Syncretic discourse markers in Kichwa-influenced Spanish: Transfer vs. emergence

John M. Lipski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


In the Andean highlands of South America, the predominant indigenous language, Quechua, frequently produces phonetic and morphosyntactic effects on regional varieties of Spanish. Popular accounts of Quechua-influenced Spanish depict a picturesque jumble of mismatched vowels and erratic morphological agreement, while linguistic descriptions have concentrated on double possessives, O-V word order, and the overuse of gerunds. The underlying assumption is that Quechua-dominant bilinguals inconsistently mix Quechua-like configurations into their imperfectly acquired Spanish, while fluent Andean Spanish retains only slight traces of language contact. The present study draws on data from northern Ecuador, where Quechua-dominant bilinguals exhibit the beginnings of a hybrid morphological system based on two discourse markers that reflect the realities of both Spanish and Quechua: -ca (derived from the Quechua topicalizer -ka), and -tan (apparently derived from Spanish también 'also'). An analysis of the Ecuadoran data reveals that -ca in Quechua-influenced Spanish often signals topic (assumed information) much as in Quechua. It is also postulated that -ca has its origin in non-fluent bilinguals' incomplete suppression of Kichwa grammar when producing Spanish. The Ecuadoran data also suggest that -tan has developed into a syncretic marker combining reflexes of Kichwa -pash 'also, even' and the validator -mi, variably indicating focus and/or evidentiality as well as embodying innovative characteristics not directly derivable from Quechua sources. Data from a (Quechua-influenced) Spanish-to-Quechua translation task are used to further explore possible Kichwa sources for -ca and -tan.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)216-239
Number of pages24
Issue numberPB
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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