Department of Spanish and Portuguese
Department of Spanish and Portuguese

Quechua-Spanish bilingualism, prosody and focus: insights from an interactive elicitation task

Antje Muntendam

Thu, January 23, 2014 | BEN 2.104

4:00 PM - 5:00 PM

In this talk, I report the results of a study on Quechua-Spanish bilingualism, prosody and focus. Spanish and Quechua are typologically distant languages that use different strategies to encode focus. In Spanish, focus is said to be encoded in syntax and prosody, whereas in Quechua it is expressed in syntax and morphology. Crucially, prosody is not used to encode focus in Quechua. This study examines what happens when these two languages come into contact.

The research questions are: (a) To what extent do Quechua-Spanish bilinguals use prosody to distinguish between broad and contrastive focus in Quechua and Spanish? and (b) is bilingual Peruvian Spanish affected by language contact? If so, how?

The data come from sixteen adult Quechua-Spanish bilinguals from Peru and eight Peninsular Spanish speakers. The task was a game that was played in pairs. It elicited noun phrases consisting of a noun and an adjective in three different focus conditions: broad focus, contrastive focus on the noun, and contrastive focus on the adjective. The use of different intonation contours across focus conditions was examined. In addition, an acoustic analysis of F0, duration and intensity was performed using Praat.

The results revealed that the prosodic marking of contrastive focus was limited in Peninsular Spanish, bilingual Peruvian Spanish and Quechua. No systematic correspondence was observed between specific contours and focus, and the phonetic marking of contrastive focus was weak and restricted to phrase-final position. Interestingly, two contours were found for bilingual Peruvian Spanish that were present in Quechua, but not in Peninsular Spanish, providing evidence for a prosodic transfer from Quechua to Spanish in Quechua-Spanish bilinguals. The study contributes to research on bilingualism, language contact, prosody and focus.

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