MONTOYA, B. (2000). The Catalan speakers of Alacant: A lost generation. Barcelona:
Institut dEstudis 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).
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.
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.
morphological and lexical type variables, the phonological features that were studied were
1. /e-/ -
The low number of occurrences found
of certain variables mean that the results have to be considered with caution.
2. /a/ -  / # (seg)
// # / [-sil]___# (hora)
3. /a/ -  / # (seg)
// # / [-sil]___# (perla)
<a> / # (seg) // # / [-sil]___#
<a> / # (seg) // # / [-sil]___#
6. // - [e] / [-accent] (verd-verdura)
7. // - [o] / [-accent] (pot-potet)
11. - <j>
12. s - <-h>
3. Global view and criticism of methodology
3.1. Linguistic variables
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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