Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

A ‘Small’ Language in Contact with a ‘Big’ One: The Loss of the Alienability Distinction in Tének (Mayan) under Spanish Influence

  • Elwira Sobkowiak (a1) and Marcin Kilarski (a2)

Abstract

In this paper we discuss changes in possession marking in Tének (also Teenek, Huastec), a Mayan language spoken in Mexico. While traditionally only alienable possession is marked overtly with the suffix -il attached to the possessed noun, the marker of alienable possession is being extended in the speech of young and socially mobile Tének speakers to contexts traditionally lacking overt possession marking. We attribute this extension to changes in social and cultural patterns in Tének communities. Thus, we show that the choice of possession marking in modern Tének is sensitive to both semantic factors and the socio-cultural background of Tének speakers, including such factors as age as well as the degree of social mobility and exposure to Spanish. In addition, we interpret these developments in terms of ongoing simplification in Tének morphology. We thus take a more general view of grammatical categories as shaped not only by internal developments but also changing cultural and social patterns.

Copyright

References

Hide All
1. Bally, C. (1926) L’expression des idées de sphère personnelle et de solidarité dans les langues indo-européennes. In: F. Fankhauser and J. Jud (Eds), Festschrift Louis Gauchat (Aarau: H.R. Sauerländer), pp. 68–78. Translated by C. Béal and H. Chappell as C. Bally (1995) The expression of concepts of the personal domain and indivisibility in Indo-European languages. In: H. Chappell and W. McGregor (Eds), The Grammar of Inalienability: A Typological Perspective on Body Part Terms and the Part–Whole Relation (Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter), pp. 31–61.)
2. Seiler, H. (1983) Possession as an Operational Dimension of Language (Tübingen: Gunter Narr).
3. Suárez, J.A. (1983) The Mesoamerican Indian Languages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
4. Campbell, L., Kaufman, T. and Smith-Stark, T. C. (1986) Meso-America as a linguistic area. Language, 62(3), pp. 530570.
5. Lewis, M. P., Simons, G.F. and Fennig, C.D. (2016) Ethnologue: Languages of the World (Dallas: SIL International).
6. INEGI (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía) (2015) Lenguas indígenas en México y hablantes (de 3 años y más) al 2015. Encuesta Intercensal 2015. Available online: http://cuentame.inegi.org.mx/hipertexto/todas_lenguas.htm.
7. Edmonson, B.W. (1988) A Descriptive Grammar of Huastec (Potosino Dialect) (Tulane University).
8.The following abbreviations are used: 1 first person, 3 third person, A ergative, det determiner, poss possessive, sg singular. Tének has no standard orthography. The examples from other sources are cited in the original orthography, while the examples elicited in our study are given in the form used by the speakers in the questionnaire.
9. Maldonado, R. (1994) Iconic proximity in Veracruz Huastec possessives. In: R. Zavala Maldonado (Ed.), Estudios sobre lenguas mayas (Guadalajara: Universidad de Guadalajara), pp. 125.
10.The online version of the questionnaire can be found at https://goo.gl/jzaTsz. The form was distributed among Tének native speakers via Tének Facebook groups, instant messaging and email.
11.Here we acknowledge the limitations imposed by relying on earlier accounts as evidence of a ‘traditional pattern’: as pointed out by Danny Law (personal communication), it is an open question to what degree these two admittedly relatively recent sources are representative of an earlier stage in the usage of possession marking in Tének.
12. Chappell, H. and McGregor, W. (1989) Alienability, inalienability and nominal classification. In: K. Hall, M. Meacham and R. Shapiro (Eds), Proceedings of the Fifteenth Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society (Berkeley: Berkeley Linguistics Society), pp. 2436.
13. de Vidas, A.A. (2007) La otra cara de la figura del indio: La visión teenek de ‘lo indio’. Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos.
14. Kockelman, P. (2010) Inalienable possessions: What hearts, mothers, and shadows have in common. In: P. Kockelman (Ed.), Language, Culture, and Mind: Natural Constructions and Social Kinds (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), pp. 1451.
15. Trudgill, P. (2011) Sociolinguistic Typology: Social Determinants of Linguistic Complexity (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
16. Field, F.W. (2002) Linguistic Borrowing in Bilingual Contexts (Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins).
17. Olko, J. (2018) Unbalanced language contact and the struggle for survival: Bridging diachronic and synchronic perspectives on Nahuatl. European Review, 26(1), this issue.
18. Dahl, Ö. (2004) The Growth and Maintenance of Linguistic Complexity (Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins).
19. Givón, T. (1979) On Understanding Grammar (New York: Academic Press).
20. Givón, T. (2005) Context as Other Minds: The Pragmatics of Sociality, Cognition and Communication (Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins).

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed