Dental stops palatalization as social practice

Elisa Battisti, Adalberto Ayjara Dornelles Filho, João Ignacio Pires Lucas, Nínive Magdiel Peter Bovo

Universidade de Caxias do Sul, Brazil


Dental Stops Palatalization as Social Practice

Dental stops palatalization in Antônio Prado, a small southern Brazilian city founded by Italian immigrants in the end of the 19th century, applies at a 29% frequency rate. Considering different varieties of Portuguese spoken in Brazil, such a rate is moderate and generally attributed (Bisol, 1991; Almeida, 2000) to the contact between Italian and Portuguese languages which by its turn keeps vowel reduction of unstressed /e/ to [i] (a process that feeds palatalization) low in Antônio Prado. Aiming at investigating dental stops palatalization as social practice (Eckert, 2000), variable rule analysis (Labov, 1972, 1994, 2001) and informants’ social network analysis (Milroy, 1980; Milroy and Milroy, 1992) were carried out, combined with an ethnographic study in the community.

The variable rule analysis of 26.598 tokens collected from the interviews of 48 BDSer (Banco de Dados de Fala da Serra Gaúcha, UCS) informants showed that palatalization is favoured by young people who live in the city’s urban area and by phonological /i/. The analysis of the informants social network was made in its density and plexity, the last one measured considering degrees of relationship of the informants (Blake and Josey, 2003). In both rural and urban areas the network is dense, the difference lies in the ties which connect the informants: the ones living in the urban area are connected by less intimates ties, while rural informants connect to each other by more intimate ties, which reinforce the more conservative non-palatalized alternant. Ethnography in Antônio Prado focused on young people’s (15 to 30 years old) practices, which show traces of the local old (Italian settlers) traditions. Living in the urban or rural area, young people’s attitudes towards the city can be said to be positive and can be related to the group’s frequency rate of palatalization, which hasn’t increased from the prior age group (31 to 50 years old).

The results of both variable rule and social network analysis, combined with ethnography in Antônio Prado, indicate that palatalization is not change in progress in the community, but tends to be stabilized in the system at moderate rates.


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Session: Paper session
Saturday, April 5, 2008, 09:00-10:30
room: 10