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Sociolingüística internacional

The draft of measures to improve attitudes towards the Galician language and the extension of its use, by the Research team of the Seminar of Sociolinguistics of the Real Academia Galega


The draft of measures to improve attitudes towards the Galician language and the extension of its use arises as a response to a need clearly stated by the Sociolinguistic Map of Galicia (MSG), (RAG: 1994, 1995, 1996), to establish actions designed to halt the decline of the use of Galician among young people. The major aim of the project is to determine which factors are causing the decline in the use of Galician among specific groups. Those responsible of the areas concerned (Sociolinguistics, Psychology and Sociology) set up common goals and methodological research guidelines which can be summed up as follows:

1. To detect from the data provided by the MSG attitudes of latent rejection towards Galician among young people.

2. To link possible negative attitudes with the linguistic history of individuals.

3. To explore the possible relation between the decrease in the use of Galician and the loss of presence in highly relevant domains of interaction.

Even though the MSG data provided a global perspective on the sociolinguistic situation in Galicia, the study did not pave the way to the setting up of active measures to increase the use of the language insofar as, among other issues, there was little correlation between attitudes and linguistic use among the general population, especially young people. Furthermore, the MSG showed the existence of positive attitudes towards Galician among young people indicating that there were latent attitudes which made it difficult to explain this apparent inconsistence.

As a result, the decision was taken to establish a set of experimental tools in order to which would enable the carrying out of qualitative analysis, as well as indirect measurements of this sociolinguistic situation. This would be to explore issues related to this phenomenon that could not be approached through quantitative methods of social research or indeed by means of a direct measurement of attitudes. The techniques chosen were as stated below:

- Matched-guise technique; (PDF 8 KB)

- In-depth interviews; (PDF 25 KB)

- Discussion groups. (PDF 11 KB)

Thanks to the complementarity of the data obtained through these tools it should then be possible to check out the relation between life-stories, attitudes and linguistic behaviours of individuals with different sociolinguistic and sociodemographic characteristics.

This should also make it possible to draft a series of measures aiming at halting the decline in the use of Galician among young people.

2. Tools and methodology

2.1 Matched-guise technique

An initial requirement for the establishment of these tools was the need to evaluate attitudes indirectly, i.e. to explore indirect assessment of attitudes among young Galicians by means of a young male and a young female speaking in four different linguistic varieties ("Galician without Galician accent", "traditional Galician", "Spanish with Galician accent", "Spanish without Galician accent"). Accent was understood from a technical point of view as forms of pronunciation (Laver 1994) and was defined in phonetic and prosodic terms (especially the vowel system and the intonation in enumeration pauses).

To this end an adaptation of the matched-guise technique (Lambert, Hodgson, Gardner and Fillebaum, 1960) was set up so that individuals listened to 16 voices (8 male and 8 female voices) from people aged from 24 to 34 years. The 4 (matched) male and female voices were those of the same man and woman, and each of them used the four chosen linguistic varieties. The other eight (padding) voices were those of different people and were equally distributed among the linguistic varieties under consideration.

2.1.1 Sample description

To obtain comparable conclusions we established a representative sample made up of 400 individuals ranging from 14 to 20 years old. who were in non-university education (secondary education, higher secondary-education, or training cycles) in Galician education centres. We took into account the place of residence and the gender of the interviewees according to the data provided by the 1998 revision of the 1991 population and housing census.

Area Galicia
Population Pupils ranging 14-20 years with non-university education
Type of sample Clusters with proportional affixation according to gender and place of residence (last unit=pupil)
Worst hypothesis p=q=50
Highest error expected at global level ± 5%
Level of confidence 95% (a = 0.05)
Size of sample 400 individuals
Data gathering Adapted implementation of the matched guise technique in the chosen Galician education centres.

2.1.2 Analysis and goals

The statistical methods we used (general linear model of repeated measurements, cluster analysis, analysis of individual differences, analysis of linear regression and analysis of correspondences) aimed to:

a) Establish the existence of relevant differences in the assessments of linguistic varieties according to intra-individual (gender, language and matched accent) and inter-individual variables (place of residence, usual language, language of parents and gender of the interviewer);

b) Study the perceived similarity between different linguistic varieties;

c) Analyse which are the personal features constituting the underlying dimensions in the evaluation of linguistic varieties; and

d) Analyse the physical stereotypes associated to the different linguistic varieties used in the study.

2.2 In-depth interviews

By means of in-depth interviews with listed questions we sought to determine out the personal story and experience of the selected individuals. This technique is considered especially useful when obtaining information about how the subjects actually act and rebuilding the social representations system in their individual attitudes and behaviours. Thus we tried to get closer to the representations associated with the two languages in contact and to the related individual events experienced by the subjects.

2.2.1 Structure of the interview

The interviews were divided into thematic sections to gather information on the wide variety of issues which can, to one extent or another, have an influence on the object of the research:

Life stories

Life history appears to be a relevant factor in the linguistic choices of speakers and can explain -at least partially- some of the differences reflected in the MSG, for instance those related to the mother tongue and the place of residence. We studied what we called "citizen story", i.e. the social class of the family plus the origin and destination of family migrations and other actors in their socialization as well as relations with people living outside Galicia. On the one hand, the dimension "work, leisure and consumption" set out to explore the life-style of the interviewees and that of their families to the extent that this can reflect the self-identification of the individuals with a given social group. We also took into account the profesional background of the subjects and those characteristics by means of which the individual interacts in the work domain, leisure activities and the possible relation between the linguistic behaviour and the social trajectory of the family.

Ethnicity and history

Through these dimensions we checked the relevance of the ethnic self-identification and the associated level of self-esteem. In order to deal with this issue we went through aspects like the knowledge the interviewees had of the historical development of their group and the level of support they gave to the traditional folk culture, the requirements considered necessary for being a member of the group (i.e. for being Galician) and the group solidarity.

Metacommunicative awareness

This dimension brings us to the last and most extensive section of the interview which includes questions designed to find out the subjects' own assessment (broadly speaking) of the language, the domains of use and the speakers.

We explored the subjects' assessment of the the legitimate uses of the language and the perception of their own capacity to use it correctly, as well as the level of language loyalty and the reactions towards the language, and the perception of which is the proper language to be used in each context. We furthermore analysed the prestige accorded to the language by the interviewees in different domains of use.

The interviewees' perception of the linguistic situation in terms of social setting looks to determine on the one hand the opinion of the subjects towards the dominant language in their environment and on the other, their point of view as speakers about the relation between two languages in contact. The personal experiences of the subjects were studied against the background of their individual linguistic histories. Lastly, due to the relevance of the schooling system in the process of normalisation, we paid attention to the assessment of the teaching of Galician as a subject and to the work of teachers.

2.2.2 Participants

We did not look for significance in the informants' profiles in the in-depth interviews given that the relation between the different kinds of discourse and the socio-structural characterization of the individuals was thoroughly analysed by means of the discussion groups.

The sample constisted of 12 individuals, seven females and five males aged from 21 to 31. The geographical origin of the informants was heterogeneous: three were born in the Galician countryside, two in villages, seven in cities and the remaining two outside Galicia. As for their usual language, half of them claimed to be Galician speakers and the other half Spanish speakers. Three of the informants were new Galician speakers and two had shifted from Galician to Spanish as usual language.

To avoid skewing and the notable impact of social desirability -- that is, the pressure to give socially desirable answers, the interviewees were not informed about the real goal of the interview and they replied to the questions related to language at the end of the session. Furthermore, to ensure empathy with the subject, the interviewer adapted him/herself to the usual language of the interviewee, as we knew the latter's sociolinguistic characteristics beforehand, and this helped them feel comfortable with the linguistic context.

2.3 Discussion groups

The choice of the discussion group as a tool of research for linguistic attitudes is based upon the need to establish the relationship between attitudes inherent to the different social discourse types and the sociostructural characteristics of those social groups which produce and reproduce them.

Although the production of the different groups had to be as free and relaxed as possible, it was necessary to set up a list of relevant topics for the research. Once the general moderator chosed the subject of the debate, only small interventions were needed to introduce new issues related to the phenomenon concerned. The topics under discussion were as follows:

- The perception of the current situation of Galician.
- Opinions concerning the reasons for the current situation of the language.
- Social perception of the institutional actions to promote the social use of the language.
- Assessments of the situation of Galician in education.
- Assessments of the situation of Galician in the work environment.
- Ethnolinguistic stereotypes.
- Diagnosis of the situation.

The criteria we considered beforehand as fundamental in setting up the groups were age, usual language, gender and place of residence. We decided to create groups of young people speaking only or mainly in one or other language and living in one or other of the places of residence (countryside, villages and cities), (2) seeking also to ensure intra-group heterogeneity in terms of age and gender of the participants. One of the stipulations we made was that the members of a given group should not become acquainted and that the moderator and the informants should not have met before the discussion.

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