Spontaneous nasalization in the development of afro-hispanic language

John M. Lipski

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Afro-Hispanic or bozal Spanish, from the sixteenth century to the early twentieth century, exhibited numerous cases of “epenthetic” nasal consonants, exemplified by Punto Rico < Puerto Rico; Umbre < libre ‘free’; pincueso < pescuezo ‘neck’; and monosyllabic clitics such as Ion < lo(s), lan < la(s), and so on. The present study, based on a comparison of Afro-Hispanic (AH) language data from a wide range of regions and time periods, provides alternative models for spontaneous nasalization. The first involves vowel nasalization, analyzed as the linking of a free (nasal) autosegment to the first available vowel of relevant words; Spanish speak-ers in turn reinterpreted the nasal vowels as a nasal consonant homorganic to the preceding consonant. Cases of apparent word-final nasal epenthesis, invariably involving phrase-internal clitics, resulted from prenasalization of following word-initial obstruents, a well-documented process in Afro- Iberian linguistic contacts. The preference for voiced obstruents to pre-nasalize is attributed to the lack of the normal fricative pronunciation of /Ь/, /d/, and /g/in AH speech. In general, Spanish voiced obstruents are pro-nounced as stops only following nasals. The stop pronunciation of /Ь/, /dl, and /g/by AH speakers was reinterpreted as an additional Root node, to which a floating (nasal) autosegment could be linked. AH nasalization generally seems to stem from Africans’ underspecification of Spanish vow-els and consonants, resulting from the precarious conditions under which Spanish was learned by speakers of various African languages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)261-305
Number of pages45
JournalJournal of Pidgin and Creole Languages
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 15 1992

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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