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Bookmark and Share Paper 1389

Negative Prestige and Sound Change: A Sociolinguistic Study of the Assibilation of /χ/ in Piauí Portuguese
Michael Taylor and David Eddington
320-325 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


The purpose of this study was to carry out a sociolinguistic analysis using traditional methods in the northeast region of Brazil, specifically in the city of Piripiri, Piauí, with regards to the assibilation of the phonemic voiceless uvular fricative. In standard BP, the voiceless uvular fricative phoneme, found post-vocalically in coda position, has many possible realizations, such as: [alveolar trill, voiceless glottal fricative, voiceless velar fricative, voiced velar fricative, voiceless uvular fricative, voiced uvular fricative] (Parkinson 1988). However, in Piripiri, the pronunciation of the voiceless uvular fricative phoneme in coda position before a voiceless alveolar stop (as in quarta-feira 'Wednesday') becomes assibilated and is realized as either a voiceless apical alveolar fricative or a voiceless alveopalatal fricative. Because of Piauí's very high illiteracy rate (49% according to government figures), oral interviews were the primary source for the corpus. Interviews were done with 83 natives of Piripiri, using a combination of pictures and questions to elicit various token words. Variable rule analyses were performed in order to determine the influence of non-linguistic variables of age, sex, and class, as well as the surrounding linguistic environments on this pronunciation. The results, along with some interesting observations made during fieldwork, show that the pronunciation has acquired negative prestige among the younger generation, as well of those of the upper-class, regardless of age, although it has not disappeared completely. To these residents of Piripiri, which subsequently have more contact with the neighboring capital Teresina, the assibilated variant of the voiceless uvular fricative phoneme has become associated with illiteracy and a lack of education.

Published in

Selected Proceedings of the 9th Hispanic Linguistics Symposium
edited by Nuria Sagarra and Almeida Jacqueline Toribio
Table of contents
Printed edition: $250.00