Syncretic discourse markers in Kichwa-influenced Spanish: Transfer vs. emergence

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In the Andean highlands of South America, the predominant indigenous language, Quechua, frequently produces phonetic and morphosyntactic effects on regional varieties of Spanish. Popular accounts of Quechua-influenced Spanish depict a picturesque jumble of mismatched vowels and erratic morphological agreement, while linguistic descriptions have concentrated on double possessives, O-V word order, and the overuse of gerunds. The underlying assumption is that Quechua-dominant bilinguals inconsistently mix Quechua-like configurations into their imperfectly acquired Spanish, while fluent Andean Spanish retains only slight traces of language contact. The present study draws on data from northern Ecuador, where Quechua-dominant bilinguals exhibit the beginnings of a hybrid morphological system based on two discourse markers that reflect the realities of both Spanish and Quechua: -ca (derived from the Quechua topicalizer -ka), and -tan (apparently derived from Spanish también 'also'). An analysis of the Ecuadoran data reveals that -ca in Quechua-influenced Spanish often signals topic (assumed information) much as in Quechua. It is also postulated that -ca has its origin in non-fluent bilinguals' incomplete suppression of Kichwa grammar when producing Spanish. The Ecuadoran data also suggest that -tan has developed into a syncretic marker combining reflexes of Kichwa -pash 'also, even' and the validator -mi, variably indicating focus and/or evidentiality as well as embodying innovative characteristics not directly derivable from Quechua sources. Data from a (Quechua-influenced) Spanish-to-Quechua translation task are used to further explore possible Kichwa sources for -ca and -tan.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)216-239
Number of pages24
Issue numberPB
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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