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ArribaAbajoVernacular Features in Educated Speech in Brazilian Portuguese

Milton M. Azevedo

University of California


This article68 reviews some features of the vernacular variety of Brazilian Portuguese (henceforth Brazilian Vernacular or BV), that occur in the colloquial speech of educated persons69. It is common knowledge that BV's conspicuous features define a socially stigmatized linguistic profile that differs considerably from the standard norm taught in schools and used by educated persons (often approximately) in formal contexts. However, educated speakers are often ambivalent about the vernacular, caught as they are between a prescriptive norm based largely on written models, spanning several centuries of literary usage, and a linguistic reality that departs considerably from that ideal model. In a society where literacy and grammaticality of language use are held as the hallmark of education, such ambivalence is inevitable when one is aware that the occurrence of stigmatized features in one's own speech is too spontaneous and frequent to be dismissed as resulting from occasional mistakes or slips of the tongue. It is apparent that rules considered typical of the vernacular are present in the native linguistic repertory of educated speakers, who acquire the standard largely through normative coaching, which includes not only formal school instruction but also pressure from family and peers.

The polemic about the existence of a supposed Brazilian language differentiated from Continental Portuguese flared up and subsided periodically since Brazil became independent in 1822 until well into the present century. Contemporary scholarly consensus virtually unanimously holds that Brazilian Portuguese and Continental Portuguese are two varieties, or macrodialects, of the same language. Furthermore, there are no compelling arguments to think of BV in its present stage as anything but a dialect of Brazilian Portuguese. Thanks to that polemic, however, we are afforded a considerable body or literature on specific features of Brazilian Portuguese.

That literature -often more ideological than philological- covers an ample thematic spectrum in which a radical position in favor of total linguistic autonomy once evinced a search for an authentic nationality (Magalhães 1983: 5). In turn, the conservative view has traditionally not only asserted the unity of the language on both sides of the Atlantic, but also upheld the Continental norm as a desirable standard and sometimes as the only acceptable one -a position contemporary linguists have had occasion to criticize (Couto 1986).

Actually, deference for the Continental linguistic tradition was strong enough to delay for nearly a century after independence the publication of a grammar (Silveira 1919) including examples drawn primarily from Brazilian literature. The interest in the issue also contributed to the development of a Brazilian literary norm that includes a number of morphosyntactic and lexical elements traceable to popular speech. A number of the most renowned authors since the Modernista movement (conventionally dated 1922, the year of the Modern Art Week in São Paulo) have increasingly used forms and constructions typical of popular speech, as documented in Lessa 1966, 1976 and Barbadinho 1972, 1977. On the other hand, that literary norm leaves out the more extreme vernacular features such as are described in Section 2 below, except as an illustration of illiterate speech70. Likewise, mainstream grammar manuals (such as Brandão 1963 or Almeida 1967) omit

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or specifically criticize BV features, and even more enlightened contemporary works (such as Cunha and Cintra 1985) depart relatively little from the prescriptive tradition. It is suggestive that a recent text of Portuguese as a second language (Lima and Iunes 1988: 70) explicitly takes a prescriptive stand on the differences between linguagem popular and linguagem correta.

As linguistic studies in Brazil acquired a surer footing, reliable studies on BV began to appear in the second decade of the present century, analyzing non-Portuguese elements of Brazilian speech (such as Mendonça 1935 and Senna 1938) and describing aspects of regional popular speech (such as Amaral 1920, Nascentes 1922, and Marroquim 1934, 1945). The establishment of linguistics as an academic discipline in the sixties has contributed to increased systematic research on BV carried out in Brazil and abroad71.

2. Vernacular Features

In his pioneer work on Portuguese dialectology, Vasconcellos stated that «le Brésil, à cause de son extension et de la varieté des races qui le peuplent, nous offre des différences dialectales» (1901: 134). However, the body of available research on BV, asystematic and fragmentary as it may be, affords us a picture of remarkable morphosyntactic uniformity. Differences among regional vernacular varieties seem to be less significant than differences along the dichotomy of vernacular vs. standard. Guy (1981: 5) has aptly characterized that dichotomy «as a continuum of Tests' with [popular Brazilian Portuguese] and [standard Brazilian Portuguese] constituting the extreme ends of the spectrum».

The occurrence of nonstandard features of popular speech, particularly in its most extreme manifestations, such as the Caipira dialect of the hinterland of the states of São Paulo and Minas Gerais, is systematic enough to define a consistent system that meets most of the criteria for characterization of a vernacular suggested in Bell 1976. Thus, although it is a nonstandardized spoken variety, vs. has de facto «norms of usage which, though uncodified, are accepted by the community». Bell's historicity criterion is also met, since it is apparent that BV speakers are not concerned with establishing a historical justification for their speech. Likewise, Bell's autonomy criterion is satisfied by the circumstance that speakers, in different degrees, consider BV «distinct from other languages or varieties» -the implicit point of reference in the case of BV being of course the standard norm. Finally, Bell's vitality criterion is fulfilled by use of the vernacular as a sign of group identity for «a living community of native speakers» (Bell 1976: 147-52), a circumstance analyzed in Bortoni-Ricardo's study (1985) of a migrant Caipira community. The non-standardness of BV forms is related to the salience of the rules governing them, in the sense that «a rule is considered to be salient when it is recognized by the community as a sign of significant social differences» (Bortoni-Ricardo 1985: 242)72.

Following Labov's variability theories, several authors have explored variable rules as an apt tool for describing BV features. Some of these (particularly those involving subject/verb agreement and noun/modifier agreement) suggest a process of morphosyntactic simplification in relation to the standard language, and it has been stated that lack of subject/verb agreement reflects an ongoing change process (Lemle and Naro 1977, Naro 1981). The following sections present a brief overview of BV features regarding pronominal complements, reflexives, the indefinite se, verb morphology, and noun/modifier agreement.

2. 1. Pronominal Complements

Although anaphoric complement clitics may be dispensed with whenever their referent is retrievable from the context, BV also allows a direct object to be represented by a subject pronoun, as in (1)-(3).

(1) ela chamou73 eu [st. chamou-me] «she called me» [AC, messenger, m.]

(2) Esses eu comprei eles lá em Moji [st. comprei-os] «these I bought them in Moji» (RC, doorman, m.]

(3) eles disse que is mandar nós no médico [st. mandarnos] «they said they were going to send us to the doctor's» [RB, rural worker, m.]

This tendency is apparent in the use of direct object eu in the first two verses of the Brazilian version of an American song of the 50's:

(4) Oh deixa eu, larga eu, solta eu, nêgo,

Deixa eu ir, eu fugir, desse olhar:...74

These lyrics actually include two types of constructions, namely (4a), where eu functions as direct object and (4b), where eu is both direct object in the main clause and subject of an infinitive in the subordinate clause:

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Although this usage is considered substandard, instances of subject pronouns as compliments are common in the colloquial speech of educated speakers, as shown in (5)-(7)75:

(5) você não vai ver eu [st. me ver] mais por aqui não -você imagina eu [st. me imagina] guiando um Jaguar por aqui? «you won't be seeing me around this place anymore -can you 'picture me driving a Jaguar around here?» [JC, dentist, m.]

(6) eu chamei ela [st. chamei-a] mas ela não respondeu «I called her but she did not answer» [PG, physician, f.]

(7) aí a mãe pegou ela [st. pegou-a] e pôs ela na cama «then her mother grabbed her and tucked her in» [PG, physician, f.]

Clitics, if used, may alternate with subject pronouns, as in (8), and even co-occur redundantly in the same sentence, as você/te in (9)-(10)76.

(8) ele fez eu [st. me fez] ir lá para me humilhar «he made me go there to humiliate me» [PG, physician, f.]

(9) ele diz que ia te dar [st. lhe dar] o canivete para você he says he was going to give you the pocket knife to you [RB, rural worker, m.]

(10) eu ia te trazer [st. lhe trazer] um hard disk dos Estados Unidos para você mas acabei não trazendo «I was going to bring you a hard disk from the U. S. but ended up not bringing it» [AR, lawyer, m.]

Use of nós «we» as direct object, a regular feature of BV, as in example (11), also occurs in the colloquial speech of educated speakers (12)-(13):

(11) então ele mandou nós [st. mandou-nos] embora do sítio «then he sent us away from the farm» [RB, rural worker, m.]

(12) vocês esperam nós [nos esperam] na estação, tá? «you wait for us at the station, O. K.?» [PG, physician, f.]

(13) foi ele que entregou nós [st. nos entregou] «it was he who informed on us» [AR, lawyer, m.]

The third-person clitics o / os / a / as (and their allomorphs), common in consultative and formal registers, as in (14), are routinely omitted in educated colloquial speech, and virtually nonexistent in the vernacular. Third person subject pronouns ele(s)/ela(s) surface as complements (Câmara 1957) both in the vernacular (15)-(16) and educated colloquial speech (17)-(21):

(14) se vocês precisarem de dinheiro eu posso emprestálo. «if you need money I can lend it» [AR, lawyer, m.]

(15) esses porco aí nós ganhemo eles [st. nós os Banhamos] «those pigs, we got them as a gift» [AP, rural worker, m.]

(16) foi o senhor que trouxe ela? [st. a trouxe] «was it you who brought her?» [CP, maid]

(17) Quase que o Tônico manda elas pro endereço errado [st. as manda] «Tônico almost sent them to the wrong address» [AR, lawyer, m.]

(18) esse fusquinha aí eu comprei ele faz doze anos [st. eu o comprei] «that Volkswagen bug, I bought it twelve years ago» [AR, lawyer, m.]

(19) impediu eles de passar [st. impediu-os] «prevented them from passing» [LW, linguist, f.]

(20) manda ele embora [st. manda-o] «fire him» [MC, lawyer,

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(21) ela diz que viu ele e eu [st. que o viu e a mim] juntos -mas eu digo que não viu não «she says she saw hire and me together- but I say she didn't» [AR, lawyer, m.]

Alternation of direct object o símbolo ele by the same educated informant is exemplified in (22) by an anaphoric -lo and a complement ele, both echoing the same [+ human] referent:

(22) gostaria de ver se ele superava esses problemas sem eu levar -sabe? -porque eu não gostaria de levá -lo assim -sabe?... porque aí a professora vem e chama ele [st. chama-o] e diz... «I'd like to see if had overcome these problems without my taking [him to the doctor] -you know?- because I wouldn't want to take him that way -you know?» «because then the teacher calls him and says» [SB, high school principal, f.]

2. 2. Reflexives

Morphological reflexivity, manifested by a clitic bearing the subject's features of person and number, may have as a semantic correlate a reflexive action (e. g., O Getúlio se matou «Getulio killed himself»). That correlation, however, is not mandatory, and barely a residue of semantic reflexivity is noticeable in morphologically reflexive verbs like sentar-se «to sit down», levantar-se «to get up», or queixar-se «to complain». Such verbs commonly become non-reflexive in BP, as in (23)-(26):

(23) aí um senhor levantou [st. levantou-se] para mim sentar [st. eu me sentar] «then a gentleman got up for me to sit down» [BA, teacher, f.]

(24) o pessoal queixa [st. se queixa] muito mas no fim ninguém faz nada «people complain a lot but in the end nobody does anything» [AR, lawyer, m.]

(25) como é que ela chama [st. se chama] mesmo? «what's exactly her name?» [AR, lawyer, m.]

(26) depois eu arrependi [st. me arrependi] de dizer aquilo «then I was sorry I said that» [SB, high school principal]

Although reflexive clitics are rare in the vernacular, a ghost third-person reflexive se may appear as a semantically null affix to a verb form with a first- or second-person subject, as in (27):

(27) Eu não é por isso que eu vou se suicidar não [st. me suicidar] «that is not a reason for me to kid myself» [AP, rural worker, m.]

This feature surfaces more than just sporadically in educated colloquial speech, as in (28)-(30):

(28) Nós não se deixa [st. nos deixamos] convencer tão fácil [CM, engineer, m.]

(29) Se nós conseguirmos tomar banho e se arrumar [st. nos arrumarmos] a tempo, «if we manage to take a bath and get dressed on time» [CM, engineer, m.]

(30) Nós se vemos [st. nos vemos] por aí «we'll see each other» [MT, economist, m.]

In keeping with the general tendency to dispense with clitics, the indefinite se is infrequent in Brazilian Portuguese and very rare in the vernacular, except for stereotyped phrases such as isso não se diz/faz «one does not say/do that». Agent indefiniteness is more likely to be expressed by a subjectless third person verb form, as in (31):

(31) Como fax isso? «how do you do that?»

Although such constructions may be formally analyzed as deriving through deletion of an indefinite se (32),

(32) Como se fax isso? «how do you do that?»

there is little reason to suppose such a derivation is part of vernacular speakers' competence. In fact, available research suggests that the ability to understand constructions with the indefinite se is not universally shared by vernacular speakers: «a construção com se reflexivo é problemática no dialeto rural não apenas quanto ao uso, mas também quanto à compreensão» (Veado 1982: 45)77.

2. 3. Verb Forms

Since vós is archaic and tu restricted to regional use, for most speakers standard Brazilian Portuguese has verb paradigms with a maximum of four forms (Figures 1, 4, and 7)78. Vernacular paradigms, which may have as few as one form, appear from a synchronic viewpoint as reduced versions of the full standard system. In the present indicative, loss of contrast between P3/P2 and P6/P5 yields a three-way distinction (Figure 2) or a two-way one (Figure 3). The preterit, in turn, has three forms (Figure 5) or two (Figure 6). The imperfect (Figure 7) is even more drastically reduced to a one-form paradigm (Figure 8). The result are verb phrases in which standard subject-verb agreement is absent, as in (33):

(33) a. Nós chegou [st. chegamos] «we arrived» [PL, maid]

b. Eles estava [st. estavam] falando [PL, maid]

c. Eles foi [st. foram] lá [RC, doorman]

d. Eu mars a patroa não vale [st. valemos] nada, mas Deus sustenta [RC, doorman]

It appears that contrasts of the type fale/falam [fálsímbolo / fálsímbolosímbolo] are lost more easily than salient contrasts involving different morphemes such as é/sâo (Guy 1981: 260), but

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even salient contrasts may be lost. On the other hand, regular exposure to the standard norm seems to favor acquisition or retention of salient contrasts. Thus, we would expect to find fewer third person singular vs. third person plural contrasts in the speech of vernacular speakers living in more isolated communities than in the speech of vernacular speakers living in urban environments where they may be influenced by normalizing factors such as regular contact with standard speakers, some formal schooling and the media.

In educated colloquial speech, subject-verb agreement rules, which are categorical in the standard norm, become variable and closer to the vernacular (34)-(37)79:

(34) diz que Paulo e Gracinha comprou [st. compraram] aquela casa «they say P and G have bought that house» [PT, architect, m.]

(35) diz que os cara não aparecia [st. apareciam] mais -não queria aparecer [st. queriam] «they say the guys did not show up any longer- didn't want to show up» [PT, architect, m.]

(36) Aí nós -o irmão dela e eu- quis [st. quisemos] saber quem era que is dizer «then we -her brother and I- wanted to find out who was going to say» [LC, university student,].

(37) Nós não mandou [st. mandamos] pedir nada não «we didn't order anything» [PT, architect, m.]

2. 4. Verb Tenses

The full standard verb system includes seven non-inflected atemporal forms (three simple and four compound), one inflected infinitive, ten simple tenses, eight compound tenses with ter/haver + participle, nine progressive tenses with estar + gerund80, and eight progressive tenses with ter/haver + estado + gerund. These add up to forty-three tenses redundantly covering an ample gamut of temporal relations81. However, the limited occurrence of most of those tenses in spontaneous speech indicates a trend toward systemic simplification. Instances of the inflected infinitive such as example (38),

(38) já é hora de sairmos? «is it time for us to go out?» [CF, high school teacher of Portuguese,].

are rare82, and from examples like (39)-(41) it appears that educated speakers were comfortable with using its non-inflected homolog in constructions in which agreement would be required by the standard norm:

(39) é só vocês querer [st. quererem] que vocês fazem «if only you want [it] you can do [it]» [PT, architect,].

(40) isso é para nós levar [st. levarmos] «that is for us to take along», [LC, university student, f.]

(41) tenho a impressáo que ela disse para nós vir [st. virmos] amanhá «I have the impression that she said for us to come tomorrow» [LC, university student, f.]

The pluperfect simple in -ra is virtually absent from spontaneous speech, although it survives in formal contexts and in the written language. The compound pluperfect (tinha + participle, less commonly havia + participle) in (42), also relatively rare, is easily replaced by the preterit (43) or by an alternate construction (44)-(45)83:

(42) você não tinha pedido licença para permanecer no recinto? «hadn't you requested permission to remain in the room?» [RP, Air Force officer, m.]

(43) eu ia pedir para ele mas quando eu falei com ele -ele já convidou [st. tinha convidado] outra pessoa «I was going to ask him but when I talked to him, he had asked another person» [PR, dentist, m.]

(44) então o cara entrou mas o marido -o marido já no estava mais lá «then the guy walked in but the husband- the husband was no longer there» [PG, physician, f.]

(45) mas quando eu cheguei lá ele já foi [=tinha ido] embora «but when I go there he already went [símbolo had gone] away» [JC, rural worker, m.]

Also uncommon is the future indicative, since futurity is easily expressed by the present (46) or by the present of ir + infinitive (47); the conditional, also rare, is replaced by the imperfect (48), or by the imperfect of ir + infinitive (49):

(46) ele te traz depois né? «he brings you later, right?» [PR, dentist, m.]

(47) eu vou falar com ele amanhã «I'm going to talk to him tomorrow» [LC, university student, f.]

(48) se eu tinha tempo então eu ia [st. iria] -claro que eu fazia [st. faria] Direito e prestava [st. prestaria] concurso para promotor público «if I had time then I went [= would go] -of course I took [= would take] Law and took [would take] an exam to be a D. A.» [PR, high school teacher, m.]

(49) parece que se o orçamento saísse ia ser [st. seria] só na outra semana «it looks that if the budget were released at all it would be only the following week» [BC, bank teller, m.]

Reduction of the tense system goes further in the vernacular, with inflected forms rarely in a form other than the present, imperfect or preterit. Future and conditional forms occur virtually only in stereotyped phrases such as o que será what may [it] be, or gostaria (50), the latter alternating with the imperfect indicative in a parallel construction (57):

(50) eu bem que gostaria de ver ela «I sure would like to see her» [AP, rural worker, f.]

(51) a gente até que gostava de ir lá -se Deus quisesse «one would even like going there- God willing», [AP, rural worker, f.]

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Although the subjunctive is categorical in the standard, in spontaneous speech it appears conditioned by variable rules influenced by factors such as contextual formality and the speaker's educational level (Wherritt 1977: vii). Both in the vernacular and in colloquial educated speech, the present and imperfect subjunctive tend to be replaced by the present and imperfect indicative respectively (52)-(53). Although the imperfect subjunctive is heard in stereotyped if-clauses (54), the imperfect indicative appears in both the protasis and the apodosis of if-clauses (55)-(56):

(52) eu quero que vocês vem [st. venham] lá em casa amanhã «I want you to come to my place tomorrow» [PR, high school teacher, m.]

(53) eu pensava que vocês falavam [st. falassem] inglês «I thought you spoke English» [GC, professor, m.]

(54) se Deus quisesse -bem que chovia- né? «God willing, it would rain, right?» [AP, rural worker, f.]

(55) se o senhor vinha [st. viesse] mais cedo ai achava [st. acharia] ele «if you came earlier then you would find him» [PE, rural worker, f.]

(56) agora -eu acho que se o Ludovico queria [st. quisesse]- a gente bem que podia [st. poderia] ficar aqui mesmo até Ano Bom «now, I think that if Ludovico wanted we sure could stay here until New Year's» [CE store clerk, f.]

(57) se eu ia [st. fosse] lá até que era [st. seria] capaz de convencer ela, mas acho melhor não ir «if I went there I might even be able to convince her, but I guess I'd better not go» [BJ, agronomist, m.]

2. 5. Noun/Modifier Agreement

In standard Portuguese number agreement in the noun phrase is categorical and involves copying the feature [plural] of the head noun(s) onto accompanying determinants and adjectives. Thus, given an underlying string such as Det + Adj + Adj. + N + Adj, if N is [+plural], the resulting string would be Det[+plural] + Adj[+plural] + Adj[+plural] + N[+plural] + + Adj[plural]. In the vernacular, however, the plural marker is borne not by the head noun(s) but rather by the leftmost determiner, as in (58)-(59):

(58) diz que os trem [st. trens] daquelas moça [st. mocas] ainda não chegou «those ladies» things haven't arrived yet' [PL, maid]

(59) se o senhor quer nós traz as mala [st. malas] agora e os pacote grande [st. pacotes grandes] depois «if you wish well bring the suitcases now and the large packages later» [JR, janitor, m.]

Pluralization of the determiner applies even when the noun is replaced by a singular dummy pro-form, as in an echo question (60). If pluralization is indicated by a numeral, preceded or not by a determiner, the noun(s) remains in the singular, as in (61):

(60) aqueles um? aqueles -eu nem não sei- acho que é umas laranja «those ones? those -I don't even know- I guess they are oranges» [AA, rural worker, f.]

(61) o meu filho pegou umas cinco carpa [st. carpas] «my son caught some five carps» [AA, rural worker, f.]

Like other vernacular features, reduction of redundant plural markers is frequent in the colloquial speech of educated informants (62)(63):

(62) nessas hora -te deixava os amigo- te deixava os conhecido -te deixava até os parente- bom-os parente são sempre os que te deixa primeiro- né? [st. horas / amigo / conhecidos / parentes] «on those moments you were abandoned by friends, even by relatives-well, relatives are always the ones who leave you fast, right?» [MC, lawyer, m.]

(63) as outra não tava nem aí -dizia as coisa sem pensar e os colega que se dane [st. outras / coisas / colegas] «the others did not care, they said things without thinking and let the colleagues be damned» [LC, university student, f.]

In the standard certain nouns and adjectives show additional morphological variation when pluralized. Metaphonic change of stressed [o] -> [símbolo] in the plural occurs in novo/novos «new», gostoso/gostosos «tasty», olho/olhos, «eye/s», ovo/ovos «egg/s», porco/porcos «pig/s», corpo/corpos «body/bodies»; osso/ossos «bone/s»; tijolo/tijolos «brick/s», corvo/corvos «crow/s»; poço/poços «well/s». Likewise, nouns and adjectives ending in nasalized diphthong -ão [símbolosímbolo] fall into three subgroups, according to whether the nasalized diphthong remains [símbolosímbolo] (irmão/irmãos) or changes to [símbolosímbolo] [pão/pães «bread/s») or to [õsímbolo] (coração/corações «heart/s»). These secondary pluralization markers also become variable in the vernacular and in educated colloquial speech, as shown by examples in which the noun retains the closed [o] of the singular, as in (64)-(66):

(64) tem uns cara novo [novu] aí na vila [st. caras n[símbolovus] «there are some new guys in the village» [PB, engineering student, m.]

(65) prova uns pãozinho... estão gostoso [gostozu] [st. pãezinhos / gost[símbolo]zus] «try out some rolls... they're tasty» [PG, physician, f.]

(66) tem uns alemãozinho [st. alemáezinhos] ali perto, na colônia «there are some Germán children nearby, from the community» [AA, rural worker, f. ]

However, metaphony without the plural marker /s/ occurs, as in (67)-(68):

(67) os cara eram meio grosso [grsímbolosu] [st. [grsímbolosus]] e não quis saber «those guys were somewhat stupid and wouldn't listen» [PB, engineering student, m.]

(68) Tinha uns cãezinho [st. cãezinhos] ali, pouca coisa «there were a few little dogs there, not a whole lot» [PB, engineering student, m.]

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3. General Considerations

From a synchronic viewpoint, the relationship between the vernacular and the standard is sufficiently systematic to warrant considering them members of the same system. From a diachronic perspective, on the other hand, some scholars have distinguished between a standard-like variety that would go back to the language of sixteenth-century settlers, and the vernacular, traceable to a Portuguese-based creole spoken by African slaves in colonial times. This view accommodates reports of the survival of Afro-Portuguese Creoles or Creole-like speeches well into the present century, as reported by Machado (1938, 1940, 1964) for the village of São João da Chapada in Minas Gerais. Melo (1971: 75) echoed this view when he suggested that

se deve ter formado na boca de africanos natos um dialeto crioulo de tipo iorubá e outro de tipo banto, os quais se foram gradativamente dissolvendo, pelas gerações sucessivas, no meio lingüístico português.

Guy (1981) has hypothesized a process whereby as the slaves' creole spread out among the lower classes of colonial Brazil, the vernacular originated under the influence of the settlers' dialects. This view implies a process of decreolization involving partial acquisition of standard rules by creole speakers who originally did not have them. Other scholars (Naro and Leme 1976, Naro 1981), have preferred to link the vernacular to the language of sixteenth-century settlers. A process of continuing linguistic change, operating at points of least contrast, as in regular verbal desinences (e. g., between third person singular and third person plural forms), would explain the change of categorical agreement rules into variable ones, in a process leading to their eventual elimination.

In view of what is known about Creoles in the Americas and Portuguese-based Creoles in general, it is plausible that colonial Brazil should provide an ideal environment for such a creole to develop. Although this question was once considered open (Reinecke 1975: 111), Guy 1981 presented cogent arguments for it. The creole hypothesis is compatible with the notion that today's vernacular descends from the speech of the settlers. Given the large number of slaves and the intense interaction between them and the settlers, it would be natural for the latter's speech to acquire some features of the slaves' creole even if the Creole eventually ceased to exist as an independent variety. This appears all the more likely since settlers were largely illiterate lower class people who spoke a variety of regional dialects rather than the educated norm of a unified standard language in the modern sense84. The Brazilian educated norm, originally very close to the metropolitan standard, would be a much later development, made possible only after the transfer of the Portuguese court to Rio (1808) encouraged the development of local presses and the beginning of a rudimentary system of public education.

Use of such features by educated speakers appears related to variables such as contextual informality and increased solidarity (in the sense of Brown and Gihnan 1960) among interlocutors. Moving back and forth along the vernacular-standard continuum functions as a style-switching mechanism with a diglossic function (Houaiss 1985: 138). As regards formality, which characterizes situations governed by strictly conventionalized rules of behavior, linguistic or otherwise, use of the standard is predictable: the more formal the situation, the more will speakers endeavor to adhere to what they consider grammatically correct use. In casual contexts, use of vernacular features signals solidarity and is consistent with the intimacy that is acceptable among equals. If a marked difference of social rank exists between interlocutors, shifting to a style closer to the vernacular may signal solidarity with the underdog, whereas staying within the bounds of the standard contributes to maintain, or even increase, social distance. Whereas educated speakers have a choice, lower-class speakers of the vernacular do not, for acquiring the standard requires not only lengthy formal schooling that is usually beyond their means, but also regular practice in social contexts to which they do not normally have access.

Research has concentrated on specific areas and communities, and while the partial descriptions available reveal a rather uniform vernacular, there is need for a synthesizing view of the rules relating the links in the chain of «lects» stretching from the standard to extreme cases of the vernacular. Of great interest would be detailed analyses of the relationships between vernacular features and social variables, and on the linguistic correlates of social and geographic mobility (as in Bortoni

––––––––   869   ––––––––

Ricardo 1985).

Considering the difficulty encountered by vernacular speakers to acquire the standard, an understanding of those relationships appears to have broad educational significance. The teaching of Portuguese has traditionally meant imparting a prescriptive formal standard based on a literary register (Cunha 1985: 24) that is often at variance with the language with which students are familiar. As in a diglossic situation, vernacular speakers must learn to read and write in a dialect they neither speak nor fully understand85.

Recent scholarship signals a promising departure from traditional opinion regarding the hegemony of the written normative standard. Hauys's analysis (1983) of major grammar texts has uncovered terminological inconsistencies and conceptual contradictions that seriously compromise their value even at the descriptive level. Although slowly, the Educated Urban Norm Project (Cunha 1985) has begun to yield serviceable research materials (Castilho and Preti 1986). Other works (Bechara 1985, Houaiss 1985, Luft 1985, Perini 1985, Couto 1986, and Soares 1986, among others) have focused on important relationships between language variation and social status in Brazil. Vernacular speakers must learn to read and write in a dialect they neither speak nor fully understand, a circumstance that may have a bearing on the high dropout rate in elementary schools (as recently as 1983 only 70 out of every thousand students reportedly finished the 8th grade (Almanaque Abril 1987: 197).

Also of theoretical interest is the relationship between BV and border dialects. The presence of BV features in the fronterizo dialects of the Brazilian-Uruguayan border, I suggest that BV is the model on which those dialects are based. As in BV, so in fronterizo redundant agreement for plural in the noun phrase falls drastically -to 76.03% of the cases in one study (Elizaincin et al. 1987: 60). Likewise, verbal paradigm «también tiende a una simplificación en torno a la 3ª [person], ya absorbiendo ésta a la 1ª o a la 6ª, y ocasionalmente la 4ª» (Elizaincin et al. 1987: 75). Further research may show whether fronterizo reflects, and to what extent, the morphosyntactic change process described in Naro 198186.

It is also to be hoped that the growing body of scholarship may provide a theoretical basis for an understanding of the issues of BV as a system in its own right and contribute to an enlightened policy of language education that will acknowledge vernacular features as a legitimate feature of the Portuguese language.

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Verb Paradigms in Brazilian Portuguese
Present -AR -ER -IR
Fig. P1 ando como parto
1 P2/P3 anda come parte
P4 andamos comemos partimos
P5/P6 andam comem partem
Fig. P1 ando como parto
2 P4 andamo/andemo comemo partimo
All others anda come parte
Fig. P1 ando como parto
3 All others anda come parte
Fig. P1 andei comi parti
4 P2/P3 andou comeu partiu
P4 andamos comemos partimos
P5/P6 andaram comeram partiram
Fig. P1 andei comi parti
5 P4 andamo/andemo comemo partimo
P2/P3-P5/P6 andou comeu partiu
Fig. P1 andei comi parti
6 All others andou comeu partiu
Fig. P1/P2/P3 andava comia partia
7 P4 andávamos comíamos partíamos
P5/P6 andavam comiam partiam
Fig. P1
8 All Persons andava comia partia
P1=eu P2=você P3=ele/ela
P4=nós P5=vocês P6=eles/elas

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