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4. Spanish in Contact with Amerindian Languages


Subject Sociolinguistics » Language Variation and Change

Key-Topics contact, variation

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405198820.2012.00006.x


Contact between Spanish and Amerindian languages began with the arrival of Columbus on the island of Hispaniola (now the Dominican Republic and Haiti) in 1492. The subsequent conquest and expansion of the Spanish crown in the sixteenth century was rapid, taking less than a century ( Boyd-Bowman 1968 ). The sociohistorical characteristics of the contact, however, have varied through time and geographical space. The contact between Spaniards and indigenous populations led to armed confrontations, as well as to the spread of diseases (smallpox and chickenpox, in particular) for which the indigenous peoples did not have biological defenses, provoking forced migrations and deaths ( Cook 1998 ). The conflicts and the impact of diseases continued as the Spaniards expanded their dominance into Meso-America, the northern continent, and South America. Researchers calculate that between 25% and over 50% of the Amerindian population perished due to wars and/or exposure to new diseases, recuperating its numbers only in the eighteenth century ( Sánchez Albornoz 1973 : 22, 108). The first language contact was between Spanish and Arahuac languages in the Caribbean, lasting more than two decades before the conquest of the Aztec empire ( Antillean period , between 1492 and 1519). Various Spanish clergy wrote the first Amerindian grammars during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. These ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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