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Teoria i metodologia

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


3.3. Real universe of the sample and the sample itself

When linguists create a significant sample, they need to collaborate with sociologists. Despite the difficulty in determining a significance threshold, there appears to be a certain amount of improvisation in the majority of the studies. In my opinion, only the following have a high level of statistical confidence:

a. Montoya's doctoral thesis (1989) and the study of linguistic atrophy (2000).
b. the study by Alturo and Turell (1990), although it does not take into account informants aged under 30;
c. Pradilla's doctoral thesis;
d. the study by Plaza (1995), albeit with certain reservations: with only 20 informants it is very difficult to significantly deal with all the aspects of the factors under consideration. Moreover, the study does not take into account informants aged over 60, a population segment that would surely reveal a greater presence of the vowel variable in regression.
e. Carrera's doctoral thesis (1989). Here, we need to be cautious about the representativeness of the sample of Lleida (0.05%).

Therefore, in my opinion, the remainder of the studies, both those that explicitly state their purpose as such and those that do not, should be considered exploratory studies.

3.4. Typology of the extralinguistic factors considered

The factor age appears in all studies, except for that of Pla (1995). Carrera's research (1999) has the most relevant interpretative focus; furthermore, it places the limit of the spectrum at the age of three, an entirely new approach to Labovian methodology.

The factor male sex was not considered in Montoya (1993) because of the topic of the interview, whereas female sex was not taken into account in Pla's study (1995) due to the acoustic visualization of the phonic substance.

Origin (genealogical tree) should have been observed in Colomina (1985), Mier (1986), Escrivā (1993) and Carrera (1999).

The socioeconomic factor (Labov's social class) deserves special mention. Montoya (1989), Escrivā (1993), Carrera (1999) and Montoya (2000) : although the results of the first two studies, in the eyes of the authors themselves, were not satisfactory, they were evaluated positively in the latter. Mier (1986) and Alturo and Turell (1990) offered professional level as an alternative. Pradilla, however, considered professional level, scope of relations (when dealing with retired individuals, housewives or students) and level of education separately. The remaining studies did not take these factors into consideration.

Lastly, it is logical that the factor knowledge of the standard language, in the Community of Valencia was not taken into account during the 1980s. In Pradilla's study (1993), carried out between 1990 and 1993, however, it is a determining factor. In Carrera's research (1999), in addition to a general evaluation of this factor, the contrast of the data from school informants with pre-school informants is one of the defining elements of the initial hypothesis of her doctoral thesis.

As regards the planning of the sociolinguistic interview, understood as being a methodological device allowing segmentation of the stylistic continuum according to the level of attention of speakers to their own speech, each author has created his or her own version. The study that best adapts to the contexts of Labov is that of Montoya (1989), and the results did not match his initial expectations. Escrivā (1993) adapted his along the same typology of styles but did not obtain sufficiently satisfactory data either. Plaza (1995) and Pradilla (1993) created individual versions that reduced the continuum but were more operative. The remaining studies carried out a very basic treatment (Mier and Montoya in Valls) or did not assess this factor. In the case of Alturo and Turell (1989), Carrera (1999) and Montoya (2000), this lack is the most obvious shortcoming.

3.5. Subjective evaluation test

The aim of this is to obtain information about the sociolinguistic conscience of informants as to the variable under study. It is an extremely important analytical tool that also evaluates the future direction of change.

The work of Montoya (1989), Escrivā (1993), Pradilla (1993) and Carrera (1999) have included this type of experiment. The scope of the tests performed by Carrera (1999) deserves special mention in this section: a) perception test; b) evaluational test (linguistic insecurity test); and c) analysis of speaker subjectivity.

3.6. Quantitative analysis

By definition, this treatment is fundamental in variationist methodology. Colomina (1985), Mier (1986) and Escrivā (1993) use very basic frequential statistical programmes.

The three studies by Montoya (1989, 1993 and 2000) and those of Alturo and Turell (1990) and Carrera (1999) use the multivariant analysis statistical programme VARBRUL II.S or GOLD.VARB (Macintosh version). This quantitative treatment does not only provide frequential data on the linguistic action of informant samples, it also transforms them into theoretical probabilities, on the basis of the idea that the data on action are a statistical reflection of language competence. The interpretative aspect is clearly very important.

Finally, Pradilla used VARBRUL III in his research (1993). This new version is not subject to binary variant analysis, so it can provide probabilities for at least nine variants. It would have been very useful in the work of Escrivā (1993), Montoya (1993) and Plaza (1995), who present ternary variables.


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