A quick update

I realize I have been remiss in updating this since my last post: the reason is simply that not a great deal has happened that is worthy of reporting since then, and the introductory sections on koineization and simplification are taking place behind the scenes. But I hate to think of you all hanging around at the water cooler with nothing to discuss, so here’s a quick update.

This has been a frustrating couple of weeks. I gained a number of agreements to make recordings over the Christmas/New Year period, and deliberately didn’t follow them up then, as people are busy with their holidays. Since the New Year, then, I have been trying to reel in those who agreed to make recordings, and with an annoyingly low success rate.

I have made one recording, with a guy who for the sake of anonymity we shall call Mighty Mouse.[1] In fact, even this was in one sense a failure, because during the course of the recording he gave me information that disqualified him form being an informant: he had lived in the state of Goiás for six years. The recording session was also conducted in a place of his choosing, which was too noisy for really good quality sound. However, I am taking an optimistic view of this session, because as a dry run I found it very useful, and certain problems which arose from it I have learnt from and will correct — largely around the language itself. My interview schedule was based upon that of Sali Tagliamonte, published as an online appendix to Tagliamonte 2006, available here, with additional input from  Llamas 1999. I had my print-outs of these with me, along with my notes on them, but was relying on my ability to translate on the fly. This proved to be an unnecessary distraction, and the recording is embarrassingly full of “ums” and “ahs” from me. So since then I have spent some — rather tedious — time translating the entire schedule, with the exception of Tagliamonte’s question concerning whether the interviewee has ever had “any problems with a bear.”

A second potential informant, Mightier Mouse, agreed to make a recording, set a date, and then did not turn up. He has subsequently agreed to another date and time, which is tomorrow. Hopefully he will make it this time. The 84-year-old guy in my apartment block, Jebediah, has agreed, but I have not seen him around for a while. And several other potentials are proving elusive to pin down, and a couple simply not responding.

This is still early days, of course, and I still know few people well, but it is worrying me. During the interview with Mighty Mouse I asked him to compare Taguatinga with his home town of Patos de Minas, and he observed that Taguatinga is “muito frio” and there is no denying this. I need to be more active and inventive in extending my networks, and to this end I have — reluctantly — decided to go to church.

Those readers who know me personally will know that this is somewhat contrary to my personal belief structure, let alone morality, but there is no denying that it will be an ideal way to expand my contacts, particularly in the older age group. I have to be careful in selecting which church to attend — the Catholic is definitely out, partly for class reasons (Catholics here tend to be quite middle class) and partly because … well, best not get me started on that. But of the other churches, I’m going to try and find a smallish one, but one which looks community-oriented rather than just Sunday Prayers Plus. Cycling round the local park last Saturday, I observed a guy from the local baptist church handing out free bottles of water (along with pamphlets, of course), and so if he is there next Saturday I will stop and chat with him.

Any advice on different denominations and their tendencies towards or against community-forming activities would be gratefully received. I understand they all worship an invisible sky fairy: beyond this, and the intricacies of the C14th poverty-of-Christ debate as set out in The Name of the Rose, I am ignorant of the whole shebang.

[1] Informants are guaranteed anonymity in sociolinguistic studies and so even potential informants will be pseudonymized in this blog. [Back up]

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