Analysis of a non standard phonetic variant among Moroccan immigrated adolescents in Brussels

Stéphanie Audrit

Centre de recherche VALIBEL - Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium


1. General description of the research

Most of the time, non standard productions of the immigrant youth people are interpreted as the reflect of their lack of knowledge of the norm of French. However, it seems that this lack of knowledge is not the only factor that can explain non standard productions.

A second cause that could be taken into account is the identitary function played by these non standard productions. Speakers who are able to produce standard forms can choose to produce non standard ones, because these ones have become symbols of their belonging to the peer group.

My research aims at (i) describing phonetically a few non standard features specific to the youth immigrated people in Brussels and (ii) showing how the speakers use them according to the context and to their attitude towards the school institution and the official norm in general.

2. Social and demographic context in Brussels

The two most important immigrated non European populations in Brussels are the Moroccan and the Turkish people. Furthermore, these two groups live in areas where the unemployment rate and the number of bad quality lodging are the highest in the Belgian capital.

These adolescents are twice stigmatized, both by their immigrated origins and by their precarious economical situation. Therefore I postulate that these youth immigrated people consider themselves and are perceived as a social group and consequently develop specific practices, both linguistic and non linguistic (Eckert 2000).

3. Data

The present research belongs to the ethnographic paradigm. The data was collected during a one-year survey in two Brussels schools. The corpus is made on one side of spontaneous interactions recorded during courses, breaks, extra-scholars activities and trainings and on the other side of semi-directed individual or group interviews.

4. Phonetic variants and analysing

The three phonetic variants I consider are the followings:

1.the back realization or posteriorization of the phoneme /a/ ;

2.the reduction of the vowels ;

3.several variants of the phoneme /r/.

In the present paper, I focus on the back realization of /a/. This pronunciation is considered by several authors as typical of the working class and of the youth immigrated Moroccan people in different areas of France (Calvet 1994, Jamin 2005). I observe how speakers adapt their use of that variant and how they construct social meaning by analyzing their use of the two variants in contrasting contexts. I aim to highlight the role of non standard variants, not only as reflecting an incomplete knowledge of language, but also as a stylistic resource.

Session: POSTERS: Focus on variation, migration, minority languages
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 12:45-15:45
room: foyer