7. A sociolinguistic sketch of vowel shifts in Kaqchikel: ATR-RTR parameters and redundancy markedness of syllabic nuclei in an Eastern Mayan language

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Kaqchikel, a Quichean language of the Guatemalan Highlands, is well known for its Tense/Lax Vowel Contrast (TLVC) and the wide range of dialect variation of its vowel system, but the acoustic properties of its vocoids have never been scrutinized. A preliminary survey of the speech of ten informants from four sub-dialect areas, with a focus on San Juan Comalapa, shows regular patterns of variation according to degree of tongue-root fronting or backing (ATR and RTR), along with unexpected clues of a lingering Proto-Mayan length correlation. Emerging vowel shifts are described and traced to the Colonial era and to more recent social upheavals. A striking regularity of dialect patterns is observed when Kaqchikel is viewed as a diasystem.


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