Brazilian Portuguese, Lingusitics, Piripiri, assibilation, dedialectalization


In standard Brazilian Portuguese (BP), when the phoneme /χ/ appears post-vocalically in coda position it is realized with a variety of allophones [r, h, x, χ, ʁ, ʁ̥, ɣ] (Parkinson 1988). On the surface there appears to be free variation between the pronunciations although the variation is affected by regional and social factors (Netto 2001). Our study focuses on the Brazilian Portuguese of Piripiri (BPP), which is spoken in a small town in the rural state of Piauí in the northeast part of the country. Perhaps the most salient regional characteristic of BPP is that when /χ/ appears in coda position preceding a /t/ it is realized as a voiceless apical alveolar fricative [ś] or voiceless alveopalatal fricative [ʃ] as in quarta [kwaśtɐ] [kwaʃtɐ] ‘fourth.’ Assibilation of tapped /r/ has also been documented in Spanish and its usage has been tied to sociolinguistic variables such as age, gender, and social class (e.g., Adams 2003; Chela-Flores and Chela-Flores 2002; Gomez 2003; Matus-Mendoza 2004). For example, Adams (2003) found that in the face of negative prestige, rural Spanish speakers from Costa Rica tend to preserve the assibilation of /r/ as a local identity marker. In Brazilian Portuguese, however, the assibilation of /χ/ has not been given a systematic treatment. Our goal is to document assibilation as a regional characteristic of the BPP dialect and to shed light on what factors influence its use. The assibilation of /χ/ preceding /t/ is perceived as a regional, non-prestigious pronunciation and our study demonstrates that it is being lost in favor of one of the more prestigious non-assibilated pronunciations. The loss of assibilation suggests that the language variety of the region may be undergoing dedialectalization, the process by which a local dialect adopts characteristics from a prestige variety to the point of losing its own unique characteristics, often times resulting in dialect death (Trudgill 2002).

Original Publication Citation

2006. “Negative Prestige and Sound Change: A Sociolinguistic Study of the Assibilation of /X/ in Piauí Portuguese.” Coauthored with Michael Taylor. Selected Proceedings of the 9th Hispanic Linguistics Symposium, ed. by Nuria Sagarra and Almeida Jacqueline Toribio. 320-325. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla.

Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date



MA: Cascadilla







University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor

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