Publication details [#54078]

Waltermire, Mark. 2010. Variants of intervocalic /d/ as markers of sociolinguistic identity among Spanish-Portuguese bilinguals. Spanish in Context 7 (2) : 279–304.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Language as a subject
Place, Publisher
John Benjamins
Journal DOI


The border shared by Brazil and Uruguay represents a situation of sustained, intimate cultural and linguistic contact between Spanish and Portuguese speakers. Previous research on the bilingualism of this region has focused primarily on Dialectos Portugueses del Uruguay ‘Portuguese Dialects of Uruguay’ (DPU) (Carvalho 1998, 2003a, 2003b; Elizaincín 1976, 1992a, 1992b; Elizaincín, Behares & Barrios 1987; Hensey 1971, 1972; Rona 1965). Surprisingly, however, the Spanish of Uruguay spoken along this border has never been extensively studied. The current research focuses on the role of sociolinguistic identity in the conditioning of language-specific variants of intervocalic /d/ in the Spanish of 63 bilinguals living in Rivera, Uruguay. Unlike in monolingual varieties of Spanish, in which intervocalic /d/ is realized as either a fricative or a phonetic zero, this phoneme is also variably realized as an occlusive in the bilingual Spanish of Rivera in accordance with Portuguese phonological norms. Perceptions of sociolinguistic identity within this speech community are based on four independent factor groups. These are: (1) frequency of language use, (2) language preference, (3) attitudes toward local Portuguese and (4) attitudes toward language mixing. Results from multivariate analysis reveal that Portuguese-dominant speakers tend to incorporate occlusive variants of intervocalic /d/ into their Spanish to a much greater extent than Spanish-dominant speakers. Conversely, the deletion of this consonant, which has garnered covert prestige within the community due to its association with non-border varieties of Spanish, is statistically favored among speakers who prefer this language. These results provide evidence in support of the hypothesis that the ease of access of phonological exemplars from stored memory is greater for those encoding frequent, recent experiences (Pierrehumbert 2001). With regards to sociolinguistic attitudes, statistical analysis shows that speakers who have positive attitudes toward local Portuguese favor the use of occlusive variants, which serve as markers of Brazilian identity. Somewhat counter intuitively, speakers who have positive attitudes toward language mixing favor deletion. When these attitudes are cross-tabulated with speakers’ occupation, however, it becomes clear that only students have overwhelmingly positive attitudes toward language mixing. Not surprisingly, they are also the least conservative group in the community and lead the way for phonological change (Waltermire 2008).