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description Journal article public Diálogos Journal

Memory, orality and sociolinguistic change in a multilingual Brazilian community

Elisa Battisti
Published September 2021

Abstract

The article examines excerpts of sociolinguistic interviews (Labov, 1972). The aim is to clarify sociohistorical and ideological principles that drive linguistic and social changes in multilingual communities. Narratives, explanations and opinions are considered socio-discursive constructions of social memory (Votre, 2002), analyzed from the sociolinguistic perspective of stance (Jaffe, 2009) as interlocutors' positioning with respect to each other and to the facts discussed. The community in question, São Braz, located in the rural area of the municipality of Caxias do Sul, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, was founded by Italian immigrants in the late nineteenth century. São Braz presents generational decline in the use of Italian immigrant languages (Bovo, 2004) in favor of the majority language, Portuguese. The analysis of the narrative and the opinion excerpts of different interviewees from the Serra Gaúcha Speech Database (Battisti and Lembi, 2004) about a collective event – the demolition of a Catholic church – allows us to relate the linguistic change and the destruction of the material heritage to the pragmatism of the Italian peasant habitus (Zanini, 2006), on the basis of the local Italian-Brazilian identity negotiated and updated throughout the history of immigrants and their descendants in Brazil.

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