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Unbalanced Language Contact and the Struggle for Survival: Bridging Diachronic and Synchronic Perspectives on Nahuatl

  • Justyna Olko (a1)

Abstract

Looking at the Spanish impact on Nahuatl both in its full historical trajectory and modern synchronic dimension, I focus on the differentiation between ‘balanced’, long-term language contact and ‘unbalanced’ contact leading to rapid language shift in contemporary indigenous communities. I discuss the connection between accelerated contact-induced language change and language endangerment and shift, highlighting and assessing the mutually interdependent extra- and inter-linguistic variables that influence and shape both processes. Of special importance is the synchronic variation linked to speakers’ proficiency that influences language transmission in the diachronic perspective. On the basis of extensive fieldwork and linguistic documentation I identify several types of Nahuatl speakers as agents of this accelerated language change which leads to individual attrition and shift at the community level. This kind of multidisciplinary approach, taking into account both historical and modern data, can also potentially be useful for other minority languages in the scenario of long-term contact with a dominant language.

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Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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