Project Details


The project focuses on the analysis of lexical similarities and differences between European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese. The aim is to investigate the lexical convergence or divergence between the two varieties and the social stratification of each one. The scope of this project will be the social aspects of lexical variation, both synchronically and diachronically. For this purpose, the onomasiological perspective of variation (from the concept to the different expressions that name it) will be preferred to the semasiological perspective (from the category to its various senses). The preferential object of the analysis will be the onomasiological variation, which involves particularly denotational synonyms, since these are the ones that best reveal stylistic, regional and social differences. The empirical basis for this sociolexicological analysis is formed by several thousands of alternative terms to name concepts of different domains, such as football, clothing and other. It will therefore be required that several technological mechanisms for corpus analysis are produced (text retrieval, database management and querying, statistical analysis, graphical representation), together with quantitative methods to measure the lexical variation. The data will be gathered from newspapers, magazines, shop-windows, and internet and recorded conversations, of different strata and registers, and of different regions in Portugal and in Brazil, in the period of the second half of the 20th century. By using 'uniformity' measures, it will be possible to determine the degree of lexical distance between the two national varieties of Portuguese and between the standard norm and the geographic, social and stylistic varieties, and finally to know whether in the last decades the European and Brazilian varieties are involved in a process of lexical convergence or divergence. The theoretical orientation of the investigation is the one of Cognitive Linguistics - a recent paradigm, especially developed by R. Langacker, L. Talmy, G. Lakoff and (in the area of lexicon) D. Geeraerts, who studies language as an integrant part of cognition, connected with human experience. The importance that this new paradigm has given to the study of flexibility and variability as features of the linguistic categorization (see prototype theory), and the acknowledgement of the determinant role of conceptualisation of the social reality in the constitution of sociolinguistic facts (see theory of cultural models), explain its relevance for the present investigation and for the sociolinguistic investigation in general. The contribution of this project of cognitive sociolexicology can be regarded at three levels. First, the confirmation of hypotheses about the present lexicological relationship between the two national varieties of Portuguese. Second, the development of a neglected area of the general and Portuguese sociolinguistcs (studies on phonetic and syntactical differences are much more frequent than those about lexical differences), as well as in a 'cognitive' way and of quantitative methods for the sociolinguistic research. Third, the implications for the study of the basic cognitive function of language - categorization -, especially in what concerns the basic act of onomasiological choice of a category to express a certain idea. The present project is expected to be the starting point for a broader investigation about the linguistic variation and stratification of contemporary Portuguese.
Effective start/end date1/01/0431/03/06


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