarló defined by the phonetic variants in the variable studied, while the other two introduced the "model" that reached the mass media, i.e., the "apitxat" of Valencia and western central Catalonia; c) once this was prepared, the tape/stimulus was played to the seventy informants when the sociolinguistic interviews had finished. Before the first listening, the informant was asked to focus their attention on recognising which reading or readings they felt were read by someone from Benicarló, and in the others, where the speaker came from geographically. After the replies were written down, and before the second reading took place, the informant was asked to take on the role of a radio company manager wanting to hire one or some of the voices, and at the same time, reject others. (10)

4. Quantitative treatment

Moreno (1990:109) defines these two main data analysis opportunities with the following simplicity:

"To analyse is basically to decompose (etymologically, "to untie"). An analysis therefore consists of separating the parts of a whole until each of the elements comprising it is found. In general, there are two ways of carrying out an analysis – either simply identifying the parts of this whole or identifying these elements and finding out in what proportions they all appear. This first possibility is called qualitative analysis, the second is known as quantitative analysis."

From the linguistic point of view, independently of the paradigm followed, grammatical analyses carried out to date have been mostly quantitative. Sociolinguistics in the field of ethnography of communication also prefers this type of analysis, but Labovian studies have concentrated mainly on quantification. In terms of observing linguistic changes, it seems clear that compared with the static vision of a qualitative analysis, quantitative analysis provides more information concerning the mobility of those involved.

Notwithstanding this, however, the over quantification of certain studies to the detriment of more qualitative analyses has been the subject of frequent criticism. Hudson (1980) draws attention to some of the most obvious limitations: a) working with speaker groups makes internal variation disappear, b) an individual’s belonging to a group remains hidden to varying degrees.

It must also always be remembered that the analysis must be seen as a device for dividing up a continuous reality. That is how the segmentations of linguistic, social and stylistic realities must be understood. Taken as a whole, this leads us to conclude that a good quantification must be the result of a prior rigorous qualitative analysis with the reality that we are trying to describe.

4.1. Data codification

Once what is known as the dependent variable has been identified, and its context of occurrence defined, the codification of data, an extraordinarily laborious phase prior to quantification, takes place.

During this phase, every word obtained with the variable will be classified according to the independent variables that have been established beforehand as possible factors to be considered in production of the variants. These linguistic, social and stylistic variable restrictions are shown in the form of groups of factors, with the corresponding factors defined. Each factor is assigned a letter or number, normally with a mnemotechnic value, so that each becomes a series of digits.

Example of Pradilla’s codification (1993 a)

Word: roja

Acoustic file: nº 2720

Informant: Roberto Pau Llorach

Codification: FD4A4AAPHQBIBBT/20

Decodification (in order):

F- fricative variant [x]

D-syllabic-accent position: post-tonic

4- anterior vocalic context: [O]

A- posterior vocalic context: [a]

4-etym: -by- (< rubea)

A-alternates with the [Q] of the primitive roig

A- grammatical category of the word: adjective

P-stylistic context: translation

H-sex: male

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