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  • Language contact and change in Mesoamerica and beyond ed. by Karen Dakin, Claudia Parodi, and Natalie Operstein
  • Carolyn J. MacKay
Language contact and change in Mesoamerica and beyond. Ed. by Karen Dakin, Claudia Parodi, and Natalie Operstein. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2017. Pp. xv, 433. ISBN 9789027259509. $149 (Hb).

Language contact and change in Mesoamerica and beyond (hereafter LCCMB) presents selected contributions from the 2013 workshop on 'Amerindian Languages in Contact Situations: Spanish-American Perspectives', held at the International Conference on Historical Linguistics, and from the special session on 'Language Contact in Mesoamerica' at the meeting of the Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas, also in 2013. The book addresses the relative lack of publications focusing on language contact in an area of extreme linguistic diversity. It does not aim for completeness but offers detailed examples of contact situations in Mesoamerica and nearby areas, highlighting the effect of different types of language contact on language change. LCCMB presents a range of hypotheses, research methods, and linguistic patterns that will be useful to others researching language change and language contact.

The papers that were selected represent distinct academic traditions that do not usually interact—for example, Spanish dialectology, Amerindian linguistics, and sociolinguistics. As a result, the volume provides a more integrated look at language contact and change, which includes the influence of Indigenous languages on Spanish, the influence of Spanish on Indigenous languages, and the influence of Indigenous languages on each other. The data used to support claims of language contact and resulting language change include colonial-era documents that supply examples of older features of currently spoken languages, descriptions of languages that are no longer spoken, and descriptions of currently spoken languages for which there is no earlier documentation. The uneven availability of data for each language makes it necessary to implement unique research strategies to support claims about language contact.

Several chapters use loanwords from Spanish into Indigenous languages to identify the Spanish varieties that served as the source languages for the loans and to establish the time frame of contact. Borrowing can take place over long periods of time in a complex and layered exchange, resulting in distinctive patterns of language change. The research presented here takes into account the sociolinguistic and historical factors that influence particular types of language contact and change.

In their introductory chapter, 'Language contact in Mesoamerica and beyond', two of the editors, Karen Dakin and Natalie Operstein, place the volume in historical and theoretical context with respect to the role language contact plays in language change. The volume is dedicated to Claudia Parodi, the third editor, and honors her passion and enthusiasm for the project even [End Page 565] when in failing health. Her research and influence are clearly visible throughout the book. The introduction is followed by seventeen chapters that focus on specific language-contact situations in Mesoamerica and beyond. The non-Mesoamerican languages include Apache, Garifuna, Mochica, and Hibito-Cholón, and languages of the Orinoco basin.

The first four chapters examine the influence of Spanish on Indigenous languages in Mesoamerica. In Ch. 2, James K. Watters explores the influence of Spanish on Tlachichilco Tepehua and Pisaflores Tepehua. He describes structure-preserving effects, such as the borrowing of infinitives from Spanish which are then inflected with Tepehua morphology; structure-changing effects, such as the change from a three-vowel system to a five-vowel system, triggered in part by the Spanish vowel inventory; and structure-preferring effects, such as the preference in Tlachichilco Tepehua for the periphrastic progressive (similar to the Spanish progressive) over the suffixed form of the progressive that is preferred in Pisaflores Tepehua.

Ch. 3, by Rosemary G. Beam de Azcona, describes how Spanish infinitives are borrowed into Coatec, Miahuatec, and Cisyautepecan Zapotec as nouns in light verb constructions ('do', 'make', 'become', etc.). The borrowed infinitives fit into the NP object slot in these constructions. This is consistent with a general crosslinguistic preference for borrowing nonfinite rather than finite forms, and either using inflection from the matrix language or inserting the nonfinite form into a light verb...


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