On the relevance of voice quality in contact varieties
Non-modal phonation type in Afro-Yungueño Spanish
This paper focuses on the role of voice quality variation in the system of a contact language, Afro-Yungueño Spanish, a restructured variety of Spanish spoken in the Bolivian Yungas valleys. Based on case studies of naturally occurring conversation between multiple speakers, we show that certain non-modal phonation types, in this case falsetto and breathy voice, are used to index expressiveness, intensification, or emphasis. We argue that these practices have discursive meaning that could otherwise also be encoded by means of grammatical and lexical resources, and that they are an integral part of the linguistic system of this variety. We claim that these practices may have resulted from the specific socio-historical context in which this variety evolved. This suggests that voice quality and ecological factors should not be underestimated in order to reach a more complete picture of how meaning is conveyed in apparently simplified contact languages.