Colliding vowel systems in Andean Spanish: Carryovers and emergent properties

John Lipski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The acquisition of the Spanish 5-vowel system by speakers of the 3-vowel language Quechua (/I/-/a/-/&z.pupsil;/) seldom results in accurate approximation to Spanish vowel spaces when learning takes place informally in post-adolescence. The present study offers data from a minimal immersion environment in northern Ecuador. In a context in which few cues point to the existence of mid-high vocalic oppositions in Spanish (e.g. no literacy, no corrective feedback, almost no viable minimal pairs), these speakers reliably distinguish only three Spanish vowels in production. These Quechua-dominant bilinguals have amorphous front and back vowel spaces considerably broader than those defining Quechua /I/ and /&z.pupsil;/, but with no bimodal clustering. Left relatively unfettered, the hybrid system may contribute to an understanding of the relationship between vowel inventory and vowel space topology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-121
Number of pages31
JournalLinguistic Approaches to Bilingualism
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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