A Sociolinguistic Study of Postvocalic /s/ Variation in a Rio de Janeiro Favela: Race/Color, Place and Stance
Brito, Edvan Pereira
This dissertation research investigates the relationship between language and identity in the neighborhood of City of God (Cidade de Deus) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. More specifically, it employs a mixed-methods approach to analyze the interrelationship between sociolinguistic variation in postvocalic /s/, a phonological variable, and identity construction across groups of speakers and within the speech of individual speakers. Thus, this research analyzes quantitatively the relationship among the four variants of the dependent variable (palatal, alveolar, glottal, and /s/ deletion) and twelve independent variables or predictors, of which six are linguistic (preceding vowel, following sound, stress, syllabic structure, grammatical category, and word) and six are social (age, gender, race/color, regional origin, education, speaker), in a data set composed of seventeen sociolinguistic interviews with twenty-two residents of City of God. Additionally, it examines qualitatively how the social meanings indexed by the use of this variable relate to the stances taken by individual speakers in conversation about the status of their community within the residential organization of Rio de Janeiro, focusing on different conceptions of the words comunidade ‘community’ and favela (roughly, slum or shantytown).The quantitative results showed that the palatal variant is significantly affected by speakers’ regional origin, age, and education. The alveolar is significantly affected by the origin and age of the speaker. The glottal is significantly affected by both age and race/color. Finally, all social variables, except race/color, significantly affect /s/ deletion. The qualitative analysis revealed that the meanings of the variants of postvocalic /s/ varied based on speakers’ orientations toward the neighborhood and the stances they took in relation to different perceptions regarding the words comunidade ‘community’ and favela.This study contributes to the field of sociolinguistics by using a mixed-methods approach to provide the first study to date that examines how postvocalic /s/ is used by residents of a community that is defined as a favela in Rio de Janeiro, and by including socio-cultural aspects such as race/color and regional origin which have not yet been addressed in studies of this feature in Brazilian Portuguese.
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