Phonological Variation in Mexico City Jewish Spanish

Lily Schaffer, University of Colorado at Boulder


Contemporary ethnographic studies have highlighted distinct variations in the linguistic repertoires of certain cultural groups. This paper presents the findings from two studies, each assessing a distinct phonological variation in the speech of young people, aged 18-25, in the Jewish community of Mexico City. The first study documents the extent of production of a voiceless uvular fricative, and to a lesser degree, a voiceless uvular trill, as allophones of the voiceless velar fricative /x/. The second study documents the realization of word medial /sr/ clusters in the word Israel, deemed a shibboleth by Dean-Olmsted, who first noted both variations in her 2012 dissertation. The realization of word medial /sr/ clusters in Mexico City Spanish is varied, but the most common realization is a single segment fricative rhotic, the product of gestural overlap. Among Jewish speakers in the second study, gestural overlap did not occur, and /sr/ cluster realization was marked by full sibilant retention, along with the presence of an epenthetic, homorganic (alveolar) plosive and an epenthetic vowel. Rhotics were realized as alveolar taps. Both phonological variations were shown to be present at a statistically significant level.