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Sociolingüística internacional
Autumn 2002

Analysis of the term ‘pariente’ as a form
of address in the Sikuani community of Puerto Gaitán (Colombia), by John Alexander Roberto Rodríguez

The indigenous communities of the Sikuani ethnic group in Colombia are presently experiencing an accelerated process of the loss of cultural identity because of the interethnic contact. Their relationship with the blanco (white man), from whom they try to emulate their life style, has led them to a state of estrangement that is evident in a simultaneous loss of identity and the non-acceptance on the part of 'civilized' groups. One of the elements that has been most affected by acculturation has been the Sikuani language. Spanish, as a prestigious language, has certainly caused the Sikuani language to lose representation and has caused a loss of interest for new generations. Consequently, they make less use of it in everyday life. A prior diagnosis led us to conclude that the Sikuani keep the Spanish form usted (formal you) for dealing with the white man therefore forcing them to think about the use of a more restricted substitute form of address. A marker of this kind was found in the use of the word pariente (relative). This word plays a crucial role in the characterization of their native identity.

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1. General aspects

2. Hypothesis and objectives

3. Methodology

4. Variables

5. The Sikuani community and the form of address ‘pariente’

6. Bibliography

7. Interesting links

1. General aspects

Within the wide range of possibilities in the field of linguistic analysis, the study of forms of address acquired transcendental importance when dealing with cultures in contact. There is a natural tendency to retain the identity (idiomatic) that is expressed in the system with diastratic, diaphasic, and diatopic variations. Otherwise, the variation would not make sense and the differences between classes, castes, and groups would fortunately not exist. The study of forms of address shows with extreme clarity the sociolinguistic heterogeneity of the towns that they inhabit in a certain region.

There is a wide variety of forms of address in Colombia. There are also diverse uses of these forms that are in accordance with the extralinguistic factors that cause them. In this respect, Mireya Cisneros Estupiñan (1) –upon which we base many of our assumptions– states that:

"The fact of finding various second person singular pronouns with different pragmatic values in written documents from different times in history is proof that it is not a simple caprice but a reflection of the different ways of looking at the world and dealing with it; therefore, in my opinion, they must be taken into account. [...] All of this can be explained by the fact that Spanish has different forms of address in the second person singular –tú, vos, usted, su mercé, etc.– that range from informality to the maximum reverence, there is a conflict in the choice and use even meaning a vertical move that leads to pejorative expressions of certain forms of address, most of all, those that are located somewhere in the middle." (Cisneros, 1999: 52–53 Bold print my doing)

These social (class differences) and linguistic elements (different pragmatic values of the forms of address) get worse when dealing with indigenous communities.

2. Hypothesis and objectives

The Sikuani ethnic group of Puerto Gaitán, in the region of Meta (see Fig. 1), in its daily interaction with the white man and due to the dominion of a common language (Spanish), finds itself at a crossroads that forces its members to adopt particular forms in the use of the linguistic standard. The purpose of this research is to perform an analysis of the value the term ‘pariente’ acquires –as a basic form of address– in this region of Colombia guided by the problems that are established below.

It is, if you will, research done with the intention of making a serious contribution to the study of social dialectology (intradiasystematic), understanding that, according to Professor J. J. Montes: "[if] dialectology must give a reason to the intradiasystematic variety and variation, it appears to be natural to conclude that sociolinguistics is a branch of dialectology that is identified with social dialectology (diastratics, diaphasics) ... any idiomatic form, no matter how spatially and socially limited it may be, has diastratic and diaphasic variations..." (Montes, 1995: 115-116)

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