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The Oxford Guide to the Romance Languages$

Adam Ledgeway and Martin Maiden

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199677108

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199677108.001.0001

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Sociolinguistic variation

Sociolinguistic variation

(p.611) Chapter 35 Sociolinguistic variation
The Oxford Guide to the Romance Languages

Mari C. Jones

Mair Parry

Lynn Williams

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

The main goal of this chapter is to provide a comparative overview of some of the principal aspects of sociolinguistic variation in Romance, covering phonological, morphological, syntactic, and lexical variation among different groups of the speech community according to sociolinguistic variables such as age, gender, class, education, medium and register; the role of the nature, organization, and cohesion of particular social groups and networks in driving socially-determined variation and linguistic innovations; high and low prestige variants; normative forces, and reactions to, standardization. Specific topics dealt with include: French; Italo-Romance; Spanish; variationist studies; sociolinguistic models and categories; regional sociolinguistic variation; sociolinguistic variables; historical sociolinguistic variation; recent standardizing and convergence trends; forms of address; standards and norms; national norms; regional norms.

Keywords:   sociolinguistic variation, age, gender, class, education, medium, register, networks, prestige, standardization

35.1 French

35.1.1 Context

In 1996, the French sociolinguist Françoise Gadet wrote that, at that time, French variationist sociolinguistics barely existed (1996:89). This comment, made three decades after Labov’s (1966) seminal variationist work had revolutionized the study of the interaction between language and society within the Anglo-Saxon world, indicates clearly the way in which, within France, sociolinguistics has followed its own trajectory. This section provides an overview of the main trends in contemporary French sociolinguistics. For reasons of space, it focuses mainly on studies of Hexagonal French.1 Examples are illustrative, rather than exhaustive, and references are necessarily selective.

The way in which speech varies according to social parameters frequently enjoys a high degree of salience within a speech community and, from the sixteenth century onwards, metalinguistic comment on French regarding age- and social class-based phonological and lexical variation is plentiful (Tory 1529; Pillot 1550; de la Ramée 1572; Estienne 1579). More systematic studies of French sociolinguistic variation also appear from a relatively early date (Nisard 1872; Bauche 1920; Martinet 1945). More recently, interest in linguistic diversity with regard to age- and register-governed variation has resulted in the publication of popular ‘dictionaries’ (Merle 1989; Colin et al. 1994; Goudaillier 1997).

In France, language has served as a major building block of nationhood. A consequence has been the imposition on the French mindset of an ‘ideology of the standard’ (Milroy and Milroy 1985) which may be interpreted as the formation in society of ‘definite ideas about what is “correct” in language use’, including the belief that ‘all people should use language in the same “correct” way’ (Devitt 1989:1). This ideology, which received explicit backing from institutions as diverse as the Salons and the Académie Française (although see Estival and Pennycook 2011), and was prominent in the thinking of the grammarians and linguistic commentators of the seventeenth century, sets the written language, seen as ‘ideal’ or ‘true’ French, above the ‘lesser’ spoken language. France therefore emerged into the modern period with a strong normative linguistic tradition, with French-speakers perceiving their language as uniform and dominant (Gadet 2007:208). The national preoccupation with language is greater than that of France’s European neighbours. Indeed, despite France’s numerous immigrant and regional languages (acknowledged in Cerquiglini’s 1999 report which bears no less a title than ‘The Languages of France’), French is enshrined in the 1958 Constitution as the Republic’s only language.

35.1.2 Variationist studies

Studying the (inherently variable) spoken language seems to have held relatively little appeal within France, possibly as a result of this normative mindset. Moreover, when sociolinguistic research began in earnest within France, Labovian variationism did not prove as popular as within the Anglophone world. This is not to say that no French sociolinguistic studies have been undertaken within the Labovian framework (cf. Lefebvre 1991; Taylor 1996; Reichstein 1960; Laks 1977; Chauvin 1985) and, more recently, the Phonologie du français contemporain project (Durand et al. 2009b), which is using Labovian methodology to compile a large reference corpus of spoken French from throughout the French-speaking world to facilitate the systematic study of phonological phenomena such as liaison. Labovian-style analysis of the French of Canada has been undertaken by North American linguists (see e.g. the work of Raymond Mougeon, France Martineau, Gillian Sankoff, Terry Nadasdi, and Hélène Blondeau).2 However, most variationist work on Hexagonal French has been undertaken by sociolinguists from the UK (see, for example, the work of (p.612) Nigel Armstrong, Kate Beeching, Aidan Coveney, David Hornsby, Anthony Lodge, Tim Pooley, and Zoe Boughton).3

Sociolinguistic studies of Hexagonal and extra-Hexagonal French have focused on variables such as the following. Phonology: realization of r (broadly speaking [r] vs [ʁ]); presence or absence of schwa deletion (la fenêtre [laf(ə)nɛtʁ] ‘the window’); deletion of [ʁə] and [lə] when part of a word-final consonant cluster (centre [sɑ̃t(ʁə)] ‘centre’, possible [pɔsib(lə)] ‘possible’); neutralization of the opposition between front and back a (patte [pat] ‘paw’– pâte [pɑt] ‘pasta’); realization of nasal vowels (e.g. merger of [œ̃] with [ɛ̃] in words such as brun [bʁœ̃] ‘brown’); presence of optional liaison (tu as attendu [tyazatɑ̃dy] or [tyaʔatɑ̃dy] ‘you have waited’). Morphosyntax: use of the indefinite personal pronoun on ‘one’ in place of the first person plural pronoun nous; auxiliary selection in compound tenses; absence of the preverbal negator (i.e., the passage from Jespersen-style stage II to stage III negation: il ne vient pasil vient pas ‘he does not come’; cf. §51.2.1); left-dislocated subject doubling (Moi, je le vois Pierre lit. ‘1SG, I him= see Pierre’); use of tenses such as the analytic and synthetic future and past forms (e.g. je chanterai ‘sing.FUT.1SG’ vs je vais chanter lit. ‘I go sing.INF’, je chantai ‘sang.PST.1SG’ vs j’ai chanté ‘I.have sung’); the syntax of interrogative constructions, where the position of the constituents in the surface structure can vary considerably, namely wh-SV-cl; wh-V-cl, wh-V-NP, wh-E-S-V, S-V-wh, wh-S-V (where E = the interrogative sequence est-ce que lit. ‘is-this that’; cf. §53.3).

Although studies of upper class speech exist (cf. Lyche and Østby 2009) most studies of socially marked French, whether variationist or not, have concentrated on the lower end of the social scale, focusing most notably on français populaire, a nationally homogeneous sociolect, broadly corresponding to working-class Parisian usage. Its features include non-standard pronunciation (e.g. [ɛ] > [a]: personnel [paʁsɔnɛl] ‘personal’; [o] > [w]: poète [pwɛt] ‘poet’; [ɑ̃] > [ɔ̃]: enfant [ɔ̃fɔ̃] ‘child’; [k] > [kj]: cinquième [sɛ̃kjɛm] ‘fifth’); presence of ‘false’ liaisons (cinq amis [sɛ̃kzami] ‘five friends’); variable schwa deletion (see above)); non-standard morphosyntax (including absence of the preverbal negator (see above); differences in word order (e.g. more dislocation (see above)); differences in the distribution of the subjunctive and of certain tenses (e.g. the conditional); non-observance of feminine gender agreement; and a distinctive lexis (e.g. patte ‘paw’ for standard jambe ‘leg’; toubib for standard médecin ‘doctor’; bagnole for standard voiture ‘car’; boulot for standard travail ‘work’; cf. Bauche 1920; Guiraud 1965; François 1973; Gadet 1992). However, given the evidence of divergent norms within the same city (see §35.6), questions have been raised as to whether the term français populaire is still appropriate (Gadet 2003b; Jamin et al. 2006; Hornsby and Jones 2013).

A noticeable consequence of the ideology of the standard, with its lack of focus on the spoken language for its own sake, has been that corpora of spoken Hexagonal French are less well established and less numerous than those of France’s European neighbours. Longer-standing and more extensive corpora exist of the written language, a well-known example being FRANTEXT. For the French of France, the best-known include the Groupe Aixois de Recherche en Syntaxe corpus (GARS/CORPAIX); the Étude Linguistique de la Communication Parlée corpus (ELICOP); the Corpus de Référence du Français Parlé (CRFP) and the Corpus de Langue Parlée en Interaction (CLAPI). For extra-Hexagonal French, see e.g. Canada: the Ottawa-Hull Corpus and the Corpus de français parlé au Québec; Belgium: the VALIBEL corpus and the Langue et Communication corpus (LANCOM).

35.1.3 Sociolinguistic models and categories

Jones and Hornsby (2013) brings together sociologists and sociolinguists to reflect on whether the relative absence of methodological cross-fertilization between France and the Anglo-Saxon world can be attributed simply to scepticism on the part of French sociolinguists towards Anglo-American approaches or to genuine problems of application in the European Francophone context, created by a fundamental difference in the French social model. One major factor worth highlighting is the near-taboo surrounding social class in post-Revolutionary France (Castellotti and De Robillard 2001:46), which has probably militated against its use as an analytical category in French sociolinguistics. Interestingly, although the category also disappeared from French political and sociological discourse at the end of the twentieth century, it is now returning (Chauvel 2001; Bouffartigue 2004). French studies of social inequality and stratification were undertaken before this, but with social groupings such as ‘position’, ‘layer’ and ‘environment’ used as thinly-disguised euphemisms for ‘social class’ (Paveau 2008; Coveney 2013:70). Lambert (2013) finds that data from large-scale sociological surveys provide little evidence of French exceptionalism with respect to the processes of social stratification in other western countries. Moreover, although France’s National Institute of Statistics has created its own tool for measuring social classification using categories which, as Hornsby and Pooley (2001) discuss, do not correlate well with Labovian methodology, British linguists investigating social stratification have shown that these (p.613) categories can be re-cast into the three broad Labovian classes (typically as ‘upper’, ‘intermediate’, and ‘popular’) without too much difficulty (Coveney 2002; 2013:70). For all the taboo surrounding the category of social class, it still seems relevant for the analysis of contemporary French society (Coulangeon 2013). Indeed, many factors cited against the use of this category in the literature on French (shifting class boundaries, growth of the middle classes, increased time in education), are common to many of France’s European neighbours, as are other so-called centralizing forces cited as factors behind the increasing homogenization of French speech (internal economic migration, enhanced communication links, better transport infrastructure) (Lodge 1993:227; Durand et al. 2013:66). Paris does, however, exert more control over the French education system than London on the British system: the post-18 school-leaving baccalauréat examinations are uniform throughout France and secondary school teachers are selected via national competitions based on a single national curriculum and assessed via a Paris-based examination board. It is therefore indeed possible that this arrangement serves to privilege and diffuse a single linguistic norm (Durand et al. 2013:67).

Labovian variationist sociolinguistics has been criticized for implying an overly-consensual, simplified, model of society and social identity (Schiffrin 1996; Coupland 2007). Speech is often portrayed as largely homogeneous, apart from a few ‘weak’ points which vary according to a given social parameter: the corresponding linguistic forms serving as fixed points by which a given social variety may be identified. However, the framework does not explore why individuals belonging to the same social group may speak differently, nor why members of socially different groups may speak similarly. Crucially, it also fails to acknowledge that every speaker represents a possible site of interaction for a number of extralinguistic factors (age, gender, class, education, etc.), which interface with one another during the production of speech (Gadet and Tyne 2012). Therefore, although for many Anglophone scholars the terms ‘Labovian’ and ‘variationist’ are virtually synonymous, this is not the case within the Hexagon.

The study of linguistic varieties based on interaction rather than on abstraction is prevalent in the specifically French sociolinguistic framework of L’Imaginaire linguistique (Houdebine 1996), whose stated aim is to explore ‘the speaker’s relationship with the language and with its realization (usage)’ (Houdebine 1995:239) by relating the central extralinguistic parameters of Labovian sociolinguistics to more subjective factors (e.g. context, diglossia/bilingualism, speaker attitudes) and which seeks to achieve descriptive adequacy by considering negotiation rather than correlation. Similarly complex strategies of interaction form the focus of studies in other areas of the French sociolinguistic tradition. For example, language revitalization has been deconstructed as a set of social as well as linguistic processes (Costa 2010a,b; 2013; Costa and Gasquet-Cyrus 2012; 2013) and the ‘manufacture’ of regional sociolinguistic identities has also been analysed in terms of negotiation with a linguistic ‘other’ (Blanchet 2002a, b; Bulot 2006c; 2013; Jones and Bulot 2009).

35.1.4 Regional sociolinguistic variation

The sociolinguistic correlates of regional dialect levelling have drawn attention on both sides of the Channel. Again, the French case does not seem particularly exceptional. However, France is notable for the near total absence of localized urban speech varieties. Put simply, the significant levelling that occurred during the twentieth century has led to the emergence of a regionally unmarked supralocal norm in the historical territory of the langue d’oïl. Consequently, according to some linguists, variation in French is fast coming to represent that which occurs when a range of linguistic resources shared by the whole community of speakers (of all social backgrounds) is used ‘to achieve different stylistic effects in various situations of communication’, more than to ‘serve as indicators of a social dialect’ (Pooley 2013:201). As one example, variable schwa deletion in monosyllabic words preceded by a single consonant ([sɛdɑ̃ləbyʁo] / [sɛdɑ̃lbyʁo] ‘it is in the office’) was found by Hansen (2000) to be linked more with, respectively, scripted and unscripted speech styles than with considerations of social class.

Some pockets of resistance to these centralizing trends remain in the south of France (Rittaud-Hutinet 2001; Durand et al. 2013) and in the Hexagon’s northern and eastern periphery (e.g. the Cotentin Peninsula and the Nord Pas de Calais; cf. Walter 1982; Tyne 2003:163; Hornsby 2006; Pooley 2006:366f.—although cf. Boughton 2013). However, divergence from this so-called Oïl French, whose phonological features differ from ‘standard’ or ‘reference’ French is becoming something of a rarity in much of the historical Oïl territory, especially for speakers born after 1965. Indeed, the supralocal norm also seems to be spreading into the north of the historical Oc territory (Pooley 2006:385f.). Pooley’s (p. 360) list of Oïl French features includes the neutralization of certain vowel oppositions (e.g [a]–[ɑ] (see above); and [e]-[ɛ] in open syllables (fée/fait ‘fairy/done’); [ø]-[œ] in closed syllables (jeûne/jeune ‘fasting/young’); [œ̃]–[ɛ̃] [brun/brin ‘brown/sprig’]); non-realization of final schwa (père [pɛʁ(ə)] ‘father’); maintenance of the [ɔ]–[o] opposition in closed syllables (hotte/ôte ‘basket carried on one’s back/(s)he.removes’); realization of [ə] according to the ‘northern’ (p.614) system as defined by Armstrong and Unsworth (1999); deletion of word-final [ʁə] and [lə] (see above); realization of r as the uvular approximant ([ʁ]).

Recent studies of levelling of Oïl-divergent features include for eastern France Armstrong (2001a); Boughton (2005); for western France Boughton (2001; 2003; 2005); for northern France Girard and Lyche (2003), Hornsby (2006); for southern France Armstrong and Unsworth (1999), Violin-Wigent (2009), Pustka (2009), Armstrong and Pooley (2010). Although similar processes of linguistic convergence have been found elsewhere in Europe (Hinskens et al. 2005), ‘[n]owhere else in western Europe are phonological regiolectal features levelled to such a degree over such a large area’ (Pooley 2006:286; cf. Armstrong and Blanchet 2006).

35.1.5 Hyperstyle variation

The levelling of French pronunciation in the historical Oïl territory means that, within the Hexagon, sociolinguistic variation has been largely displaced to morphosyntax and the lexis. Recent studies include: Gadet (1996, 1997; 1998); Armstrong (1998; 2002; 2013); Coveney (2000; 2003a, b; 2007; 2013); Fonvielle and Hug (2000); Beeching (2009; 2012); Courbon (2009); Zribi-Hertz (2011:6f.). This is not to say that no social or regional differences of pronunciation exist (Armstrong and Boughton 2009; cf. Mettas 1979), but the latter in particular are certainly significantly diminished compared to previous generations (Boughton 2013). Variable phonological features that remain in French such as variable schwa deletion (Hansen 2000; Massot 2002), the realization of optional liaison (Durand et al. 2009b), and the deletion of word-final [ʁə] and [lə] (Laks 1977) (see above), together with fast-speech phenomena such as the pronunciation of expliquer [eksplike] ‘to explain’ as [esplike], are therefore now available to all speakers, precisely because they have no regional or social connotations. As such, any variation that still occurs may be interpreted as a marker of style rather than of social dialect. Indeed, Lodge (1993; 1999) considers stylistic variation to be more evident in French than in many other languages (cf. Zribi-Hertz 2011 and Massot and Rowlett 2013 for a discussion of diglossia between different varieties of style-indexed French).

Since speakers typically vary their style according to the specific social range of people with whom they interact regularly, hyperstyle (Coveney 1996; Armstrong 2013), where the whole speech community varies its speech in the same way, should be rare. Armstrong explains its presence in French, where it is certainly manifest in the context of variable schwa deletion and the realization of optional liaison, via the salience that these features are given by the French education system. He adds that the same could apply to the salient morphosyntactic variable of interrogative structures (see above) (cf. Coveney 1997) and to some instances of lexical variation (e.g. voiture/bagnole ‘car’; Armstrong 2013:84-8).

35.1.6 Variation and the banlieue

A striking exception to Oïl levelling is found in the variety of French spoken in the suburbs of Paris and other major French cities, characterized by large numbers of immigrants and a population significantly younger than the national average (Dikeç 2007; Tissot 2013). Hornsby and Jones (2013) view the interrelationship between language and space as a further contrast between the urban sociolinguistic profiles of France and the Anglo-Saxon world and discuss the contrasting connotations evoked by the French term banlieue (= social deprivation, multiculturalism, lower-class) and British/American suburb (= affluence, ‘white Anglo-Saxon Protestant’, middle-class). Haussmann’s redesign of Paris in the wake of the 1848 uprisings (see Harvey 1985:103) brought profound structural change and unprecedented social segregation via displacement of much of the working class population from the inner city—leading to a physical separation between bourgeoisie and proletariat. The isolation of the banlieue has led to linguistic divergence, characterized by linguistic features which, unlike the Oïl-levelling discussed above, are associated with low-status speakers (Jamin 2005; 2007; 2009; Fagyal 2003; 2007; 2010; Trimaille 2008). These include glottalization of pre-pausal [ʁ] (ta mère [tameʁ̝ʔ] ‘your mother’); closure of [ɔ] before [ʁ] and [l] (la mort [lamoʁ̝ʔ] ‘the death’, la police [lapolis] ‘the police’); palatalization and/or affrication of the dental stops [t] and [d] before the high vowels [i] and [y] (tu dis [ʧyʤi] ‘you say’) and of the velar stops [k] and [g], including when final (la gare [lagjaʁ], [lajaʁ] ‘the station’; donc [dɔ̃kʃ] ‘therefore); shift of tonic stress to a prefinal syllable (MARdi for marDI ‘Tuesday’) and syncope of unstressed vowels (j(ou)(eu)r de foot lit. ‘player of fooball’, Z(i)dane, i(l) f(ait) ses lacets lit. ‘Zidane, he does up his laces’).

Many of these emergent phonetic forms appear to have arisen from contact between indigenous working-class and immigrant groups. Moreover, these features are being adopted and their frequency exaggerated by young second-generation immigrants of north African parentage precisely in order to index a particular social identity (Jamin 2005:233f.; cf. Labov 1963). And yet, linguistic features observed in the Paris banlieue appear to have minimal impact on the speech of the city itself and, although Candea et al. (2012) raise the question of whether these features will, in due course, become more commonplace in mainstream society as part of the general informalization of (p.615) phonetic ‘norms’ (cf. Boughton 2007), at present there is no indication that they are likely to do so soon (Gadet 2003a:87; Hornsby and Jones 2013).

The particular social ‘mix’ of the banlieue and the prominence of its linguistic features within French society (even though most people do not use these forms) seem to have had a hand in the change in meaning undergone by the term ‘youth language’ within French sociolinguistics. The clear generational connotations developed first into a localized, (banlieue) meaning and have subsequently even become associated with ethnicity–despite the fact that most young banlieue dwellers do not speak their ‘heritage’ language (Trimaille and Billiez 2000; Trimaille 2004; Pooley 2008; Gadet 2013a).

Whether inside or outside the banlieue, the sociolinguistics of the city (effects of urbanization, rural exodus, post-colonial migration etc.) forms a current focus of research. Studies include Bulot (2001; 2006a; 2009b; 2011), Armstrong (2001b), Armstrong and Jamin (2002), Gasquet-Cyrus (2004; 2009), Trimaille and Billiez (2007), Bierbach and Bulot (2007), Ledegen and Bulot (2008), Pooley (2009), and Gadet (2013a). In their study of the sociolinguistic correlates of the gentrification of Marseille, Trimaille and Gasquet-Cyrus (2013) relate the phenomenon of Oïl levelling to the construction of regional versus global (or glocal) identity, indicating the role that can be played in such matters by linguistic features. This power of language to index an (often changing) identity has been studied in many different types of French-speaking community: urban (Bulot and Tsekos 1999); youth (Trimaille 2005; Blondeau 2008); regional (Bulot 2006c; Ayres-Bennett and Jones 2007; Armstrong 2008); and immigrant (Bulot 2009a). Studies of code-switching are also shot through with such questions (Poplack 1987; 1988; Myers-Scotton 1993; Jones 2005; Poplack et al. 2012). In Heller et al. (2005) and Duchêne (2012), linguistic identity is related to the commodification of language in the workplace.

35.2 Italo-Romance

The development of sociolinguistics in Italy, whilst particularly receptive to new ideas from abroad, has been much influenced by the historical events that have determined the various internal divisions, both social and linguistic. Italy has always been a profoundly multilingual country, whose linguistically fragmented regions were unified barely a century and a half ago and which has recently experienced significant immigration from abroad. The many regional dialects of Italy (dialetti) are not varieties of Italian but parallel developments from spoken Latin, which though closely related can be more different from Florentine/ Tuscan-based Italian than are, say, Spanish or Romanian. The social changes wrought by political unification, involving mass internal migration into the cities from rural areas, and from the impoverished south to the more industrial north (especially the north-west), were accompanied by major advances in education, literacy, technology, and communication, all of which revolutionized the linguistic behaviour of Italy’s inhabitants, but there remain pronounced regional differences (Parry 2011). The focus here will be on sociolinguistic variation within Italy and Switzerland (Ticino) (for further bibliography, including studies of variation regarding minority languages, emigrant and new immigrant communities, code-switching and mixing, sectorial languages, and matters of identity and perception, see Còveri 1977; Zuanelli Sonino 1989; Mioni 1992; Berruto 2002; Parry 2010c; Cerruti 2013).

Tullio De Mauro’s seminal Storia linguistica dell’Italia unita (1963) was a ground-breaking sociolinguistic analysis of the factors that brought about the major language shift whereby the mainly written code of a small elite, based on fourteenth-century Florentine, became within a century a widely spoken language.4 Nowadays the percentage of monoglot dialect speakers among the population of Italy (approximately 5%) is much lower than the percentage of Italians able to use Italian at the time of Unification (approximately 10%). Yet, ironically, the precarious status of most of today’s dialects does not prevent their being a significant stylistic resource where least expected, namely in the electronic communications of young people.

Perceptive overviews of sociolinguistic variation in Italy are found in two updated profiles: Berruto (2012) and D’Agostino (2012). Much important work stems from a cross-fertilization with the long-standing tradition of dialectology, which in Italy, unlike in the Anglo-Saxon world, has always shown a keen social awareness (Berruto 1977; Sornicola 2002; D’Agostino and Ruffino 2005). References to linguistic variation go back to the Middle Ages: Dante, for example noted both diatopic and diachronic variation; Benedetto Varchi identified four sociolinguistic levels in Renaissance Florence (Alinei 1981:157f.), but the twentieth century brought systematic studies such as Terracini (1937), which showed the impact of sociological variables, prestige factors, and speaker allegiances on linguistic variation and change within an alpine community. The Labovian, formal and quantitative, approach was thus welcomed in a country where so-called ‘dialects’ are still spoken by approximately half the population and where, in addition to recent arrivals, there is a history of long-established immigrant (p.616) languages. The sociolinguistic relationship of the dialects to Italian has evolved from being typically diglossic (see Muljačić 1997: the dialects as L varieties, except in some regions, where dialect performed some H functions) to a situation of dilalia (Berruto 1987b; see also §36.3.1).

The dialects are crucially involved in language variation in Italy: from a macrosociolinguistic viewpoint dialect is still present in the repertoire of all communities, offering language choices governed by user- and use-based variables, while from a microsociolinguistic perspective the traditional dialects leave their mark on the structure of the national language, which is gradually replacing them even in the most informal domains and producing new dialects of Italian, e.g. Piedmontese/Lombard/Calabrian/Sicilian etc. regional Italian. In most communities where the indigenous variety is not, or not recognized as, Italo-Romance, e.g. Val d’Aosta, Friuli, Sardinia (but not the Alto Adige), the actual sociolinguistic (dilalic) relationship of the minority language to Italian is similar to that of the dialects, albeit sometimes complicated by the added presence of an Italo-Romance dialect, e.g. Piedmontese, Francoprovençal (and French) are spoken in the Val d’Aosta.5

The variationist approach has inspired innovative atlas surveys investigating both traditional dialects and new regional varieties of Italian, e.g. NADIR (Nuovo Atlante dei Dialetti e dell'Italiano Regionale, see Sobrero et al. 1991), and ALS (Atlante Linguistico della Sicilia). ALS publications, from Ruffino (1995) onwards, build on research undertaken by the Osservatorio linguistico della Sicilia (Lo Piparo et al. 1990), in which sensitivity to sociological variability and ethnographic considerations, inform data collection, multivariate analysis, and interpretation (D’Agostino and Pennisi 1995). For instance, language choice is found to depend not only on the degree of dynamism of speakers’ home-towns (Ruffino 1990), but also on whether the surrounding area is forward-looking or not (D’Agostino and Pennisi 1995:203).

35.2.1 Sociolinguistic variables

In Italy the primary dimension of variation is diatopic, the diverse dialects interacting everywhere with diastratic, diaphasic, and diamesic variation (cf. §36.3.1; and especially Trumper and Maddalon 1982; Berruto 1987a, for influential classifications of resulting varieties). Both language choice and the extent of each code’s influence on the structure of the other code(s) depend on social factors such as age, level of education, occupation, type of community, and social networks. Statistical analysis of the declared choice of Italian / Italian and dialect/dialect within the family (ISTAT 2007) confirms that level of education, inextricably linked with age, is the most significant macro-sociological variable (Dal Negro and Vietti 2011). Interestingly, ALS analyses reveal that these two variables affect performance in Italian more than in Sicilian: the young and the more educated have less regionally-marked Italian than older and less educated speakers, but retain local dialect pronunciations (D’Agostino and Pennisi 1995:202f.).

The spread of Italian into all domains produced in bilinguals a rich area of interference and variation between the two poles of standard Italian and local dialect.6 This continuum has been segmented on the basis of feature-clustering into named varieties, e.g. ‘regional’ Italian, ‘popular’ Italian, ‘dialect koine’/‘urban dialect’, with much discussion of the interrelationship between the different levels, their characteristics and related implicational scales (e.g. Berruto 1987a; D’Agostino 2007). Sabatini’s (1985) l’italiano dell’uso medio (i.e., of medium formality) prefigured Berruto’s (1987a) italiano neo-standard (new standard), but in spoken use these varieties are always regionally marked, at least in intonation and pronunciation, although less so than italiano popolare (substandard Italian).7

This last variety, the historical product of a poor grasp of Italian, shows heavy dialect interference on all levels and stigmatized morphosyntactic features, which are not all dialectal in origin. Everyday use of the traditional norm inevitably led to the absorption of morphosyntactic characteristics previously excluded from formal discourse, e.g. left and right dislocations, increased use of personal pronouns and demonstratives, spatial adverbs, including the semantically bleached clitic ci ‘there’ (e.g. c’hai tempo? ‘have [lit. there=you.have] you got time?’), cleft constructions, Quand’è che vieni? ‘When is it that you are coming?’, the use of che ‘that’ as an all-purpose clause-linker (e.g. l’ufficio che ci lavoro lit. ‘the office that there=I.work’, vieni che parliamo ‘come that we.talk’), use of indicative for subjunctive in certain contexts, while many erstwhile colloquial lexical items became generally acceptable, e.g. scocciare ‘annoy’ (for dar fastidio), fregare ‘deceive’ (for ingannare), casino ‘confusion’ for confusione. Despite the blurring of boundaries between levels, some features remain stigmatized, e.g. whereas the pronoun gli ‘to him’ is now perfectly acceptable for plural (p.617) reference (instead of loro), and less acceptable for feminine singular reference, the use of ‘popular’ ci lit. ‘there’ for third person dative reference is irremediably ‘substandard’ (cf. § Nowadays the diamesic distinction between spoken and written Italian, highlighted by Trumper and Maddalon (1982; 1990), who noted that the absence of a spoken norm differentiated the Italian sociolinguistic situation from that of countries like France and Britain, is being increasingly eroded in new types of digital communication (see below).

As a consequence of improving educational attainment, ever more flexible sociolinguistic norms and loss of stigma regarding the dialects, the range of varieties of Italian is narrowing, with colloquial and non-standard features occurring in the speech of educated people, while substandard varieties become less marked. However, there is compensatory expansion of diaphasic variation and in some contexts conscious code-switching and mixing (Sobrero 2006). The dialects meanwhile are becoming more Italianized, in some areas by-passing a regional dialect-koine stage, since improved communications encourage small communities to be more nationally oriented (Sobrero 1997; Grassi 2001).

The dialects’ influence on Italian affects all linguistic levels, particularly intonation (no ‘standard’ intonation exists) and phonology (e.g. northern Italians may often fail to pronounce long consonants, e.g. gatto [ˈgaːto] ‘cat’ (§14.2.2); southerners often voice post-nasal obstruents, e.g. sempre [ˈsɛmbre] ‘always’; cf. §§15.2.1, with morphology less affected (Lepschy and Lepschy 1988; Sobrero 1988; Telmon 1993; 1994; D’Achille 2002). Italian influence on the dialects affects mainly morphology, syntax, and lexis, e.g. Cai. [uj pjɒʒ ɛɹ ˈmɒɲɛ] lit. ‘it=to.him= pleases the aunts (= he likes his aunts)’ may become, with verb and subject clitic agreement: [ij ˈpjɔʒu ɛl ˈʣie] ‘they=to.him please the aunts’.

In Tuscany and Rome the situation is complex, due to their dialects’ close structural affinity with Italian: D’Achille and Giovanardi’s (1995) analysis of the changing diastratic distribution of dialectal features in the Roman continuum finds that whereas regional phonological traits are percolating up the social scale, e.g. the characteristic deaffrication of intervocalic /ʧ/ > [ʃ], lengthening of intervocalic and post-pausal /ʤ/ and /b/ (the latter also pre-liquid), e.g. problema [proˈbːlema] ‘problem’, ragione [raˈʤːone] ‘reason’, and the ‘affrication’ affecting /ns, ls, rs/ (e.g. senso [ˈsɛnʦo] ‘sense’), standard morphological ones are spreading downwards reflecting improved education and more emphasis in schools on grammatical and written correctness than on pronunciation (see also Stefinlongo 1985; Volkart-Rey 1990; Bernhard 1999). Cerruti (2011:19-21) also notes that style variation is less common than in English, especially regarding pronunciation and among the young.

Variationist studies of regional Italian focused initially on phonetic variables, e.g. Giannelli and Savoia (1978) chart the diastratic and diaphasic variation of the distinctive consonantal variants of Tuscan Italian ([k > x/h/0], [p > ɸ], t > θ‎], cf. §, §; Rizzi (1989) correlates consonantal variants in Bologna with the variables of age, sex, level of education, and occupation, while Trumper and Maddalon (1990) focus on urban centres in the Veneto; Bernini (1990) notes the implicational hierarchy of regional phonological traits in the Italian of the Bergamo area, relating the incidence of the most stigmatized variants resulting from the deaffrication of Italian affricates [ʤ > ʒ], [tʦ > θ‎θ‎s], and [dʣ > ððz] to age and socio-economic group. Highlighted also is the opposite, less frequent, tendency for the least educated, especially youngsters, to produce tense, devoiced variants of /ʤ/, notably in contexts where Italian has [dʤ], as a hypercorrect reaction to dialect influence.

Qualitative studies involving fewer informants permitted the analysis of morphosyntactic and syntactic variation. Trumper (1996) reveals that only some Calabrian features correlate directly with socio-economic and educational status, such as avoidance of the infinitive (as in Balkan languages), e.g. ero contento che andavo ‘I was happy that I went’ (instead of ero contento di andare ‘I was happy to go’), and auxiliary selection, e.g. abbiamo sceso dal treno ‘we have got off the train’ (instead of siamo scesi dal treno lit. ‘we are alighted from the train’), whereas spoken use of non-standard relative clauses and lack of the subjunctive is similar, regardless of educational background. Indeed, Alfonzetti (2002) rejects too facile a distinction between ‘colloquial’ Italian and italiano popolare, demonstrating that features which may be condemned in writing often pass unnoticed in speech: non-standard relative clauses (using the simple complementizer che ‘that’ instead of a case-marked relative pronoun e.g. tuo cugino, che gli (for standard a cui ‘to whom’) avevo fatto due favori lit. ‘your cousin that to.him= I.had done two favours’) are not rare in educated speech (cf. §64.4). Correlation of regional morphosyntactic variants with age and educational level in Piedmontese Italian by Cerruti (2009) confirms the sociolinguistic relevance of implicational scales of variables. All responses feature reflexive use of morphologically non-reflexive third person pronouns lui ‘he’, lei she’ including as direct objects (e.g. lei vede solo lei (for standard ‘her-/himself’) in concorso ‘she sees only her(self) in the running’), reinforcement of demonstratives by spatial adverbs (questa macchina qui ‘this car here’), non-standard pronominalization of verbs (osarsi ‘dare.INF=REFL’), and negative imperatives with stare ‘stay’ (e.g. non stare a cucinare ‘don’t (bother to) cook’, irrespective of age or education, but the omission of the (p.618) preverbal negative non in contexts such as non…niente ‘nothing’/mica ‘at all’, nessuno ‘nobody’, shows diastratic variation depending on the identity of the negator involved (diaphasic variation was presumed, but not tested). Noteworthy, but not unexpected given the increasing democratization of Italian, is that the most persistent non-standard forms match tendencies found in other contemporary geographical varieties, tendencies seemingly favouring less marked structures that do not clash with the Italian linguistic system. Sociolinguistic studies of intonation are rare, but see Interlandi and Romano (2003).

Regarding the dialects, variationist studies describe koineization tendencies in the direction of Italian, especially among younger speakers, e.g. Parry (1991a), Cravens and Giannelli (1995), Del Puente (1995), Tufi (2005). In Campania age, class, and register combine with syntactic and semantic variables to influence the changing distribution of perfect auxiliaries (Cennamo 2001d).

The impact of gender on language performance and choice is often less significant than that of other sociological variables, although many studies confirm the Labovian finding that women in western industrialized societies favour more prestigious language codes and forms (e.g. Italian and Italianized dialect) and engage more frequently in hypercorrection (Rizzi 1989; Parry 1991a; Maturi 2002:258). Specific studies include Berretta (1983), Marcato (1988; 1995), and Fresu (2006). Chini (2009) confirms subtle gender differences regarding language choice in immigrant communities, with other factors intervening, such as degree of integration. Indeed, Sornicola (2009) queries the independent validity of the gender variable, given that life-history and socio-cultural environment often prove more significant.

In the twentieth century and especially during the post-Second World War economic boom, mass migration to the cities from the surrounding hinterland and from other parts of Italy, e.g. from the south to the ‘industrial triangle’ of Turin, Milan, and Genoa, brought many dialects into close contact, some mutually intelligible, some not. The urban context encouraged dialect-convergence on the one hand and on the other a gradual shift towards Italian, not least because of more ‘mixed’ marriages, which in the generally anti-dialect climate (educational and political, especially during Fascism) contributed to loss of generational transmission (De Mauro 1963; Radtke 2000). Indeed, the most significant factor favouring dialect use by youngsters is hearing parents speaking dialect together (Ruggiero 2004). Other urban studies include Bombi and Fusco (2004), De Blasi and Marcato (2006), D’Achille and Viviani (2003).

Social network analysis afforded a more nuanced picture to complement correlational studies based on the traditional demographic variables, e.g. Klein (1989), Vietti (2002). In Puglia, the size of towns, as well as the strength of network ties and social class, influences the ratio of Italian, dialect and code-switching/mixing (Tempesta 2000). In Palermo, where the city dialect until recently projected a particularly negative image, language choice is governed by mental maps and speaker attitudes (D’Agostino 1996), but attitudes among the young are changing (D’Agostino 2010).

The significance of the age variable for changing patterns of language use has focused much attention on the linguistic behaviour of young people (see bibliographies in Còveri 1988; Cortelazzo 1994; Radtke 1993; Marcato 2006). Urban studies such as Klein (1995), De Blasi and Montuori (2006) in Naples, Christoffersen (2003) in Palermo, Ruggiero (2004) in Turin, reveal significant variation in dialect use and function. Sicilian youngsters vary in dialect competence depending on their socio-educational level and on whether they come from Palermo or a small town, the former being more inclined to switch to Italian and use Italianisms, e.g. eru ‘I was’ (Sic. era ~ It. ero), mi piaçiribbi ‘I would like’ (Sic. mi piaçissi ~ It. piacerebbe), frateddu ‘brother’ (Sic. frati ~ It. fratello) (Amenta and Paternostro 2006).

Language use in electronic forms of communication (e.g. Pistolesi 2004; Fiorentino 2005; Fusco and Marcato 2005; Marcato 2006) shows an unexpected use of dialect by youngsters who often lack native competence, but who use dialect for expressive, non-conformist, or localizing purposes (Berruto 2006; Moretti 2006). As well as combining properties of spoken and written mediums, computer-mediated communication is developing specific characteristics: especially a mix of registers, as emerges from a quantitative lexical analysis (Algozino 2011) comparing selected components of three digital corpora: NUNC Newsgroup UseNet Corpora, Lessico di frequenza dell’Italiano Parlato (spoken Italian of medium-low formality), and Athenaeum (university-based written Italian of medium-high formality). Although both the newsgroup sub-corpora analysed (NUNC-A dealing with cultural, political or scientific topics, NUNC-B involving less serious matters) showed a clear preponderance of middle-ranking lexical items, they differed as expected in the incidence of formal and informal items, but only slightly, with both registering similar percentages of each type, unlike the other two corpora.

35.2.2 Historical sociolinguistic variation

Valuable information on linguistic variation may be gleaned from a range of textual sources and, as noted in D’Achille’s excellent (2008) overview, geographical context is crucial. The interaction between diastratic and diaphasic variation emerges clearly in studies of the interrelationship between (p.619) regional dialects and the spreading Florentine/Tuscan variety, especially after its promotion to literary norm in the sixteenth century.8 The nineteenth-century Roman poet G. G. Belli satirizes common hypercorrections in lower-class attempts at parlà cciovile ‘polite talk’, e.g. penda for penna ‘pen’ (a reaction to dialectal [nd] > [nn]; Trifone 1992; see also Trifone 2006). For Neapolitan, De Blasi (2002:109) distinguishes plebeian and refined dialect types, with diastratic variation affecting pronunciation (e.g. plebeian [r] < [d], [l], e.g. ramme nu sordo ‘give=me a penny’ vs damme nu soldo), morphology, e.g. the form of definite articles (e.g. ’o vestito ‘the dress’, ’e peccerelle ‘the children’ vs ’u vestito ‘the dress’, ’i piccerelle), and lexis (e.g. tata ‘daddy’ vs papà). Diastratic variation persists today in the choice of code and in the type of Italian used: the most marked phonological features include stress retraction in diphthongs [ˈbuono] ‘good’; palatalization of the sibilant before non-dental plosives and fricatives (e.g. [sperà [ʃpəˈra] ‘to hope’); ‘affrication’ of [ns/ls/rs] clusters (e.g. penso [ˈpɛnʦo] ‘I think’), which unlike in Rome is avoided by educated speakers; voicing of voiceless consonants after nasals, e.g. tempo [ˈtɛmbo] ‘time’, as well as hypercorrect forms, e.g. camomilla [kamboˈmilla] ‘camomile’ for local [kammoˈmilla], due to dialectal [mb] > [mm] (De Blasi 2002:121). Dictionaries may also provide lexical and phonological evidence of class-based variation, e.g. Boerio (1856) attributes forms exhibiting aphæresis, syncope, and metathesis to the idioti ‘the uneducated’ (Marcato 2005). For sociolinguistically sensitive accounts of the Ticino and Venice respectively, see Bianconi (1990) and Ferguson (2007).

35.2.3 Recent standardizing and convergence trends

Alongside the re-standardization of Italian to include erstwhile colloquial features, new regional standards are forming due to the greater frequency and acceptance of morphosyntactic regionalisms in higher registers (Berruto 1987a:19; Cerruti 2009; 2011). Recently, some convergence has also been noted among regional varieties, especially among young users, as heavily marked features become rarer and some spread beyond their region of origin (Berruto 2012:57-60; Calimani 2009; Cerruti 2011; Cerruti and Regis 2014), e.g. syntactic doubling (§§14.2.5, 40.3.1), absent from northern pronunciations, but characteristic of the standard and also of centre and southern dialects, is surprisingly used by some young Turinese, both native and immigrant, as a marker of identity (Boario 2008), while the typically Sicilian suffix ‑uso (e.g. incazzuso ‘pissed off’, metalluso ‘heavy metal (music)’ (ADJ)) is spreading among northern youngsters (Cortinovis and Miola 2010).

35.3 Spanish

The focus of sociolinguistic studies in Spain has varied depending on whether these were conducted in bilingual areas. In the Catalan- and Galician-speaking regions (Badia i Margarit 1969; 1982; Vallverdú 1970; 1979; Ninyoles 1977; 1978; Alonso Montero 1973; García González 1985; Varela Puñal 1980), the dominant trend has been to adopt/adapt the contributions of Ferguson (1959), Haugen (1966), Mackey (1967), and Fishman (1967; 1973; 1974) to explore the nature of societal bilingualism and level of language loyalty, or to develop and implement policy in support of the local language and nationalist movement. Latterly, attention has also been given to language contact in these areas, as well as along the Portuguese border (Blas Arroyo 2008; 2011; Clements et al. 2011). In contrast, studies in monolingual Spain and in Spanish America have been almost exclusively Labovian in nature. The earliest are by Alvar (1972) in Las Palmas, Fontanella de Weinburg (1974) in Buenos Aires, Perissinotto (1975) in Mexico City, Martínez Martín (1983) in Burgos, López Morales (1983) in San Juan de Puerto Rico, Etxebarria Aróstegui (1985) in Bilbao, Williams (1987) in Valladolid, Alba (1990) in Santiago (Dominican Republic), Caravedo (1990) in Lima, and Samper-Padilla (1990) in Las Palmas.

This clear division between bilingual and monolingual Spain mostly continues. In fact, so dominant have these approaches been that the language of individual speakers and the function of social networks have hitherto received scant attention (for notable exceptions, see Villena Ponsoda 1996; Cameron 2005; Niño-Murcia and Rothman 2008). Indeed, what has been done in terms of application of network theory and social dialectology, with their attendant focus on such processes as norm enforcement, accommodation and koineization, has largely been restricted to the history of Spanish (López García 1985; Penny 2000; Tuten 2003; Williams 2013).

35.3.1 Phonology

In Spanish, variation affects mostly consonants, especially in the syllabic coda. With the exception of intervocalic /d/, which is weakened or elided throughout the Spanish-speaking world (e.g. cansado ‘tired’ [kanˈsaδ‎o~kanˈsaδ‎o~kanˈsao]), only (p.620) the phonetically most innovative dialects weaken or sporadically elide consonants in the syllabic onset. The implosive consonants commonly affected are /s/, /n/, /l/, and /r/, although how these interact with independent variables differs according to speech community. For example, neutralization of implosive /l/ and /r/ occurs and is stigmatized in Andalusia and the Caribbean, but whereas rhotacization is favoured in Andalusia (e.g. falta ‘lack’ pronounced [ˈfarta]), lateralization (puerta ‘door’ pronounced [ˈpweļta]) is preferred in the Caribbean (Alvar 1990; Alba 2004; López Morales 2004). Also weakened/elided are the implosive consonants of learnèd clusters such as /ks/, /kt/, /kθ‎/, /gn/ (e.g. taxi ‘taxi’ pronounced [ˈtaksi~ˈtaγ‎si~ˈtasi]; lección ‘lesson’ pronounced [lekˈθ‎jon~leˈɣjon~ leˈθ‎jon], although the clusters themselves rarely appear in the speech of the lower social classes, even in formal styles (Williams 1987; 1997).

The segment studied most is /s/, which functions as an isogloss (it separates conservative and innovative regions) and, in word-final position, as a marker of number and person. In Spain, implosive /s/ is retained in the centre and north, mostly aspirated in the Canaries and city of Córdoba, and frequently elided in western Andalusia (mosca ‘fly’ [ˈmoska~ˈmohka~ˈmokka]). While elision is most frequent in word-final position, aspiration is preferred internally. Morphosyntactic redundancy (number is also marked by determiners and verb inflections, and person, optionally, by subject pronouns) means that elision is equally likely whether /s/ is a grammatical marker or not. Finally, the behaviour of /s/ seems stable in those communities where it is a variable. While a speaker’s education correlates closely with retention/weakening of this segment, there appears to be no appreciable difference in the way it is used by sexes or different age groups (Samper-Padilla 2012). In Spanish America, /s/ has been studied in detail in the Caribbean, where it indexes regional identity. However, there are significant differences even within this area. According to Alba (2012), deletion is more frequent in the Dominican Republic than in Cuba or Puerto Rico, which prefer aspiration. Curiously, the situation is reversed in the media. Whereas Cuban and Puerto Rican presenters aspirate in line with their educated compatriots, Dominican presenters retain /s/ almost invariably, thereby reflecting the linguistic insecurity that characterizes Dominican speakers.9

35.3.2 Morphosyntax

Spanish morphosyntax exhibits variability along social and geographic axes. Obvious examples are:

  1. a. Clitics: Variability has its epicentre in Valladolid, Spain, manifesting itself in non-standard use of la (laísmo) and lo (loísmo) as indirect objects, as well as of le (leísmo) as animate and inanimate direct object (Klein-Andreu quoted in Tuten 2003; see also § Since 1925 leísmo, when it refers to human direct objects, has been accepted by the Real Academia Española (RAE) (Narbona 2004). These non-etymological forms probably spread from Valladolid to Madrid during the second half of the sixteenth century and from there to parts of the New World without establishing themselves in other regions of Spain such as Aragon and Andalusia, which retain the etymological system based on distinctions of case (Williams 2013). There is some evidence of leísmo in Spanish America today, but it is not clear whether this is vestigial or a more recent acquisition (Menéndez Pidal 1964). What does seem clear is that, in some places (notably, Mexico City), it may refer to women and have a singularly deferential value, being employed in connection with the Virgin (Flores Cervantes 2002).

  2. b. Expression of subject pronouns: This is frequent in insular Caribbean Spanish in the speech of all social classes (Alba 2012). Elsewhere, as Carbonero Cano (2003) notes, its use is mostly emphatic or to disambiguate, especially in the imperfect, where inflections are identical in the first and third person singular of the indicative and subjunctive. For a summary of the different frequencies of subject expression according to person in Madrid, Buenos Aires, and San Juan de Puerto Rico, see Correa and Rebollo (2012).

  3. c. Personal vs impersonal existential haber ‘have’ (había(n) muchas personas en la calle ‘there were (lit. ‘had.3SG(/PL)’) many people in the street’): This feature is found especially in the Spanish region of Valencia and is common in Spanish America even among educated individuals. Speakers interpret in such sentences personas ‘people’ as the subject rather than the direct object of impersonal haber, particularly when the NP accompanying haber is human or there is a numeral or quantifier that reinforces the idea of plurality (Bentivoglio and Sedano 2011).

  4. d.Dequeísmo’; ‘queísmo’: While the former involves insertion of the preposition de ‘of, from’ before the complementizer que ‘that’ in contexts where the standard does not require it (creo de que tienes razón lit. ‘I believe (p.621) of that you are right’), the latter involves its deletion where it is normally expected (Juan se da cuenta (de) que no es inteligente lit. ‘John self= gives account (of) [= realizes] that he is not intelligent’). Both phenomena occur throughout the Spanish-speaking world and in the language of all social classes. Dequeísmo (cf. § is more common in Spanish America than in Spain and more socially accepted there, at least in some countries (Bentivoglio and D’Introno 1977; Caravedo 1996). Nevertheless, Almeida (2009) claims that in many communities its frequency remains low. Queísmo, on the other hand, is common everywhere, perhaps because deleting phonetic material is generally considered more acceptable than adding it. This may explain why the RAE accepts deletion of the preposition in the phrases antes/después (de) que, lit. ‘before/after (of) that’. Insertion of de seems to be favoured after transitive verbs of knowing and reporting like creer ‘to believe’ and decir ‘to say’; deletion is common if the verb is pronominal (e.g. darse cuenta (de) que). Not all scholars agree, however, on whether dequeísmo has grammatical or pragmatic implications. While García (1986; quoted in Carbonero Cano 2003), Bentivoglio and D’Introno (1977), and Serrano (2007; 2011) argue that, in some dialects, the addition of de can imply a change of meaning (e.g. García argues that it can weaken the assertion of both matrix and dependent clauses), others, like Almeida (2009), find no change.

35.3.3 Forms of address

The situation in Spain (Andalusia and the Canaries excepted) is different from that of Spanish America. Spain has a symmetrical address system with intimate and deferential second person singular (T/V expressed as vs usted) and plural (T/V expressed as vosotros/as vs ustedes) forms; Spanish America, on the other hand, has an asymmetrical system with T/V forms in the singular (tú/vos vs usted), but no separate intimate plural form. Here ustedes performs both T and V functions. For this and other reasons, Pountain (2003) concludes that person deixis is encoded in a system that is essentially unstable.

In addition to being asymmetrical, the situation in Spanish America is complex. Broadly speaking, there are three geographic divisions: those which employ as the singular form expressing intimacy/solidarity; those which use vos for this purpose (voseo areas); and those which use both and vos. In voseo areas, the pronouns used are: vos (subject/prepositional), te (object/reflexive), and tu/tuyo (possessive). Complex too is the pragmatic use of T/V. As Gardener-Chloros (2007:106f.) notes, ‘the pattern of T/V usage by a particular individual serves as an “Act of Identity”’. Nevertheless one can say that forms expressing intimacy/solidarity/reciprocity are fast replacing those indicating deference/distance/power, particularly among younger speakers in places like Madrid and Mexico City. For more detail, see §, Carricaburo (1997) and Uber (2011).

35.3.4 Standards and norms National norms

There are circa 425 million native speakers of Spanish today spread across twenty countries and the US dependency of Puerto Rico. Only around 47 million reside in Spain.10 This means that the centre of gravity of Spanish has shifted dramatically from the Old to the New World. Nevertheless, the prestige of peninsular Spanish—especially the conservative variety radiating from Madrid—remains high, at least in some countries (see Alba 2004:314-25 for how Dominicans view the issue). There are several reasons for this. Spain is the birthplace of Spanish and home of a rich literature. Though no longer able to act as guardian of the language in the strictest sense, the RAE, with its headquarters in Madrid, still plays a significant role in the production of grammars, dictionaries, orthographies, and diachronic and contemporary data bases (CORDE or Corpus diacrónico del español and CREA or Corpus de referencia del español actual).

However, the pre-eminence of peninsular Spanish has not gone unchallenged. Spanish American academics often rail against the air of superiority of the RAE, which, they claim, persists in trying to punch above its weight in matters linguistic despite the existence of another twenty-one academies. These scholars object that the standard proposed by the RAE often clashes with their national norm; that the Asociación de las Academias de la Lengua Española ‘Association of the Academies of the Spanish Language’ has its seat in the RAE’s own premises in Madrid; that it is administered by academics drawn from the RAE; that its general meetings are presided over by the King of Spain. Perhaps the most strident of these is Uruguayan Ricardo Soca, who founded in 1996 La Página del idioma español11 ‘The page of the Spanish language’, a website devoted, among other things, to resisting the alleged continued hegemonic aspirations of the RAE. Less strident, though not dissimilar in his views, is the Galician linguist, José del Valle (2007a:96), who claims that (p.622) successive Spanish governments have mobilized various linguistic and cultural entities, including the RAE with its emphasis on hispanofonía, in order to strengthen and legitimize their influence in Latin America. Focusing on the corpora produced by the RAE, Lara (2007:175-80) laments that 50% of the texts on which, for instance, CREA is based are by Spanish authors. So inflated a proportion is fair neither culturally nor demographically and betrays a lack of commitment to the development of data bases able to inform the academy’s dictionary of Americanisms. The RAE, Lara continues, aims to prevent fragmentation of the Spanish language – feared since at least 1898, when Spain lost Cuba, its last American colony – by presenting itself as the guardian of linguistic unity, but it does this by recommending variability that tends to be limited to Castile or, more accurately, Madrid.

The reality, however, is that Spanish is today polycentric. As Coseriu (1982:42) argued, Madrid may be the capital of Spain, but it is no longer the capital of Spanish. This privilege it now shares with Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Bogotá, and others. So instead of seeking a single standard, Lara insists, the RAE should accept that Spanish needs to refresh itself in the oral and written traditions of each of the countries where it is spoken. In this way the centrifugal character of speech will find a natural corrective in the normally centripetal character of writing. Regional norms

The migratory effects of urbanization and industrialization, the recent increase in literacy, as well as the rise of the media, have contributed not just to linguistic levelling and convergence, but also, in Spain, to divergence. Traditionally, it has been customary to divide Spain into two main dialect blocks: a conservative centre and north, with Madrid as the main source of diffusion, and an innovative south, where Seville performs a similar role (Menéndez Pidal 1964). This same dichotomy has been assumed to obtain more or less in Spanish America, where, it is held, the Caribbean received the influence of Seville (via the Canaries) and the former viceroyalties of Mexico City and Lima that of Madrid (for a more nuanced interpretation, see Williams 2013).

However, recent research (Hernández-Campoy and Jiménez-Cano 2003; Villena Ponsoda 2006; Hernández-Campoy and Villena Ponsoda 2009; Hernández-Campoy 2011) proposes a tripartite division rooted in the three historically separate domains of Castile, Seville, and Granada/Murcia. Although Granada has never been subject to the influence of Seville, it has also never been sufficiently important to stand on its own as a centre of prestige. Murcia’s is a similar story, as are those of urban Extremadura and La Mancha, whose language is likewise converging with that of Madrid. Linguistic insecurity, then, has led educated young urban Murcians and Granadans to embrace features of Madrid speech such as distinction of /s/ and /θ‎/ (cereza ‘cherry’ pronounced [θ‎eˈreθ‎a] not [seˈresa]), the voiceless post-alveolar/prepalatal affricate /ʧ/ (coche ‘car’ pronounced [ˈkoʧe] not [ˈkoʃe]), and the voiceless velar fricative /x/ (caja ‘box’ pronounced [ˈkaxa] not [ˈkaha]). However, features firmly embedded in southern speech and that therefore index local identity are not abandoned. This applies to elision of /s/ in the syllabic coda, which, in word-final position, marks number in the nominal and adjectival systems and person in the conjugation, for two reasons. Retention of /s/ would require restructuring of the ten-vowel system of eastern Andalusia (resulting from the loss of final /s/ and /n/, with attendant phonologization of originally allomorphic variants) and be interpreted as a betrayal of local identity. In other words, convergence with the national standard affects those features that do not require systemic reorganization or are not imbued with covert prestige.

The situation in western Andalusia is different. Seville has been dominant there since at least the late fifteenth century. In fact, during the Golden Age it became the wealthiest, most dynamic city in the Peninsula, quickly coming to rival Toledo, Madrid, and Valladolid as a centre of linguistic prestige. Seville’s innovative phonetics apparently began to diverge seriously from that of the conservative centre and north during the late Middle Ages. And even though it entered decline in the seventeenth century, the city never ceased to influence its hinterland (Hernández-Campoy and Villena Ponsoda 2009). Today, of course, the prestige of its speech is bolstered by the fact that Seville shares salient features (seseo or neutralization of /s/ and /θ‎/ in favour of /s/, ustedes as the only second-person plural form of address, an etymological clitic system that rejects laísmo and only rarely accepts leísmo) with the Canaries and the whole of Spanish America. In an age when Spanish American soap operas occupy important slots on Spanish television, this shared linguistic behaviour is surely not without importance. Consequently, unlike Granada, Seville does not have to pander to the centre and north, but is free to diverge. Broadly speaking, this means that Spain is divided into three large dialect blocks: a conservative centre and north, an innovative southwest, and an interdialectal area whose variety is taking root in eastern Andalusia, Murcia, Extremadura, and La Mancha, as well as in Castilian towns to the south of Madrid. The situation, however, is fluid. Just as eastern Andalusia is influenced by Madrid and the north, so too are these influenced by the south (Cestero Mancera et al. 2008:103), the most obvious example of convergence in this direction being, perhaps, the weakening/elision of intervocalic /d/. Despite their location several hundred (p.623) miles from the Peninsula, the Canaries, traditionally a linguistic satellite of Seville, seem open to influence from the north, at least in the areas of grammar and lexis. This, at any rate, is how Samper-Padilla (2008:166;172) accounts for the presence of leísmo in the language of young Canarians, who seem to acquire it from the media, which project mostly Madrid/northern norms.

Except for the pan-Hispanic investigation of the norma culta ‘educated norm’ led by Lope Blanch (1986), the sociolinguistic study of Spanish has traditionally lacked coordination. Hence the creation of the Proyecto para el estudio sociolingüístico del español de España y de América (PRESEEA) ‘Project for the sociolinguistic study of the Spanish of Spain and America’. Launched in 1996, this massive undertaking aims to gather a huge oral corpus of Spanish from the major cities of Spain and Spanish America and to provide open access to it on the PRESEEA webpage in both document and audio form (Moreno Fernández 2006; Cestero Mancera 2011). The project, which develops and expands upon the earlier study of the Spanish norma culta, adopts a basically Labovian theoretical model (Samper-Padilla 2012). Now, this may seem strange given that this model has had its share of detractors. Scholars have argued quite rightly, for example, that the city is a linguistic market in which individuals negotiate their identity in an endless series of speech acts (Villena Ponsada 1994; Niño-Murcia 2011); that the different independent variables proposed by Labov (social class, age, sex, etc.) are not static and discrete but often intersect (see Cameron 2011, although Labov 1990 also demonstrates awareness of this); and that studies in apparent time can be considerably less reliable than those conducted in real time (Lastra and Butragueño 2006). Nevertheless, the lead researchers on this project argue that earlier sociolinguistic surveys have rarely shared precisely the same theoretical or methodological criteria, making it difficult to compare findings. The objective of PRESEEA is to standardize, with unusual exactness, the collection and analysis of data across the forty teams of linguists currently involved. Thus, in addition to gathering data on variable aspects of language of interest to linguists of almost all persuasions, these teams will generate results that are amenable to scientific comparison. More importantly, however, they will subject to rigorous analysis the basic tenets of sociolinguistic theory, especially the validity of the social constructs hitherto used in the study of linguistic variation. It is anticipated that sociolinguists working on Spanish will then be able to move forward in a vastly more informed way.


(1) Because of its shape, the mainland part of Metropolitan France is often referred to as the ‘Hexagon’.

(2) For a useful overview of significant 20th-c. sociolinguistic studies of the French of Canada, see Mougeon (1996).

(3) Sociolinguistic work on the French of Belgium includes Thiam (1995) and Hambye (2009); for Switzerland, see Singy (1996); Prikhodine (2011); for Africa, Dumont and Maurer (1995); Knutsen (2009); and the journal Le Français en Afrique.

(4) For its significance and useful updates, see Lo Piparo and Ruffino (2005).

(5) For different types of ‘Italian’ repertoires and more complex situations, see Mioni (1989), Dal Negro and Molinelli (2002), Iannàccaro and Dell’Aquila (2011). In 1999 the Italian state recognized twelve ‘historical’ minority language groups: Albanian, Catalan, Croatian, Francoprovençal, French, Friulian, German, Greek, Ladin, Occitan, Sardinian, Slovene, although not without controversy (see Ch. 37).

(6) ISTAT (2007) figures show that, although ‘dialect only’-speakers within the family are ever fewer, the category ‘Italian only’ has levelled out, while the use of both is rising.

(7) For the features of italiano popolare, see e.g. Berruto (1987a:105-38), Tosi (2001:48-52).

(8) Bruni (1992/1994) offers comprehensive regional accounts of the dissemination of Italian.

(9) The bibliography on the sociolinguistics of Spanish phonology and morphosyntax is vast. Comprehensive lists are found in Samper-Padilla (2008; 2011), Bentivoglio and Sedano (2011), Serrano (2011), and Lipski (2011).

(10) see Centro Virtual Cervantes <http://cvc.cervantes.es/lengua/anuario/anuario_12/i_cervantes/p01.htm>, accessed 3 Feb. 2014.