Sociolinguistic variation and linguistic history in Mayan: The case of K’ichee’

Sergio Francisco Romero, University of Pennsylvania


The literature on Mayan languages has given little attention to the internal and external factors involved in language change. This dissertation is a study of language variation and change in K'ichee' focusing in the dialect spoken in Santa Maria Chiquimula, Guatemala (MAR). The following variables were examined: intervocalic fricativization of /l/, rise of a post-verbal negator and adoption of Spanish loanwords. Diachronic data from Colonial grammars, from native speaker texts and from Leonard Schultze-Jena's ethnographic corpus from 1923 was quantitatively analyzed, as well as synchronic data from monolingual interviews in MAR (n=88). The fricativization of intervocalic /l/, a linguistic stereotype of MAR, was found to show stylistic variation, in which the stereotyped allomorph [δ] was more frequent among women of all age groups. The diachronic stages in the rise of post-verbal negators follow Jespersen's Cycle as formulated in Jespersen (1917). It has been ongoing since the middle of the 17th century with women as the leaders. Borrowing from Spanish has been mostly lexical: its structural impact has been limited, despite the high number of loanwords. The case of K'ichee' indicates that the main forces driving language diversification in Mayan are internal. The impact of dialect and language contact is basically lexical. The social variables that correlate with ongoing change are sex and age group.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Romero, Sergio Francisco, "Sociolinguistic variation and linguistic history in Mayan: The case of K’ichee’" (2006). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3225532.