"Ci-a potemu fari!" Usi e atteggiamenti linguistici tra adolescenti a Catania
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"We can do it!" Language use and attitudes among adolescents in Catania Is there a connection between overt and covert attitudes towards own dialect among Sicilian adolescents? Can these attitudes be further connected to their actual use of the local dialect? The extreme southern Italian dialects, which is the focus of this dissertation, have traditionally been stigmatised and connected to low social status and organised crime. Only those who had the possibility to study, knew Italian. The Italo-Romance dialects were largely the only ones used in everyday speech until the unification of Italy in 1861. Italian, or the national language, was used exclusively in written and formal situations, and only by a small part of the population, mainly by the elite. Massive emigration, industrialization, urbanism and national migration – not to forget the introduction of mass media in the second half of last century, led to an Italianization of the dialects. This resulted in an almost total abandonment of dialects in the 1980s. The acquisition of the national language was treasured at the expense of the dialects. At the most extreme, parents refused their children to speak the dialects. Nowadays, young Italian language users usually speak a regional variety of Italian alongside an Italian-Romance dialect, a fact more common in South Italy. Sicilian is nevertheless stigmatised and seen as an obstacle to the acquisition of the national language. At the same time, Sicilian has undergone a reappraisal similar to tendencies in the rest of Europe, and is seen as an identity marker and a bearer of culture and tradition. I examine how this reappraisal of the Sicilian dialect is brought to bear in adolescents from Catania. Does the stigmatisation cause the teenagers to try to cover their actual negative attitudes with a more positive and socially accepted one? If so, is this in accordance with the current trend of conserving, and therefore, an appraisal of their dialect? To answer these questions I use a triangulation of research methods: the psycho-sociolinguistic test Matched Guise Technique (MGT) for bringing out covert attitudes; questionnaires to arouse overt attitudes and finally, a collection of spontaneous speech made to see if their actual use of the Sicilian dialect is present, and possibly how it appears. The data was collected from 402 teenagers representing five secondary schools, from the age of 15 to 19 and balanced for gender. In four classes from each school I performed the MGT to investigate the pupils’ covert attitudes towards different varieties of Sicilian dialect and regional Italian. Surprisingly, I find a generally very positive evaluation of the regional Italian of Catania. Apart from that, the findings confirm the position of the Sicilian dialect as a variety of low prestige for formal and administrative situations, with some exceptions when it comes to the evaluation of personal characteristics in the speaker. The overt attitudes are investigated through self-evaluation information obtained through questionnaires, in which the teenagers report their language use in various family-based contexts, with friends and at school. These data show that the young informants claim to use the dialect, even if no one reports to be exclusively dialectophone. A small minority of the males say they use only Sicilian with friends, but not at home, and females never admit to an excessive use of dialect. However, the use of both codes is present to a greater degree for both genres. The teenagers report their competence in the Sicilian dialect, and also give an open assessment of it. Most of the informants answer affirmatively to whether they know Sicilian. A vast majority also report that they like Sicilian, and the boys prove to be more positive than the girls. In their open answers, the informants show a positive conscious judgement, associating their dialect with identity and traditions to be preserved, but only when the dialect is spoken within defined domains of use, such as informal situations with friends and family. Among the minority who express that they do not appreciate Sicilian, it turns out they do not use it or do not know it very well. A corpus of spontaneous speech was collected from 14 of the teenagers who already participated in the first part of the research. About five hours of speech is transcribed and made accessible as a corpus that documents the degree of use of the dialect and what types of modalities and functions it represents in the young informants’ every day speech. The dialect use is shown through a functional analysis of codeswitching and codemixing. A more frequent use of Sicilian by males than by females is evident, although a certain prestige in knowing the dialect is present in the majority of the informants. This research shows that the Sicilian dialect is alive, although as a fragmented addition to the adolescents’ language repertoire. It can be seen from the self-assessments of the dialect use and attitudes, and above all from the observations of their actual dialect use. The teenagers often pass from one code to another within the same sentence. I find a link between the frequent use of dialect and the positive attitude towards it. The most competent dialect speakers, in particular the male students of the school that represents the lowest social status, express appreciation towards the dialect as long as the rules of the domains of use are respected, which in the most extreme cases equals as long as it is not used by children and women. The girls have a more fragmented use of Sicilian which seems to be linked to minor competence in the dialect and also to a clearly more negative attitude towards it. The function of the dialect is above all playful, as it is used for jokes and humour in informal contexts within the family or in intimate situations with friends. One cannot speak of a balanced bilingualism among the adolescents, but of an obviously more than conscious use of fragments of Sicilian in conversations otherwise held in regional colloquial Italian.