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Friday, October 11 • 2:55pm - 3:20pm
Brogan & Yi: Rethinking the gender paradox in El Salvador: Evidence from /s/ weakening

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Rethinking the gender paradox in El Salvador: Evidence from /s/ weakening

Spanish /s/ weakening has yielded an extensive body of sociolinguistic research over the past half-century. Findings from cross-dialectal studies of this phenomenon have reliably provided support for Labovian principles: women prefer the prestige variant, typically [s], while men produce the lenited variants, [h] and [∅], at significantly higher rates. However, in the Spanish of El Salvador—a dialect that weakens /s/ in both onset and coda positions and shows allophonic variation beyond the traditional tripartite conception of [s]/[h]/[∅]—we find that gender-based patterns of /s/ weakening are decidedly inconsistent with previous findings. That is, Salvadoran women not only weaken /s/ at significantly higher rates than their male counterparts overall, but also use more stigmatized allophone types and lenite in more salient prosodic positions. These results, together with our findings that younger speakers (and younger men, in particular) lenite /s/ at significantly lower rates than their older counterparts, reveal a sociolinguistic landscape in sharp contrast with other /s/ weakening dialects of Spanish. This paper presents these novel findings and argues that the contemporary sociopolitical situation of El Salvador, in tandem with forces like globalization and urbanization, is facilitating a move toward linguistic standardization led by young men.


Franny Brogan

Pomona College

Deborah Yi

Pomona College

Friday October 11, 2019 2:55pm - 3:20pm PDT
EMU Cedar & Spruce
  T: /s/
  • Session type Talk
  • Chair: Erez Levon