Stability of Nahuatl and Spanish intonation systems of bilingual Nahuatl speakers from the Mexican Veracruz Huasteca region

Author(s): Eduardo Patricio Velázquez Patiño


In Veracruz Huasteca Nahuatl interrogatives, we found that there is a higher preference for L*+H (late rise) ascending prenuclear and nuclear tones. Initial and final boundary tones, as well as the first prenuclear tone, are highly variable, though they seem to conform to general voice production mechanisms, which are common to most languages. The aim of this paper is to show that there are no identical intonation patterns between similar sentences in Nahuatl and in the Spanish dialect spoken by bilingual Nahuatl speakers. However, their patterns are very similar to those of Spanish speakers from the same region. The native Nahuatl speakers who took part in this study are university students and have been bilingual since childhood. Thus, apparently, they do not seem to incorporate prosodic characteristics from Nahuatl into Spanish, rather they clearly differentiate both systems. The obvious differences regarding Central Mexican Spanish are easily explainable as sociolectal or geolectal differences because the Nahuatl speakers are in contact with speakers of a rural Spanish dialect of the Veracruz Huasteca Region. Nevertheless, they also seem to be affected by pragmatic and attitudinal factors due to the nature and conditions of the applied Communicative Situations Questionnaire.