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Sociolinguistics Symposium 19: Language and the City

Sociolinguistics Symposium 19

Freie Universität Berlin | August 21-24, 2012

Programme: accepted abstracts

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Abstract ID: 1236

Part of General Poster Session (Other abstracts in this session)

A Sociolinguistic Analysis of the Pretonic Mid-vowels in Brazilian Paulista Portuguese

Authors: do Carmo, Márcia Cristina
Submitted by: do Carmo, Márcia Cristina (UNESP/IBILCE, Brazil)

This work (FAPESP – 2009/09133-8; CAPES/PDEE – 2563-11-8) investigates the variable behaviour of the pretonic mid-vowels in Paulista Portuguese, i.e., the variety spoken in the Brazilian State of São Paulo. These vowels are subject to the phonological process named vowel raising, through which the mid-vowels /e/ and /o/ are pronounced, respectively, as the high vowels [i] and [u], e.g. al[i]gria (joy) and c[u]nfiar (to rely on). As a theoretical background, this research follows the Theory of Linguistic Variation and Change (Labov, 1972). The corpus of this research consists of thirty-eight interviews with spontaneous speech samples, taken from the IBORUNA Database, available at www.iboruna.ibilce.unesp.br. The GOLDVARB-X statistical package was utilised in the quantitative analysis of the data, detecting the possible influence of ten linguistic and three social variables on the vowel raising. The general result indicated relatively low and similar percentages of application of the process: 16.1% and 16.6% for /e/ and /o/, respectively. Two other phonological processes were identified as relevant to the application of vowel raising: vowel harmony (Câmara Jr., 1970; Bisol, 1981), through which the high vowel in the subsequent syllable favours the application of the process, e.g. s[i]gurar (to hold) and imp[u]ssível (impossible), and vowel reduction (Abaurre-Gnerre, 1981), through which the pretonic mid-vowel is raised under the influence of the place of articulation of the adjacent consonant(s), e.g. ap[ig]uei (I got attached) and [ku]lega (mate). The former was demonstrated to be the primary process, which was observed by the selection of the height of the vowel in the subsequent syllable as the most important variable for the vowel raising of both /e/ and /o/, with substantial relative weights concerning the high vowels (/i/: 0.943 for /e/ and 0.846 for /o/; /u/: 0.739 for /e/ and 0.828 for /o/). With respect to the vowel reduction, solely the subsequent consonant was selected by the statistical program as an influential variable on the vowel raising of /e/, placing emphasis on the actuation of velar consonants, e.g. p[ik]ena (small/little), with relative weight of 0.703. The labial consonants were identified as the most favourable to the application of the vowel raising of /o/, in both precedent (e.g. [mu]lecadagroup of children) and subsequent (e.g. pr[um]etiahe/she/it promised) positions, with relative weights of 0.711 and 0.600, respectively. Ultimately, in relation to the social variables, the sex/gender and the level of education of the informant were demonstrated to have no influence on the application of vowel raising, whereas the age group of the informant evinced that the process is in stable variation.

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