Sociolinguistic Effects in Consonant Prevocalization in Maxakalí

Mário André Coelho Silva


Maxakalí is a Macro-Jê language, from the Maxakalí family, spoken by about 2000 people in Mucuri River Valley, Minas Gerais, Brazil. One phenomenon regarding its phonology is the prevocalization of all its consonants when in coda position. Although common in world languages (OPERSTEIN, 2010), prevocalization usually applies in liquid consonants, but as Maxakalí has neither rhotics nor laterals, this becomes a typologically interesting fact. Another thing about the lenition of consonants in Maxakalí is that one same speaker may vary between a complete consonantal realization up to a complete vocalic allophone of coda, forming a continuum. By collecting data from 18 subjects from one Maxakalí village, stratified for both age and gender, we were able to verify to which extent these two factors were active in this variation. It seems that both factors are, in fact, statistically relevant for this variation. On the one hand, age reveals that it is a variation in apparent time – added to 19th and 20th centuries historical wordlists, it seems that this is a change in progress. On the other hand, gender reveals us, at least partially, that the configuration of the Maxakalí society and the different gender functions are reflected in each gender’s speech.


Indigenous languages; Maxakalí; phonology; prevocalization; sociolinguistics

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CHIMERA Romance Corpora and Linguistic Studies

ISSN: 2386-2629