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Sociolingüística catalana

An approximation to the study of
processes of linguistic change in
non-prestigious geographical varieties:
the Conca de Tremp, by Sílvia Romero


The explanatory variables used to study the different linguistic variables were: style of speech (prepared/spontaneous), age (informants aged under 30/between 30 and 55/over 55), level of education and knowledge of written Catalan (primary education or professional training and no knowledge of written Catalan/university studies and knowledge of written Catalan) and diverse linguistic factors according to the variable (preceding articulatory context – vocalic vs. consonantal – grammatical person, position in terms of verb, gender or number).

4.2. Results

The standard variety of the Catalan language, created at the beginning of the century, entered a phase of mass diffusion at the start of the 1980’s, when it began to be used in the press and at schools. We asked ourselves how this might bring about a substantial acceleration in the process of standardisation that had already affected the north-western variety as a result of the action of external factors such as the transformation of a traditional society to a modern one, and other causes of an internal nature, such as the possible behaviour of means of diachronic change. As a whole, we predicted that a decline in the structural diversity of geographical varieties would advance more quickly under certain conditions, such as: the use of formal styles, mainly affected by writing norms and prestigious oral use; by younger and middle-aged generations, educated wholly or partially in Catalan or by those who had acquired a knowledge of written Catalan, possibly due to employment needs, and who would be more prone to interdialectal contact; in the presence of certain linguistic factors, such as the articulatory context in which the historical change took place.

Overall, the results reveal the clear adoption of nominal morphological forms from the standard language in the formal speech of the north-western area. This standardising tendency focuses on signs of the advanced process of substitution. These include marked or conscious morphological features such as the etymological article and features that are generally excluded from systematic language learning such as the full masculine article, or others which, although taken into consideration by the norms, are not wide-spread, not prestigious in their territorial area or have been affected by restrictive or simplifying interpretations, as is the case of the full singular forms of weak pronouns or the feminine possessives in u. However, other variants characterised by unmarked phonetic differences, such as the voiced variants of demonstrative adjectives, could remain more resistant in the face of change.

The results of the processing of data on the demonstrative adjective indicate that the voiced variant is pre-eminent (70% in percentage data). Hence, the probability of application of the variable of loss of the voiced variants of the demonstrative adjective was very low – 0.291 – (see Figures 1 and 2).

The fact that we are dealing with phonetic variation could relativise the conscious perception of the difference in speakers, despite the fact that the general variant appeared to be favoured by a prepared style of speech – remember that the voiced variants have not entered the written language – and by the segment of informants aged under 30.

A priori, it would also appear that systematic language learning has influenced the production of forms with –k–; however, we cannot confirm this extreme because there is no significant difference between the percentage results of the two explanatory factors consisting of the educated group and knowledge of written Catalan. In the light of these results, we concluded that a situation of alternation of forms had occurred, possibly stagnated in this area for a number of decades, and we confirmed this using the bibliography that we had consulted previously. The phonetic differentiation between variants did not mark the patrimonial form in a negative way, as it was maintained in oral usage without significant changes taking place due to the knowledge or wide availability of the devoiced variants in general oral use and in the written language.

There is no doubt that these results open up an interesting perspective for study, albeit one that requires a somewhat broader treatment.

In the case of the definite masculine article, the results on the structural diversity and possible influence of extralinguistic factors show clear signs of the advanced level of substitution of this feature in formal oral communicative situations of the Conca de Tremp – the probability of the loss of the singular and plural etymological variants of the masculine definite article reaches 0.985 (see Figures 1 and 2). The results of descriptive and inferential statistics also indicate that the explanatory factor of prepared speech style and university education & knowledge of written Catalan favour the advance of reinforced forms, whilst the factor of spontaneous speech style and secondary education or professional training & lack of knowledge of written Catalan do not. Other factors analysed from a descriptive point of view indicated a major maintenance of the lo/los forms in informants aged over 55, compared with the sporadic presence of these forms in the discourse of informants aged from 30 to 55 and those aged under 30, who have a more standard behaviour.

As regards the variable of the weak pronoun in the first person plural, we saw the usage of the standard variants ens, –nos in 77% of cases (see Figure 1). One of the aspects worth pointing out when analysing this variable is the presence of characteristics of oral Barceloní (e.g. per posa-nse en antecedents, i com que no ens e n’acabem de fiar, o ens e legalitza el fet de tindre un escorxador), used here instead of the analogical variant, and the variants coinciding with the written forms (e.g. perquè siguem tots lliures d’expressar-nos), which reveals the influence of the prestigious oral model on the speech of the Conca de Tremp. Continuing with descriptive statistics, in groups of factors, we have observed coincidences along the general lines of the rest of the variables and with our hypotheses: prepared speech presents a higher percentage of the use of new variants than the overall average, compared to spontaneous speech, which is more conservative. However, the most diverse results are to be found in the group of factors corresponding to the level of education & knowledge of written Catalan: whereas informants with a university education & knowledge of written Catalan mainly use new forms, informants with secondary education or professional training & a lack of knowledge of written Catalan are significantly inclined towards use of the analogical variant. The intersection of factors ratifies the sign we commented on earlier according to which the level of formality associated with university education and knowledge of written Catalan act as factors of dialectal convergence, particularly in conscious linguistic features.

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