CLS Speaker Series - Isabel Deibel and John Lipski (Penn State University) Licensing adpositions in Media Lengua: Quichua or Spanish?
Licensing adpositions in Media Lengua: Quichua or Spanish?
This study analyzes the distribution of adpositions in Media Lengua, a mixed language found in the northern Ecuadorian region of Imbabura and composed of mainly Quichua grammar and Spanish vocabulary (Muysken 1981). In terms of their linguistic profile, Quichua and Spanish differ fundamentally: While Spanish is a synthetic language employing head-initial prepositional phrases, Quichua is an agglutinating, postpositional language. Little consensus exists in the literature on the exact nature and realization of adpositions in the world’s languages; some have suggested that they straddle the boundary between lexicon and grammar. Since models of generative grammar describe syntactic structures as projections from the lexicon, the neat separation between lexicon and grammar found in Media Lengua can offer interesting insights into the licensing of adpositions in the context of language contact and into their status as a linguistic category. While an earlier study had described Spanish prepositions as alternating with Quichua suffixes or occurring in double constructions (Dikker 2008), the results of the current study underscore the robustness of Quichua morphosyntax and stand in direct contrast to the results found in Dikker 2008.
A group of participants, trilingual in Quichua, Spanish and Media Lengua, participated in a video description task in Media Lengua and a translation task from Spanish or Quichua into Media Lengua. The study was conducted in the villages of Casco Valenzuela, Angla and Pijal, Imbabura, Ecuador, rendering approximately 20 minutes of recorded speech per participant. Results indicate that most adpositional phrases were headed by Quichua postpositions in fulfillment of Quichua structural requirements – even in the contexts of priming in Spanish to Media Lengua translations. Very few Spanish prepositions are found incorporated in Media Lengua in either task and they mostly occurred in frozen expressions or borrowed collocations. Among the few Spanish tokens found, most were embedded with their respective Quichua counterpart postposition. In line with Muysken’s relexification hypothesis (1981), complex adpositional phrases appeared with the Spanish preposition occupying the spot of a Quichua lexical item and hence seem to carry lexical features. However, no simple Spanish prepositions were found incorporated as postpositions, indicating that they carry grammatical instead of lexical features.