Posted by Madeline Gilbert – PhD student in Linguistics at NYU
I have now been in Uruguay for a bit over a month. On one hand, it feels like I’ve accomplished quite a bit; on the other hand, there is a lifetime of research to be done here. In the last blog post I talked a bit about the project itself, which involves looking at the language contact situation on the border between Uruguay and Brazil, site of the famous portuñol, which, in the popular conception, is neither Spanish nor Portuguese but a broken mixture of the two. In this post, I want to talk a bit about the process of data collection, which is both full of challenges and very rewarding.
First: what kind of data am I collecting? Because I’m interested in peoples’ use of language in daily life, I’m conducting (and recording) sociolinguistic interviews, asking people to read a word list, and fill out some demographic and language use questionnaires. The process typically takes about 90 minutes. Sociolinguistic interviews consist of talking with people about topics like childhood, family, school, hobbies, work, travels, and the like. The goal is to elicit the most natural speech possible within the context of a recorded conversation. The word list reflects a more careful speech style and was designed around some linguistic variables. I have reason to think might be interesting to compare between speakers from Rivera and Montevideo. The demographic forms ask more explicitly about peoples’ linguistic history, places of residence, use of Spanish/Portuguese/other languages, and a little about their attitudes towards these languages.