Reconstructing the life-cycle of a mixed language: An exploration of Ecuadoran Media Lengua

John M. Lipski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Aims and objectives: This study explores the assertion that bilingual mixed languages are only diachronically stable if they are not spoken together with both of the contributing source languages. Ecuadoran Media Lengua, which combines all-Quichua morphosyntax with nearly all lexical roots replaced by Spanish-derived forms, coexists in three communities with both Spanish and Quichua, having arrived in each community in successive generations. Methodology and design: Trilingual speakers (Quichua, Media Lengua, Spanish) participated in four interactive tasks: speeded translation, speeded acceptability judgments, language classification, and lexical decision. Data and analysis: For each task, the calculated rate of separation of Quichua and Media Lengua was the response variable for a series of linear mixed-effects models, with community (and when appropriate, age group) as a fixed effect. Findings/conclusions: The results suggest that a mixed language spoken together with the languages that supplied both the lexical roots and the morphosyntax can maintain its integrity for a generation or two, but the perceptual boundaries circumscribing the mixed language eventually become more permeable. They point to a significant correlation between the chronology of language contacts and the perceptual stability of Media Lengua, which is greatest when the only competing language is Quichua, somewhat less when Spanish is acquired later as the second language, and lowest when Spanish is one of the early acquired or native languages alongside Quichua. Originality: This is the first attempt to test the putative diachronic stability of a mixed language by means of synchronic experimental data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)410-436
Number of pages27
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingualism
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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