Date of Award

January 2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Linguistics

First Advisor

John M. Clifton

Abstract

This thesis presents findings of research conducted on the relatedness of seven Mixtec varieties spoken in indigenous language communities in western Oaxaca, Mexico. Mixtec varieties vary widely from one community to the next, and it is necessary to determine the relatedness of Mixtec varieties in order to best serve the language development needs of communities. Understanding the relatedness of these varieties is also an important step in measuring their intelligibility.

I used three research tools to gather data: a General Wordlist, a Tone Wordlist, and a Sociolinguistic Questionnaire. I present five analyses: percentage of phonologically similar forms, displaying phonological correspondences using isoglosses, two analyses of tone patterns, and reported intelligibility. Taken together, the first four analyses provide a clear picture of the linguistic relations of the Mixtec varieties studied. The analyses of tone and use of isoglosses are of particular note, as they present new strategies for analyzing unstudied tonal languages and language families. Findings on linguistic relatedness are then compared to the reported intelligibility of native speakers from the Questionnaire. With minor exceptions, the proposed relatedness matches up closely with intelligibility reported by survey participants.

I then clarify how preexisting linguistic designations for this region could be improved, based on my findings. The Ethnologue currently includes all seven of the language varieties surveyed under a single designation, but my findings show that it is necessary to list YUC in a separate designation from the other six communities. The Instituto Nacional de Lenguas Indnas (INALI, National Institute of Indigenous Languages) needs to revise its current designations so that YUC is left under its current designation, the mixteco del oeste alto (High Western Mixtec), while all of the six varieties surveyed should be under the mixteco del oeste (Western Mixtec) designation.

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