Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Language Contact and Intonation: Evidence from Contrastive Focus Marking and Loanwords in Yucatecan Spanish and Yucatec Maya

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies (2020), 97, (1), 31–58.


This paper investigates the language contact between Yucatecan Spanish and Yucatec Maya (Mayan) in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, at the level of the intonational realization of contrastive focus, and by means of the prosody of Spanish loanwords in Yucatec Maya. In Yucatec Maya, the maximally prominent constituent of an utterance is generally located at the leftmost part of the Intonational Phrase that contains the predicate (Verhoeven & Skopeteas 2015 reported similar results for Yucatec Maya and Uth 2016 for Yucatecan Spanish) unlike standard Mexican Spanish (as Carme De la Mota, Pedro Martín Butragueño and Pilar Prieto recorded in 2010). Here we present the results of an intonational comparison of contrastive focus utterances of Yucatecan Spanish and Yucatec Maya in order to test the hypothesis that this similarity is due to contact. Furthermore, we present additional evidence in favour of the presence of a left high tone in Yucatec Maya, based on a pilot study on the pronunciation of Spanish loanwords.

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