Tracing mexican spanish /s/: A cross-section of history

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To summarize the potential indigenous influence on articulation of final /s/in Mexico, no direct transfer can be postulated, despite the fact that both Nahuatl and Yucatecan Maya allow for syllable-final [s]. Crucial in the search for indirect influence is degree of bilingualism, and the potential for an indigenous language to act like a holding tank or storage reservoir, retaining as a collective memory an earlier stage in the articulation of Spanish /s/. The latter conditions obtained in the areas of central Mexico where the Nahuatl-speaking population absorbed large numbers of Spanish loan-borrowings, even prior to large-scale bilingualism and eventual shift to Spanish. Regions in which the indigenous population resisted the incorporation of Hispanisms (e.g. the Maya in Yucatan, the Yaqui in Sonora, etc.), and where bilingualism was late in coming and only partial, show rates of /s/-weakening comparable to other peripheral (and often monolingual) areas of Mexico. Similarly, regions where the indigenous populations were dispersed and either remained outside the sphere of the Spanish-speaking community entirely or quickly shifted to Spanish, exhibit no special preference for final sibilant [s] (except for the previously-mentioned settlement by central Mexicans in the 18th century); this includes most of Chihuahua and Coahuila, Tamaulipas, the Baja California Peninsula, Sinaloa, etc.6 By challenging the notion that MS as a dialect cluster is to be classified as "conservative" with respect to retention of final /s/, the "conservative" and "archaic" nature of other /s/-retaining regions of Latin America is also called into question. In particular, the notion that consonantal weakening prevailed only in coastal areas adjacent to colonial ports is in need of revision, as is the implicit correlation between consonant retention (in particular sibilant final /s/) and "earlier" developmental stages of Spanish. There is no doubt that in and around major ports, where John M. Lipski /LPLP /237 contact with Andalusian/Canarian Spanish was intense and prolongued, further weakening of consonants in local Spanish dialects was abetted by the "Atlantic" dialects. However, it appears that the general dates for widespread final consonant weakening in Spanish must be pushed back somewhat, at least to the beginning of the 18th century if not before, to include highland areas as well as coastal zones. In Mexico, and quite possibly in other highland areas of Latin America, a "conservative restoration" partially reversed the trends of consonant weakening, radiating out from major urban nuclei in which precise consonantal articulation came to be equated with the norma culta.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)223-241
Number of pages19
JournalLanguage Problems and Language Planning
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language


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