Subjective Reactions to Phonological Variation in Costa Rican Spanish
The results of a subjective reaction test on a sample of 440 Costa Ricans indicate that in societies where educational levels are not generally high, social status groups may be differentiated phonologically by the use of prestigeful features rather than by stigmatized ones, contrary to findings regarding social dialects in the United States. Participating listeners discriminated between three speakers whose reading of a Spanish text varied only according to their percentage use of stigmatized and prestige phonological variables--specifically, accent shift, vowel alternation, and consonantal alternation. As hypothesized, listeners assigned occupational status to, distanced themselves socially from, and attributed personality and socioeconomically related traits to speakers according to the degree of prestigefulness or stigmatization of the latter's speech. However, whereas listeners could distinguish well between the prestige speaker, on the one hand, and the intermediate and stigmatized speakers on the other, they barely differentiated between the latter two. Whereas male and female listeners did not differ significantly from each other in their reactions, contrary to expectation, older listeners, compared to younger ones, significantly more often discriminated between speakers in the expected direction, confirming further that sociolinguistic competence is acquired gradually.