LINGUIST List 15.1032

Mon Mar 29 2004

Diss: Socioling: Ferreira: 'The Portuguese...'

Editor for this issue: Takako Matsui <>


  1. jsferreira, The Portuguese Language in Trinidad & Tobago...

Message 1: The Portuguese Language in Trinidad & Tobago...

Date: Sat, 27 Mar 2004 15:02:24 -0500 (EST)
From: jsferreira <>
Subject: The Portuguese Language in Trinidad & Tobago...

Institution: University of the West Indies at St. Augustine
Program: Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 1999

Author: Jo-Anne S. Ferreira

Dissertation Title: The Portuguese Language in Trinidad & Tobago: A
Study of Language Shift and Language Death

Linguistic Field: Sociolinguistics 
Subject Language: Portuguese (code: POR)

Dissertation Director 1: Barbara Lalla

Dissertation Abstract:

Once a living language in Trinidad, Portuguese is no longer considered
by its speakers and their descendants to be vital to their
existence. The Portuguese speech community became vulnerable to
language imposition from the wider society, and Portuguese itself has
been fully displaced by English. The process of language death
spanned two to three generations, resulting from the intertwining of
psychological and social causes - particularly member core values, and
the pressure of assimilation.

The Portuguese language survived in only a few Trinidadian families
which are the products of twentieth century immigration, or in which
each generation had at least one immigrant. An analysis of the
community's history and demographics serves to show unstable levels of
immigration, as well as social mixing that took place through
intermarriage. Linguistic change and loss ultimately resulted from
such intermixtures, and the community was left exposed to the
linguistic norms and values of the outer society, which it adopted to
the neglect of its own.

Lexico-semantic and phonological analyses of the language spoken by
creoles show evidence of language atrophy in progress, compared to the
language brought by the Madeirans. The few lexico-semantic domains
that remain are now disappearing. The informants exhibit varying
levels of knowledge of the language. The analysis shows systematic
linguistic changes, including regular patterns of reduction, as well
as isolated changes at the individual level.

Within the contact situation, English was perceived as the language of
power, prestige, and possibilities for advancement, which militated
against language maintenance in the Portuguese community. The low
social status of the original migrants was passed on to the language
which was also locally devalued. Language attitudes, in combination
with socio-historical factors, are the causes of the shift to English
and of the death of Portuguese in Trinidad and Tobago.
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