Logotip de la revista Noves SL





Teoria i metodologia

Phonic variation in Catalan: inventory and assessment of methodology, by Miquel └ngel Pradilla Cardona


2.12. MONTOYA, B. (2000). The Catalan speakers of Alacant: A lost generation. Barcelona: Institut d’Estudis Catalans.

This work constitutes the second part of a project that focuses attention on an urban speech community, that of the city of Alacant (Alicante) where Catalan is at an advanced stage of retreat. The results of the first part appeared in print in 1996, in a book entitled Alacant: la llengua interrompuda (Paiporta: Denes), where the author describes the process whereby Catalan is falling into disuse in the Alacant family setting. There is no doubt that this book is an essential point of reference when it comes to studying the poignant question of intergenerational break in the transmission of the language.

In this study, Montoya pays only secondary attention to the sociology of language and adopts a (microsociolinguistic) variationist focus to take stock of the evolution in the linguistic structure of Alicante speech within the context of language replacement. The core objective here, therefore, is to describe the phenomenon known as linguistic atrophy or linguistic shrinking, that is, the study of the wear or structural disintegration of the recessive language (Catalan), in the process of extinction or convergence with the expanding language (Spanish).

The study makes use of the oral corpus consisting of 69 of the 88 subjects who took part in the initial research. The universe of the sample are the Catalan speakers born between 1907 and 1960 (20,586-0.335 %). At the time the fieldwork was carried out, between 1993 and 1994, they represented the part of the population aged over thirty. It is important to note that the majority of those interviewed had not derived Catalan directly from their parents, but instead had acquired it subsequently, in a passive way, in the context of the family or around the town or at work. The majority were men of a certain age, from the lower class and from neighbourhoods where there were most Catalan speakers.

The data analysed comes basically from semi-structured recorded interviews on the subject of the speakers' life stories. In addition, participant and non-participant observation was also used. Quantification was carried out using the Gold Varb 2.0 programme of computer analysis of variable rules.

Apart from morphological and lexical type variables, the phonological features that were studied were the following:

1. /e-/ - <a->
2. /a/ - [o oberta] / # (seg) /’o oberta/ # / [-sil]___# (hora)
3. /a/ - [e oberta] / # (seg) /’e oberta/ # / [-sil]___# (perla)
4. o oberta  - <a> / # (seg) /’o oberta/ # / [-sil]___#
5. e oberta  - <a> / # (seg) /’e oberta/ # / [-sil]___#
6. /e oberta/ - [e] / [-accent] (verd-verdura)
7. /o oberta/ - [o] / [-accent] (pot-potet)
8.  o oberta    - [o]
9.  e oberta   - [e]
10.   – <bategant>
11. lateral - <j>
12. –s - <-h>

The low number of occurrences found of certain variables mean that the results have to be considered with caution.

3. Global view and criticism of methodology

3.1. Linguistic variables

In consonantism, more attention has been paid to palatals (particularly, prepalatals) and this is confirmed as being the most variable area across the linguistic domain of Catalan linguistics as well as being the most complex.

Even in vocalism, the front or palatal vowels have been the main concern of analysis. Moreover, except in Colomina's study, research is focused on the atonic position.

3.2. Speech communities

According to Veny's classification of geographical varieties (1978), a total of seven of the communities described in the studies are western Catalan: of these, four focus on Valencian speech, two on north-western transitional speech, and lastly, a contrastive analysis is made of two LleidatÓ geolect communities.

Two of the eastern Catalan studies focus on the speech of Barcelona and a further two on the Xipella and Tarragona varieties, respectively.

The geographical distribution of studies reveals a preference for speech communities in areas of linguistic transition, or those distant from cities that use the standard model.

Another interesting consideration is that the tendency of sociolinguistic studies in Catalan to prioritise urban communities only occurs in four studies: two on Barcelona (Mier limits himself of the GrÓcia neighbourhood and Pla carries out an essentially acoustic analysis of the variable), one on Lleida (with a contrastive analysis with the rural community of Alguaire) and one on Alacant. The remainder are not urban studies: they either deal with very small villages, such as Canyada de Bihar, el Pont de Suert, Alcover, Pla de Santa Maria and Espluga de FrancolÝ, or large towns (with a population of between 15,000 and 30,000), such as Petrer, Oliva, Valls and Benicarlˇ. Therefore, we can confirm that the Labovian model has been de-urbanized in Catalan studies.

Lastly, I would like to point out that all of these studies selected a specific linguistic group, Catalan speakers, as the real universe of the sample, despite the fact that these are in fact multilingual communities. In the case of Montoya (2000) the fact of language replacement meant that semibilinguals (with Catalan as L2) had to be considered along with bilingual speakers (with Catalan as L1). This makes the research in question rather specific.


5 de 8