Border effects among Catalan dialects

Martijn Wieling, Esteve Valls, R. Harald Baayen, John Nerbonne

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In this study, we investigate which factors influence the linguistic distance of Catalan dialectal pronunciations from standard Catalan. We use pronunciations from three regions where the northwestern variety of the Catalan language is spoken (Catalonia, Aragon and Andorra). In contrast to Aragon, Catalan has an official status in both Catalonia and Andorra, which likely influences standardization. Because we are interested in the potentially large range of differences that standardization might promote, we examine 357 words in Catalan varieties and in particular their pronunciation distances with respect to the standard. In order to be sensitive to differences among the words, we fit a generalized additive mixed-effects regression model to this data. This allows us to examine simultaneously the general (i.e. aggregate) patterns in pronunciation distance and to detect those words that diverge substantially from the general pattern. The results reveal higher pronunciation distances from standard Catalan in Aragon than in the other regions. Furthermore, speakers in Catalonia and Andorra, but not in Aragon, show a clear standardization pattern, with younger speakers having dialectal pronunciations closer to the standard than older speakers. This clearly indicates the presence of a border effect within a single country with respect to word pronunciation distances. Since a great deal of scholarship focuses on single segment changes, we compare our analysis to the analysis of three segment changes that have been discussed in the literature on Catalan. This comparison shows that the pattern observed at the word pronunciation level is supported by two of the three cases examined. As not all individual cases conform to the general pattern, the aggregate approach is nec-essary to detect global standardization patterns.

Mixed Effects Regression Models in Linguistics. Springer: Quantitative Methods in the Humanities and Social Sciences