Dissertation Abstracts

Changes in linguistic and cultural choices of adolescents in educational transition in Mataró (Catalonia, Spain)

Author: Bretxa, Vanessa , vanessa.bretxa@ub.edu
Department: Sociologia i anàlisi de les organitzacions
University: Universitat de Barcelona, Spain
Supervisor: F. Xavier Vila
Year of completion: 2014
Language of dissertation: Catalan

Areas of Research: Language and Society , Education , Childhood


The thesis aims to analyze changes in the linguistic choices of adolescents in their transition from primary to secondary education. Adolescence is a stage of life marked by constant changes and transitions at all levels. Adolescents’ character, identity and practices are redefined, changed and transformed constantly. Despite the constant transformations, teenagers are linguistically socialized in a particular environment (Schieffelin and Ochs 1986; Garrett and Baquedano-López 2002). Moreover, they assume particular norms of language use (Vila 2012) and a certain linguistic habitus (Bourdieu 1985). As a result, adolescents acquire their linguistic repertoires and communication skills during linguistic socialization through the various social fields in which they are immersed (school, media, social networks and family).

The main contribution of this thesis is to analyze changes in linguistic choices from two different perspectives. On the one hand, the changes amongst the school population will be examined at two specific points: Time 1 (during the last year of primary education) and Time 2 (during the first year of secondary education). On the other, changes in individual trajectories (intra individual changes) will be analysed. These changes can only be observed using a longitudinal panel analysis (tracking the same individual at different times). Thus, this thesis has three main objectives: (1) to analyze the linguistic and cultural changes that occur in the transition from primary to secondary (inter and intra individual); (2) to study the nature and direction of individual linguistic changes in various social fields; (3) to draw the profiles and trajectories of linguistic choices linking them with socio-demographic factors. The basis of the analysis is the comparison of diachronic indicators of interpersonal language use (with family, friends and teachers) and linguistic choices in media consumption. The universe of study (N = 888) are pupils born in 1995 and living in Mataró (Catalonia, Spain).

The conclusions of this study indicate that Catalan adolescents are not a sociolinguistically hermetic group but a fluid and dynamic one. The linguistic practices of students are part of a social continuum, so individual trajectories must be followed to understand their linguistic choices. Three linguistic trends have been identified. Firstly, there is a decline of Catalan in favor of Spanish. Secondly, linguistic changes are minor in private domains (family and friends) and more significant in formal domains (teachers and cultural and media consumption). Finally, there is some overall stability in that no extreme changes are detected in any of the social fields under analysis.