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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton January 29, 2009

The straw that broke the language's back: language shift in the Upper Necaxa Valley of Mexico

Yvonne Lam
From the journal


This article examines the factors that have led to a shift to Spanish in the Upper Necaxa Totonac communities of east-central Mexico. Despite the fact that Spanish and Totonac have been in contact since before the eighteenth century, the shift to the majority language has only occurred in the past four decades. I will show that this shift resulted from the combination of long-standing negative attitudes towards indigenous cultures with new social and economic conditions, namely the establishment of Spanish-language schooling and a shift to a cash-based economy. The proximate cause of the linguistic “tip” to Spanish was not so much the desire to speak the majority language as the increased opportunities to do so.

Published Online: 2009-01-29
Published in Print: 2009-January

© 2009 by Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, D-10785 Berlin