Open Access
Sheetz, Janalyn Anne
Area of Honors:
Interdisciplinary in Spanish and Endangered Languages
Bachelor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Chip Gerfen, Thesis Supervisor
  • Eric Robert White, Honors Advisor
  • John Lipski, Honors Advisor
  • tone
  • Mexico
  • Coatzospan Mixtec
  • endangered language
  • phonetics
  • Phonology
  • downstep
  • tone terracing
With fewer than 5000 native speakers remaining, the Mexican indigenous language of Coatzospan Mixtec (CM) faces potential extinction in coming generations. Spoken only in the remote northern mountains of the Mexican state of Oaxaca in San Juan Coatzospan, the language has received relatively little linguistic documentation, though some fundamental work has been conducted by Pike and Small (1974) and Gerfen (1999). The primary goal of this project is to continue the process of describing this endangered language in the hope of gaining a more complete knowledge of the linguistic systems of tone used around the world. Specifically, this thesis is concerned with the description of how lexical tone is implemented phonetically in CM both in words produced in isolation as well as in combination with other words. Using voice recordings of a selection of single words and two word phrases, the fundamental frequency of the voice was measured and averaged across repetitions to show how the phonological process of terracing downstep influences the fundamental frequencies of an isolated word. The findings show that tone patterns may be affected by adjacent tones when spoken in sentence context. A downstep process phoneme /!/, postulated by Pike and Small (1974), appears to cause downstep when contiguous to an H tone. When adjacent to an L tone it does not show the same downstep effects. The data also show that a shift in H f0 target placement before a lowered H or a L tone may occur in an attempt to further disperse the articulation of adjacent tone targets. L.H. tones that follow /!/ lose their sharp rise but still resist declination while the L target of a L.L. couplet seems to shift rightward and fall sharply.