12. Phonological markedness, regional identity, and sex in Mayan: The fricativization of intervocalic /l/

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This paper is a quantitative study of the intervocalic fricativization of /l/, a marked allophonic process across languages, which has nevertheless become a linguistic stereotype of the dialect of K’iche’ Mayan spoken in the township of Santa Maria Chiquimula (MAR) in the highlands of Western Guatemala. Based on the quantitative analysis of 1856 tokens of intervocalic /l/ from sociolinguistic interviews and recordings of 85 speakers (34 women and 51 men), I will show that it is precisely its status as a regional stereotype that has led it to override its phonetic markedness to spread throughout the township and beyond as ethnolinguistic marker of MAR. A pattern of sociolinguistic variation has emerged in which women lead over men in frequency of the fricative variant. There is also variation related to frequency of contact with speakers of other dialects. Men are more sensitive to the stigmatization of fricativized /l/ due to their more frequent contact with speakers of other dialects of K’iche’, and therefore accommodate more than women, contradicting the well known sociolinguistic principle that women tend to avoid stigmatized forms more than men.


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