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"Auliva" or "oliva"? Describing variation in the Segrià, by Josefina Carrera-Sabaté
and Elisabet Freixenet-Esteve


Figure 7. Evaluations of [aw] as good vowel and probability
of maintainance of [aw]

Figure 7. Evaluations of [aw] as good vowel and probability

5. General considerations

The sound change which we have looked at constitutes yet another instance in the Segrià (western Catalonia) of the progressive imposition of a model of prestigious speech which is directly connected to the forms used in the written language. This model presents divergences which carry social connotations for speakers of all populations, namely age, educational level, and knowledge of (written) Catalan. Age, together with schooling, is one of the most important variables when it comes to explaining trends of this sort: in this particular case, we observe that the oldest inhabitants, who in many instances are those with the least schooling, maintain the traditional variant [aw] in a very large percentage of cases; on the other hand, with those in the middle age range and those in the youngest age group, the probability that they will use this traditional form is relatively low.

Turning to subjective factors linked to change, we should remember something that is sometimes forgotten: that in a speech community there are forms which are prestigious or stigmatised by speakers (12) in accordance with overt or covert prestige determined by social status and by group solidarity. These subjective criteria for evaluation which speakers take as reference points are directly related to language production and in the case under analysis here, serve to complete or fill out the explanation for the change in progress which we analyse in the following way:

a) In general terms, the informants evaluate the [aw] variant as odd in half the realisations that they heard (52%), suggesting the diphthong lacks prestige for the people of Sunyer.

b) In Sunyer, unusual pronunciations are not tolerated and [aw] is viewed as odd in words that seldom adopt this outcome, for instance oració. Directly connected with this, there is a substantial relationship between the degree of tolerance of a phonological form and the frequency of usage; on this point, note that words in which [aw] is considered neither a good option nor own pronunciation or that of the community have in common that they are seldom realised with [aw], as in the case of ovella.

c) Finally, there is a correlation between the use of a form by a given generation of speakers, and the degree of acceptance of this form by members of the said generation, such that, generally speaking, younger, more educated speakers are the ones who least use and least tolerate [aw].

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Josefina Carrera-Sabaté
Universitat de Lleida and de Barcelona  

Elisabet Freixenet i Esteve 
Universitat de Lleida 

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