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Convergence as the driving force of typological change in Nahuatl

  • Justyna Olko EMAIL logo , Robert Borges and John Sullivan

Abstract

This paper is based on extensive team research focusing on the reconstruction of the history of contact-induced change in Nahuatl from the first encounter with Spanish until the present day, taking into account both peripheral and central varieties. We trace the long-term trajectories of several morphosyntactic features that mark typological change: animacy as a grammatical category; the relational word as a lexical category; the formal distinction between comitative and instrumental markers; existential predicative possession; and relatively free word order. We argue that key innovations in Nahuatl during the colonial period are either borrowed from Spanish or begin as minor internal patterns that gradually become dominant due to similarity with an element of Spanish structure, and that these two processes have driven typological change in the language.

Abbreviations

abs

absolutive

ag

agentive

antec

antecessive

ben

benefactive

caus

causative

com

comitative

det

determiner

dim

diminutive

freq

frequentative

fut

future

hum

human

ind

inbound directional

inf

infinitive

inst

instrumental

inp

inbound purposive

ints

intensification

ipfv

imperfective

lig

ligature

loc

locative

nact

non-active

neg

negation

nhum

non-human

npres

non-present

numcl

numeral classifier

obj

object

opt

optative

outd

outbound directional

outp

outbound purposive

pl

plural

poss

possessive

refl

reflexive

rev

reverential

sbj

subject

sg

singular

sr

subordinator

unspec

unspecified

vr

verbing suffix

Acknowledgments

The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ERC grant agreement n° 312795. We would like to thank all Project members whose research contributed to the results discussed in this paper, including Julia Madajczak, Agnieszka Brylak, Victoriano de la Cruz Cruz, Katarzyna Granicka, Szymon Gruda, Delfina de la Cruz de la Cruz, Sabina Cruz de la Cruz, Ofelia Cruz Morales, Catalina Cruz de la Cruz, Eduardo de la Cruz Cruz, Abelardo de la Cruz de la Cruz, Marcin Kilarski and Adam Coon. The data from San Miguel Xaltipan, Tlaxcala were recorded and transcribed by collaborators of the Project, Beatriz Cuahutle Bautista, Refugio Nava Nava and Constantina Bautista Nava. A 1985 recording from Ixhuatlan de Madero, Veracruz, was kindly provided by Alan and Pamela Sandstrom. We also express our gratitude to José Antonio Flores Farfán and Thomas Stolz for their insightful comments on the draft of our paper.

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Published Online: 2018-08-03
Published in Print: 2018-08-28

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