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Metodologia sobre la recerca sociolingüística

The Use of Catalan at Service Stations in Catalonia. Methodological guidelines,
by Josep Lluís C. Bosch, Jaume Farràs and Diego Torrente


We also created a second index – index 2, or index of use in written documentation, to collate information on the use of Catalan in commercial documentation. This second index is used to observe how the managers of service stations communicate with the fuel-supplying company. However, this index could only be processed in the cases where interviewees wanted – or were able – to respond to the question we posed.

Finally, we created a third index. This index, index 3, observes oral use of Catalan by individuals with whom the observer interacted during the observation process: the cashier and the manager. This is referred to as index 3, or index of oral Catalan use.

2.3. The Use of Catalan in Signs: Calculation, Interpretation and Results of Index 1

In order to give a general idea of Catalan use in service station signage, as an indicator we suggest an index created by adding up the presence of signage in Catalan in a series of items or linguistic stimuli observed in areas of the observation procedure at the service station. This index is selective as it only deals with cases where Catalan is used in signs. This excludes other possible approaches such as ambiguity or bilingualism. It is important to note that any value or index number represents a complex situation since it is the result of a reason and thus represents the proportion of the presence of Catalan in terms of the total number of signs observed.

Clearly, not all service stations and signs are identical. The larger stations have more walls to display signs and/or the signs can be bigger. We only selected signs that we considered vital for communication. In order to create the index of Catalan use in signage, we have used data from the following signs or items in each area:

Notices observed at the entrance to the premises:

Language of the sign displaying prices

In the pump area or dispensing area of the chosen product:
Language of the sign displaying the names of the products
Language of the sign displaying price and amount
Language of the pump operating instructions
Language of the vocal product announcement (as an audio sign)
Language of the "No Smoking" sign
Language of the "Switch off Headlights" sign
Language of the "Turn off Engine" sign
Language of the "Complaints Forms Available" sign (compulsory sign)
Language of the "Sets of Measuring Instruments Available" sign (compulsory sign)
Language of other signs and notices.

Signs observed in the cash register area:
Language of the "Till" sign
Language of the instructions for payment
Language of the displays near or behind the cash register

Signs seen in the office or shop area:
Language of the commercial sign
Language of the product line prices
Language of the product line references
Language of special offers
Language of refrigerator article notices

Notices analysed on leaving the service station:
Language of the ice machine notice
Language of the water/air pressure machine notice
Language of the car wash facilities, where available

Items in the services area were directly excluded from the creation of the index because of the predominance of pictograms in this area. We also excluded from these indexes the values of uncommon situations such as audio notices in cigarette machines, shop opening hours or signs indicating service area operating hours (4).

As an indicator of linguistic information, we also include linguistic data obtained from our observation of the language of the Complaints Forms and Sets of measuring instruments signs, since these signs must be displayed in a clear, visible place in the station, although this is often not the case.

In the light of the above, we shall now see the results of the table created using index 1, Catalan use in signage (5). The table below reveals the distribution produced by this index for each of the service stations interviewed.

The interpretation of the results of this index is based on the probability curve for finding signage in Catalan at service stations in the Principality. Hence, the value 1.00 denotes that all of the 22 signs observed in a single service station were in Catalan – a situation that occurred in only 1.2% of the stations studied; conversely, the value 0.00 (zero) would mean that none of the 22 signs observed were in Catalan – a phenomena occurring in 25% of service stations in the Principality – and/or that there were no signs. If half of the signs were in Catalan, the index value would be 0.50. We would thus need to know how many service stations display half of their signs in Catalan, as this can be interpreted in two different ways. Firstly, in at least 5.1% of the stations we visited, a minimum and an average of 1 out of two signs were in Catalan, or secondly, in 94.9% of stations visited, less than half of their signs were in Catalan.

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