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Doctoral dissertation project of María Nuria Martínez García

Syllable structure in Yucatec Spanish (working title)

Yucatec Spanish presents several peculiarities when compared to other varieties of (Mexican) Spanish. Because of the historical usage of Yucatec Maya in the region and the fact that a sizeable number of speakers are bilingual, several authors have tried to determine which particularities of the Spanish variety are related to Maya. Authors agree on the Maya causation of several phenomena, but not of all. In this proposal it is assumed that the Yucatec Spanish syllable presents certain characteristics due to contact with Yucatec Maya, although variability among speakers according to their Spanish–Maya level of proficiency is expected.

The reviewed literature allows to propose that Yucatec Spanish shows a tendency to maintain syllabic margins by means of glottal insertion and the maintenance of coda consonants because of Yucatec Maya influence. Consequently, this research focuses on this possibility and also considers whether a CVC syllable structure can be defended for this variety of Spanish. Furthermore, because these characteristics can be attributed to Maya influence, they are hypothesized to vary according to the degree of bilingualism of the speakers, so that being more fluent in Yucatec Maya than in Yucatec Spanish is correlated with a larger presence of these characteristics. Nevertheless, the possibility that glottal insertion might be explained not in terms of syllable structure but in terms of prosodic position is taken into consideration.

Syllabic structure hasn’t yet been researched in studies about Yucatec Spanish nor glottalization has been studied as a possible index of prosodic domains in this variety (although some authors point out in this direction, that is, that glottalization is probably to be studied within prosody). This study is closely related to language acquisition, language contact and eventually language change theories. It also possibilitates research of the relationship between segmental and suprasegmental phenomena. Finally, it allows for subsequent articulatory and perception studies, which can support or contradict the acoustic findings of this research.


Short biography

Nuria Martínez García graduated in Spanish Language and Literature and in Linguistics. Shortly thereafter, she focused on working as a teacher of Spanish in several universities and high schools in a number of countries around the world. Related to her current research is the Master of Arts in Phonetics and Phonology that she completed at Menéndez Pelayo International University in Madrid. The M. A. thesis revolved around transitional probabilities and syllabic structure in Spanish. Afterwards she worked as copy and proofreader for several publications and also as a teacher of language. Since March 2017 she works in Project A05–Prominence marking and language contact in Spanish of the SFB 1252. Her interests are phonetics, language acquisition (especially of foreign languages) and language teaching.

Contact: n.martinezgarcia(at)uni-koeln.de


Cover photo: A spectrogram (Photo: María Nuria Martínez García) // Portrait photo: Patric Fouad