Linguistic prejudice: A paradigm to be broken

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SANTANA, Genilton Araújo de [1]

SANTANA, Genilton Araujo de. Linguistic prejudice: A paradigm to be broken. Revista Científica Multidisciplinar Núcleo do Conhecimento. Year 05, Ed. 04, Vol. 04, pp. 171-181. April 2020. ISSN: 2448-0959, Access Link: 


Language is one of the most important forms of expression and manifestation of a people’s culture, both in the oral and written spheres. Therefore, the objective of this work is to analyze the various talks of a people, of a nation, of a culture. Like plants and animals, the language evolves and, thus, adapts to the context of use, for this reason, we must respect the talks that represent the richness of a country, especially in the case of Brazil. In this work, bibliographic review, we sought to present the most common variations that can occur in any language, it will be reported how linguistic prejudice and normative grammar emerges, which is often a pretext for keeping prejudice alive. As a basis for this work, the theoretical foundation will be in the works of linguist Marcos Bagno and in the National Curricular Parameters (PCNs), finally, a brief synthesis of the weakening of teacher education will be made, which strongly reflects in the practice of linguistic teaching. Finally, a historical retrospective is elaborated regarding the path of the Portuguese language, the prejudice that still, even if superficially, still persists in the current society and how it can be fought in a plural and quality teaching through the valorization of the richness of linguistic variations.

Keywords: Linguistic variation, prejudice, teaching.


“Human beings use language to communicate, live in society and relate to it” (GOMES, 2011, p. 64).

The present work aims to present an overview of sociolinguistics as science and its importance in the social context, a brief overview of language will be made as an indispensable resource for coexistence in society, and the main factors that influence variations, which are pertinent to any language.

This paper will address the theoretical foundation of one of the most prestigious scholars of national linguistics, Marcos Bagno, based on his idea of prejudice addressed in the works: A língua de Eulália and Preconceito Linguístico: What is done. It will also be discussed the relationship written language and spoken language, the main differences between both, the latter being the precursor of the first and will start from the assumption that the language is a living organism and that, in this way, it presents evolutions and adaptations according to the context.

One of the most important aspects that permeates society in the 21st century will also be addressed, linguistic prejudice, a central theme, since this is one of the main paradigms that needs to be broken so that it is possible to create possibilities for the rise of the less prestigious classes, which are often barred as a result of the way they speak and what, according to traditionalists , is seen as wrong.

It will be discussed what, in fact, is right or wrong according to Sociolinguistics, and, finally, to find strategies that aim to combat this type of prejudice, thus collaborating for an educational practice with emphasis on respect and inclusion of all in the teaching-learning process.


For Ilari and Basso (2011) in a way, everything evolves, animals, plants, humans and, consequently, together with this process, arise to the modifications brought with time, these modifications affect all kinds of existence, from the microorganism to the most complex of living beings.

It is also perceived this evolution in the language, after all, language is a living organism, that is, it is always in use, it is an essential tool for communication, specifically human (ILARI; BASSO, 2011).

Just as beings are indemlight to their environment, language is adhering to its context in a certain way, we can identify beyond evolution, a great linguistic variation and in this context the emergence of sociolinguistics, an essential science for the study of this plurality, “language has an individual side and a social side, being impossible to conceive one without the other” (SAUSSURE, 1997 , p.16).

From the speech of the linguist Saussure (1997), it is necessary to reflect on what sociolinguistics is about, the study of language as a social tool, although Saussure, at the beginning of the 20th century, had called into question the evolution of the language and its various forms of use, it was only in the 1960s that research emerged that gave rise to sociolinguistics.

William Labov (2008) is the main researcher who started the first research on the language in use, that is, speech, his research is focused on the analysis of several languages, especially the analysis of variations and statistical treatment, so sociolinguistics contributes to a better understanding of the language, through the relationship with society and how changes occur in that.

From this perspective, the various modifications will be approached, in particular the hillbilly dialect, which is often stigmatized for not obeying the rules imposed by the standard standard (ILARI; BASSO, 2011).


In fact, according to Ramos (2011) it is necessary to combat the idea that many still persist in defending that, the Portuguese spoken in Brazil, is a uniform language. This uniformity is affirmed by people of various backgrounds, writers, historians and, mainly, traditionalist grammarians.

This thought has exalted a traditionalist view that the only dialect existing in Brazil is the one that obeys the rules of traditional grammar, expressing a lack of sensitivity to cultural and linguistic richness, opposite the fact that speakers naturally adapt to different speech contexts. Unfortunately, great intellectuals preserve this hypothesis of uniformity, which can be seen in Ribeiro’s sentences (2011, p.9):

It should be noted that, despite being made by the fusion of such differentiated matrices, Brazilians are today one of the most homogeneous peoples linguistically and culturally and also one of the most socially integrated on Earth. They speak the same language, without dialects.

In opposition to this comment, the types of most common variations that can occur in any language, according to Suassure (1997) and Bagno (1999), will be briefly described: diachronic variation, diatopic variation, diastic variation and diametic variation.

The diachronic variation according to Bagno (1999) takes place over time, this change is verified in our daily life, for example, in slang, if we use nowadays the expression “being a tram“, hardly a young person would understand this term that, in the context of old dating, meant “being with the girlfriend”; today gave way to the term “stay“.

Another interesting example is grammaticalization, a process in which a word assumes grammatical functions: a specific case is the formation of the pronoun você, derived from Vossa Mercê, via Vosmecê, finally, our current você (BAGNO, 1999).

The diatopic variation, which according to Sassure (1997), comes from greek, day = through; topos = place, is a phenomenon that occurs through the differences that the same language presents in the geographical dimension, for example, lusophone countries, that is, countries that have as their mother tongue the Portuguese language. Let’s look at some differences in lexical Portuguese between the Brazilian Portuguese (BP) and Portuguese portugal (PP):

PP ———- BP

Bathroom – Restroom –

( Casa de banho – banheiro )

Train – Train –

( Comboio – trem )

Pawn – pedestrian. –

( Peão – pedestre. )

Returning to Brazil, this phenomenon is identified, within some states, the so-called hillbilly dialect, the idea of hillbilly automatically refers to the way of speaking of inhabitants of interior regions, which has as characteristic the retroflex erre (ɺ), or by the fall of the erre in certain words (CUNHA, 2000).


Begins by begin (Começá by começar), want by want (querê by querer). The cases in which the retroflex error is used in the syllables end (animar or animá by animal; vortá by come back).

It will be returned to this subject later, this type of variation is the main subject of this work, here will be presented the changes that are part of the process of evolution of a language (CUNHA, 2000).

The diasteric variation for Saussure (1997) concerns social extracts and can occur at levels: phonetics, morphological and syntactic, as an example, the varieties among the speeches of a adolescent full of slang, as opposed to the speech of a more formal adult, without so much use of slang, as an example the statements of Ilari and Basso (2011, p.175) “sometimes referred to as Portuguese substandard” or “substandard Portuguese”.

There is also the diamesic variation, which comprises the differences between spoken and written language, although at this moment we do not deepen this type of linguistic variation, aiming to limit one’s linguistic prejudice (SAUSSURE, 1997).


As already discussed, every language changes, at any time in its history, is irreparably subject to variation, whether we accept it or not and unfortunately, the idea that the Portuguese of Brazil is a uniform language persists, thus concealing other forms of variation: diastratic, diachronic and diametic (SUASSURE, 1997).

This form of standardization, advocated by traditionalist grammarians, that both written and spoken language must obey the norms described by official grammar, generates a type of contradiction that Bagno characterizes as a kind of mold:

Normative grammars try to be a template. But the use that is made of them, in general, is a seam inside out. Instead of taking the mold to, with it, cut the fabric and then assemble the dress, the normivists, and the traditional teaching based on them, do the opposite: they take a real and concrete use of tongue (a dress already ready) and will measure and evaluate this use to see if it is in accordance with the pre-established mold. (BAGNO, 2014, p.160).

This unequal way of classifying the language, according to Bagno (2014) can separate it into two measures; on one side is the whole mass of language produced by the speakers, on the other it is in the form of normative grammar. What comes out at odds with the form may not be considered ideal before traditional eyes, thus resulting in the emergence of linguistic prejudice. In this way it is deemed correct what is in accordance with the form, and incorrect what does not follow the standard imposed to the letter. However, what we must face is that the wrong today may no longer be tomorrow, let’s look at some examples:

The Latin verb laxare, the Italian, the lasciare, the French, the laisser, with the verb Portuguese leave. We noticed that there was an exchange of L by D, because they were two dental consonants, related to one gave way to another. It turns out that what was “error” in the past, is now what is most “correct” (RAMOS, 2011).

Let’s consider that it would be “mistake” if someone said leixar instead of leaving. What happens in this process in many times is the delay of the standard norm in relation to the living varieties of the language in use, where the new forms do not stop emerging, competing with the oldest ones until they are eliminated (RAMOS, 2011).

Bagno (2014), in his book A língua de Eulália, draws attention to a crucial issue that is the basis of maintaining the laws imposed by traditional grammar as a model:

It represents in the collective imaginary, the language supposedly spoken by the social layers of prestige, which hold the economic and political power in the country. These privileged classes see in the conservative standard norm a precious element of their own identity, the way of speaking marks a difference (and even a rejection) in relation to the language of the commoner, from refameia, to the “vulgar” language… (BAGNO, 2014, p.172).

This linguistic standardization serves as an instrument to separate the social layers, that is, it is a way to preserve prejudice. Bagno (1998, p.09) makes a beautiful comparison, in his book Preconceito Linguístico: what it is like: “Language is a huge iceberg floating in the sea of time, and normative grammar is the attempt to describe only a more visible portion of it, the so-called cultured norm”,


A very recent case can be described here, so that we can clarify linguistic prejudice in a practical way: at the beginning of 2011, a book was launched and distributed by the Ministry of Education (MEC) to be worked with The Education of Youth and Adults (EJA), a multidisciplinary work entitled “For a better life”, volume 2 of the collection “Living, learning”. The publication has had an impact, mainly, in the field of linguistics, especially with regard to traditional teaching, because of a chapter dealing with the Portuguese language, written by professor Heloísa Ramos, this chapter, in which the author presents to students phrases that do not follow the norms imposed by traditional grammar, stating that “one can speak this way”, clearly alluding to the notion of right and wrong in our language.

In the chapter named “Writing is different from speaking” the author says the following:

The dominant class uses the cultured norm mainly because it has greater access to schooling and because its use is a sign of prestige. In this sense, it is common to attribute a social prejudice in relation to the popular variant, used by most Brazilians. This prejudice is not of linguistic reason, but of social. Therefore, a speaker must master the various variants because each has its place in everyday communication (RAMOS, 2011, p.12).

Ramos (2011) addresses the importance of the standard standard, and then states that there are different ways of speaking and writing depending on the context of use. Still in this same chapter in which sociolinguistic themes are addressed, to exemplify these differences, an item of the chapter works the agreement of words; at this time, the “popular norm” is being worked on, using as an example the following phrase: “the most interesting illustrated books are borrowed”.

This was the reason, for the book to be a national subject, debated in various media, and the author was harshly criticized for simply stating that there are several ways to express herself. This actually makes us believe that traditionalist teaching has not yet been revised and that unfortunately our students are recipients of information, thus being “obliged” to communicate and write according to a “manual” of speaking and writing well. According to the author:

The fact that there is the word os (plural) indicates that it is more than one book. In the popular variety, it is enough that this first term is in the plural to indicate more than one referent […] You may be asking yourself: But can I say “the book?” Of course you can. But stay tuned because, depending on the situation, you run the risk of being the victim of linguistic bias. Many people say that one should speak and write, taking the rules established for the cultured norm as a standard of correction of all linguistic forms. The speaker, therefore, must be able to use the appropriate language variant for each occasion (RAMOS, 2011, p.15).

Ramos (2011) worked with a relevant theme for an innovative education, since, in the process of achieving democratic teaching, it is necessary that the knowledge and culture brought by the student are part of the teaching process learning. Of course, the society put is contradictory in its ideals, since a theory is preached versus a traditional practice. As it is present in the National Curriculum Parameters:

Variation is constitutive of human languages, occurring at all levels. It has always existed and will always exist, regardless of any normative action. So when you speak in “Portuguese Language” you talk about a unit that is made up of many varieties. […] The image of a single language, closer to the written modality of language, underlying the normative prescriptions of school grammar, manuals and even media dissemination programs on “what should and should not be spoken and written”, is not supported by the empirical analysis of the uses of the language. (BRASIL, 2003, P.29).

The Ministry of Education and Culture (MEC) establishes respect for varieties and that the language is constituted of them, there is no linguistic unit as we see in the criticism of Ramos’s work (2011), it is necessary that this awareness of linguistic plurality reaches, in practice, the school reality and thus contributes to the fight against prejudice.

A type of dialect that suffers most prejudice due to its particularities is what we call as the country’s speaking. Because it has one of its most striking characteristics, such as the retroflex erre and the absence of the plural in all words (GOMES, 2011).

Bagno (2014) comments on the characteristic phenomenon of country speaking:

To indicate that it is more than one, the standard Portuguese needs more than one plural mark, which modifies several classes of words: article, noun, adjective, verb… It is what we learn and teach in school with the name of number agreement. This amount of plural marks is from the economic point of view, an excessive expenditure (BAGNO, 2014, p.51).

Another characteristic that can be identified in this dialect is the vocalization of /lh/ in /i/: oio, bataia, navaia, beech, atrapaia, etc. Here there is the possibility of making a comparison with another language, standard Spanish, the one that is spoken in the region of Castile (Castilian Spanish), everything that is written with LL is pronounced “lhê”, equivalent to our standard Portuguese (BAGNO, 1999).

In some regions of Spain, this LL is pronounced “i”, and so, as in Brazil, this phenomenon suffers prejudice. Similarly, as has been said before, any dialect that escapes the rules imposed by traditional grammar is stigmatized. Since the peasant is considered less financially favored, illiterate, rural worker, in short, a prejudiced and stereotyped view of what is understood as a resident of the countryside is made. It is necessary to take into account the culture of the population of the interior, its contribution to the Brazilian identity and its proper recognition. (BAGNO, 1999).

If society expands its horizons and accepts the different, it will provide opportunities for the country to move towards progress, abandon the form that was imposed, will continue in the constant march of evolution, but if there is persistence in preserving the traditional; will park in time (BAGNO, 1999).

The idea, central to Bagno’s (2014) work in “A língua de Eulália”, is an important instrument for teacher training that should accommodate the linguistic richness that is in the country, the work with linguistic variation in the classroom is of fundamental importance to reduce linguistic prejudice.

The theme of the next topic will be teacher education and work with variants, it is expected that, in this way, there will be significant contributions to a good performance in the formation of people and, once again, minimize prejudice. (BAGNO, 1999).


It is remarkable that Brazilian education is experiencing a general crisis, noting this effect, especially in public education, where the traditional way of teaching persists, the teacher is still the holder of knowledge and students are mere recipients of information, the classroom is limited to blackboard and chalk, not having technological resources for the class to become more dynamic (GOMES , 2011).

Although policies of educational improvements are implemented, such as PCNs (National Curriculum Parameters), LDB (Law of Guidelines and Bases), these do not reach the classrooms, in addition to the educational context, the teacher has its training weakened, with regard to linguistic education, in universities, debates and even the results of scientific research, practically do not exceed the restricted circle of research centers and specialized publications , few and deficient distribution (GOMES, 2011).

There are examples of faculties in which syntax classes are reduced to the transmission of contents of the geractive grammar, these courses are generally restricted to the grammar of the sentence, forgetting the regularities of the enunciation of the text. Thus, teachers have little access to the efficient teaching of their own grammar they learn (GOMES, 2011).

Thus, it will eventually resort to the old pedagogical practices of mechanical teaching of the normative tradition, thus, a vicious circle of standardized grammar teaching that, in turn, will again give rise to linguistic prejudice. In this scenario, many students of Letters, who went through college without even having heard of pragmatics, linguistics, discourse analysis, textual linguistics, literacy, in short, essential disciplines for the formation of a qualified professional, able to act in favor of a transformative education (SAUSSURE, 1997).

In the area of literature, we find similar problems, the study is reduced to a quesquematic teaching of literary schools, without worrying about the formation of the literary reader.

According to a document published by the Ministry of Education and Culture:

The traditional informative conception of literature persists, understood as a set of historical-cultural and aesthetic knowledge that is supposed to be able to mediate between the reader and the work. In this conception, the contact between these instances is subordinated to evaluation criteria and access mechanisms linked to precepts not always very adequate to the understanding of the work, due to a normative or excessively canonical origin, which end up disturbing the effective work of the reader (BRASIL, 1998, p.45).

The result of this poor training is that elementary and high school teachers, when they have access to official teaching policies, feel clear difficulty interacting with these texts, a common example is the use of the textbook, avoiding the majority of teachers, who do not feel empowered to use them in a profitable and efficient way (ILARI; BASSO, 2011).

In this context, according to Ilare and Basse (2011) a gap opens up for linguistic teaching and official proposals for language teaching, so the citizen fails to ensure his or her linguistic rights and allow them to build their citizenship.

It is concluded that good teacher training, the recognition of varieties, and more investments in education, will make citizens enjoy their rights and that everyone can benefit from this practice, giving up an inefficient, segregating teaching, without reflections and mere reproductions, with no use in the construction of the citizen “being” (ILARI; BASSO, 2011).


The present work was elaborated with the objective of collecting data on portuguese language teaching and the relevance of respect and consideration of the linguistic varieties that constitute the vast wealth of the Brazilian nation. It was also the linguistic prejudice and the great obstacle that this problem can cause both in the effective teaching of the language and in the perpetuation of discrimination to the less privileged classes that are unaware of the standard standard, defended by traditionalists, that is, the mastery or not of the standard norm, can be a more form of social segregation.

Data on how this type of prejudice is manifested in our society were presented, citing a recent example that occurred with the publication of a textbook that was distributed in public schools in Brazil. Finally, it was a vast subject about the methodology of teaching the Portuguese language and, finally, the importance of validating and knowing the linguistic variations of the speakers of a given language was discussed, with the objective of alleviated linguistic prejudice and giving access to effective, quality teaching, always based on the National Curriculum Parameters (PCNs).

Thus, it is expected that teachers in particular, specialists in mother tongue, graduates in Letters and other professionals who work with the training of critical and reflective citizens, support a democratic teaching, without any kind of discrimination and based on the principles of equity, solidarity, otherness and respect, not being just a utopia or norm required in legal documents and publications, making it necessary that its application in reality. Only in this way will a promising future be trodden where, above all, there will be the democratization of teaching, without discrimination and with the inclusion of all.


BAGNO, M. A língua de Eulália. São Paulo: Contexto, 2014.

BAGNO, M. Preconceito linguístico: o que é como se faz. São Paulo: Loyola, 1999.

BRASIL. Secretaria de Educação Fundamental. Parâmetros Curriculares Nacionais: terceiro e quarto ciclos do ensino fundamental: língua portuguesa. Brasília: MEC/SEF. 1998.

CUNHA, Sérgio Fraga et al. Tecendo  textos.  2. Ed. Canoas: ULBRA, 2000.

GOMES, Maria Lúcia de Castro. Metodologia do ensino de língua portuguesa. Curitiba: Ibepex, 2011.

ILARI, R., BASSO, R.O português da gente: a língua que estudamos a língua que falamos. São Paulo: Contexto, 2011.

LABOV, William. Padrões Sociolinguísticos. São Paulo: Parábola, 2008.

RAMOS, Heloisa. Por uma vida melhor. São Paulo:  Global, 2011.

RIBEIRO, Adelia Miglievich. Darcy Ribeiro e o enigma Brasil: um exercício de descolonização epistemológica. Soc. estado.,  Brasília ,  v. 26, n. 2, p. 23-49,  Aug.  2011.

SUASSURE, F. de. Curso de linguística geral. 20 ed. São Paulo: Cultrix, 1997.

[1] Specialist in Methodology of Teaching in Portuguese language and Literature. Specialist in Literacy and Literacy. Graduated in Pedagogy. Licensed in Letters.

Submitted: August, 2019.

Approved: April, 2020.

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