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The sociolinguistic variation of the heheo in the town of Loja (Andalusia, Spain): a pilot study

The present piece of research on sociolinguistics is focused on the heheo in the town of Loja (Andalusia, Spain). In other words, the weakened articulation of the Spanish /s/ and/or // phonemes at the beginning of the syllable. It is hypothesised that the heheo is not a phonetic feature only used by "uneducated” speakers, but it is present in all the local population's speech regardless of the speaker's level of education. A main goal is proposed: to analyse which sectors of the population include this feature in their speech by determining which sociological factors influence the manifestation of this phonetic feature. The present study's intention is to provide new information about this under analysed and stigmatised phonetic feature, which constitutes itself a research gap. After all, this piece of research intends nothing but to contribute to a deeper understanding of the Andalusian dialect in order to recognise and dignify all its richness and heterogeneity.
A synchronic study on this Andalusian phonetic feature has been conducted by following the sociolinguistic methodology, which is based on data gathering on the ground through recorded interviews with local informants. The base corpora is formed by 1104 cases of realisations of // and /s/ (dependent variable) by 18 different local informants. The statistical analysis of the dependent variable has been conducted by taking into account three social variables: sex, age and level of education. The results of the statistical analysis show that the sample is characterised by the wide representation of the non-distinguishing variants (77.1%) such as the ceceo and heheo versus the /s/-/θ/ distinction (22.9%). The highest rate corresponds to the ceceo (39.8%), the dephonologization of /s/ and/or /θ/ in favour of /θ/; followed by the heheo (35.5%), which is present in all the population sectors. After interpreting the results, it can be concluded that our hypothesis is correct: the heheo is a transversal phenomenon that does not depend on the speaker’s socioeconomic background. Thus, the main prejudice that surrounds the heheo is dismantled. It has also been concluded that: (1) The ceceo is the most common norm regarding the pronunciation of /s/ and /θ/ in the town of Loja. (2) The interest in the distinction of /s/-/θ/ is recent. Therefore, Loja would not be converging towards this distinction tendency, unlike the rest of Eastern Andalusia. (3) Men and women do not behave the same way when pronouncing /θ/ and /s/ at the beginning of syllable. (4) The diachronic evolution of the non-distinguishing solutions suggests that the heheo could find itself in an expansion process, while the ceceo would be immersed in a regression process.

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