Colliding vowel systems in Andean Spanish
Carryovers and emergent properties
The acquisition of the Spanish 5-vowel system by speakers of the 3-vowel language Quechua (/ɪ/-/a/-/ʊ/) seldom results in accurate approximation to Spanish vowel spaces when learning takes place informally in post-adolescence. The present study offers data from a minimal immersion environment in northern Ecuador. In a context in which few cues point to the existence of mid-high vocalic oppositions in Spanish (e.g. no literacy, no corrective feedback, almost no viable minimal pairs), these speakers reliably distinguish only three Spanish vowels in production. These Quechua-dominant bilinguals have amorphous front and back vowel spaces considerably broader than those defining Quechua /ɪ/ and /ʊ/, but with no bimodal clustering. Left relatively unfettered, the hybrid system may contribute to an understanding of the relationship between vowel inventory and vowel space topology.
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