Vowel Harmony and its Congener in Brazilian Portuguese Leda

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Vowel Harmony and its Congener in Brazilian Portuguese Leda
Vowel Harmony and its Congener in Brazilian Portuguese
Leda Bisol
(Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul/Brazil)
[email protected]
Cláudia Regina Brescancini
(Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul/Brazil)
[email protected]
In Brazilian Portuguese (BP), vowel harmony (VH) is a variable regressive assimilation
process that reaches the pretonic mid vowels e,o and is triggered by high vowels, as in
alegria ~ aligria (‘happiness’) and bonito ~ bunito (‘beautiful’). A contiguous relation
between the trigger and the target is essential to its definition because the high vowel
substitutes the antecedent mid vowel without breaks, as in peregrino ~ pirigrino (‘pilgrim’),
but not *piregrino (Bisol, 1981). Apparent exceptions, i.e., breaks as in poderia ~ puderia
(‘could’), are explained by the action of a variable congener process referred to as ‘vowel
raising without a trigger’ (VRWT) (Bisol, 2010). Our goal here is to provide quantitative
evidence from Southern Brazilian spoken varieties for the existence of these variable
processes in BP.
Through a Quantitative Sociolinguistic analysis, the morphological vowel status is a relevant
factor in the internal organization of VH (Bisol, 1981). The unstressed vowels that are not
derived from stressed vowels (as in bonito) are the best triggers. Unstressed vowels derived
from stressed e,o tend to block VH, as in tenista (‘tennis player’), from ‘tênis’ (‘tennis’), but
not *tinista, and contista (‘short story writer’), from ‘conto’ (‘short story’), but not *cuntista.
However, when especially e vowel derive from  vowel, the process is variably allowed, as in
alegria ~ aligria (‘happiness’), from algre (‘cheerful’) (Bisol, 1981).
The stressed vowel trigger is also relevant. The high vowel trigger may be stressed (bonito ~
bunito) or not (procissão ~ prucissão, ‘procession’), but the stressed vowel has a more
active role in VH (Bisol, 1981). Additionally, there is the quality of the trigger vowel. The i
vowel is a stronger conditioner than the u vowel because it raises both the [-back] vowel
(feliz ~ filiz, ‘happy’) and the [+back] vowel (bonito ~ bunito), while the u vowel raises
[+back] vowels (coruja ~ curuja, ‘owl’), but rarely raises [-back] vowels (legume but not
*ligume, ‘vegetable’) (Bisol, 1981; Casagrande, 2003).
Quantitative Sociolinguistics is shown to be limited in explaining the VRWT process. Results
from different studies (Klunck, 2007; Cruz, 2010 ; Silva, 2014) indicate that it is not governed
by a specific segmental and/or prosodic conditioning factor because the process is of a
lexical nature.
Regarding sociocultural variables such as age, sex and education, the results from different
samples are inconsistent. Concerning ethnicity, it follows that the raising processes are less
productive in communities where BP is influenced by European languages.
The current investigation aims to address these linguistic and social aspects by specifically
laying emphasis on the quantitative arguments for the two processes. To this end, we
extracted data from seven analyses on VH and/or VRWT (Bisol, 1981; Schwindt, 2002;
Casagrande, 2003; Klunck, 2007; Cruz, 2010 and Silva, 2014) conducted with the Variation
Theory methodology (Labov, 1972, 2001; Tagliamonte, 2006).
In conclusion, the results suggest that VH is an assimilation process that is part of the
variable system of BP and VRWT in Southern Brazilian Portuguese is closer to a diffusion
process, whose expansion is still incipient.
References
Bisol, L. (1981). Harmonia vocálica: uma regra variável. PhD thesis. Universidade Federal do
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
_____. (2010). O alçamento da pretônica sem motivação aparente. In: Bisol, L.; Collischon,
G. (eds.). Português no sul do Brasil: variação fonológica. Porto Alegre: EDIPUCRS, pp. 63-78.
Casagrande, G. B. (2003) Harmonização vocálica: análise variacionista em tempo real. Ms.
dissertation. Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.
Cruz, M. (2010). As vogais médias pretônicas em Porto Alegre-RS: um estudo sobre o
alçamento sem motivação aparente. Ms. dissertation. Pontifícia Universidade Católica do
Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.
Klunck, P. (2007). Alçamento das Vogais Médias Pretônicas sem Motivação Aparente. Ms.
dissertation. Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.
Labov, W. (1972). Sociolinguistic patterns. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
___. (2001). Principles of linguistic change: internal factors. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Schwindt, L. C. (2002). A Regra Variável de Harmonização Vocálica no RS. In: Bisol, L.;
Brescancini, C. (eds.). Fonologia e Variação: recortes do português brasileiro. Porto Alegre:
EDIPUCRS, pp. 161-182.
Silva, A. P. C. da .(2014). Elevação sem motivação aparente das vogais médias pretônicas
entre os jovens porto-alegrenses. Ms. dissertation. Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio
Grande do Sul, Brazil.
Tagliamonte, S. (2006). Analysing sociolinguistic variation. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.

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