Bilingualism: Language and Cognition

Convergence and intonation: historical evidence from Buenos Aires Spanish 1

a1 University of Toronto
a2 Laboratorio de Investigaciones Sensoriales, CONICET, Argentina

Article author query
colantoni l   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
gurlekian j   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


In this paper we present experimental evidence showing that Buenos Aires Spanish differs from other Spanish varieties in the realization of pre-nuclear pitch accents and in the final fall in broad focus declarative utterances. Whereas other Spanish varieties have been described consistently as showing late peak alignments, Buenos Aires Spanish displays early peak alignments. The alignment pattern found in Buenos Aires broad focus declarative utterances is not totally foreign to Spanish: it is attested in a quite different function, i.e. to signal contrastive focus. In addition, Buenos Aires Spanish also seems to differ from other Spanish varieties in the realization of the intonation contour in utterance-final intonational phrases, where a pronounced tendency for down-stepped peaks is observed. We argue that these patterns, which emerged at the turn of the twentieth century, and coincided with the peak of Italian immigration, are due to a combination of direct and indirect transfer from Italian. As a result, two intonational systems that were typologically similar before contact took place (Hualde, 2002) became more similar after contact, in what can be interpreted as a case of convergence.

(Received January 19 2004)
(Revised February 16 2004)
(Accepted February 24 2004)

c1 Address for correspondence: Laura Colantoni, University of Toronto, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Northrop Frye Hall 304, 73 Queen's Park Crescent, Toronto, ON M5S 1K7, Canada, E-mail:


1 We thank José I. Hualde, Rafael Núñez-Cedeño and Sarah Thomason for their generous comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. All errors remain our own.