A sociolinguistic study of discourse marker Assim in Brazilian Portuguese

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Escudero, Gabriel
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This thesis aims to understand the linguistic and social factors that impact the use of Brazilian Portuguese discourse marker assim 'like that' in Natal, an economically neglected city with a low prestige dialect, and Rio de Janeiro, the second-most populous Brazilian city with a prosperous economy and a dialect associated with high status and power. A total of 930 tokens of discursive uses of assim, a stigmatized feature in Brazilian Portuguese, were collected from 105 individual interviews conducted in 1993 for the Discurso & Gramática corpus (Votre & Oliveira, n.d.; Cunha, 1998) and were analyzed based on linguistic (clause placement, syntactic categories adjoined, conversation topic) and social factors (age, sex, location). Overall, the most common placement of assim is clause-medial, and χ2 statistical analysis shows that males prefer placing assim after nouns, while females prefer using it after verbs. The placement of assim between a determiner and a noun and between the subject and the verb are unusual, confirming previous conclusions (Silva & Macedo, 1992). Moreover, assim never appears before an auxiliary verb, even though this syntactic constraint was not mentioned in previous literature. Mixed-effects statistical analysis shows that speakers from Rio de Janeiro use assim more frequently at the end of the clause, with this use being led by 18-20-year-old males, and that females from both locations prefer to use assim with topics that prompt them to express opinions. This thesis contributes to the existing literature on discourse markers, offering a glimpse into the connection between prestige and language variation in Brazilian Portuguese.
discourse markers, Brazilian Portuguese