Natalie Operstein
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A New Model of Intrasegmental Consonant

    My recent study of prevocalization (abstract available here) indicates that all consonant-sized units are inherently bigestural in the sense of including an underlying vocalic component. The basis for this hypothesis was provided by the mismatch between the place specification of the anterior coronals and labials and their prevocalization products, in Maxakalí and other languages (a related 2006 SSILA/LSA handout is available here). The goal of this project is to further develop and refine the suggested model of consonant structure by testing it against other processes and phenomena, including compensatory lengthening, vowel intrusion, and the behavior of syllabic and tone-bearing consonants. A further goal here is to explore the possibility of applying the current model to the analysis and synthesis of speech.

Proto-Zapotec *ty/*tty

    This is an investigation of the dialectal distribution of the reflexes of Proto-Zapotec *ty and *tty. Modern Zapotec languages differ in their treatment of this single/geminate pair, and the exact conditioning environment and dialectal distribution of each reflex may contribute to a refinement of the internal subgrouping of the Zapotec language family. Preliminary results were presented, e.g., at the annual meeting of the SSILA (2006; click here for the handout) and the Congreso de Idiomas Indígenas de Latinoamérica (CILLA II) (2005; click here for the handout).

Fortis/Lenis Contrast in Colonial Zapotec

    This is an investigation of the surface phonetics of fortis/lenis contrast in Colonial Zapotec. While at Proto-Zapotec level the fortis/lenis contrast has been explained as that of geminate versus single (Swadesh 1947), by the time of the earliest written records Zapotec consonants seem to have contrasted already as fortis and lenis. The present approach uses as evidence the treatment of consonants in early Spanish loanwords. Preliminary results were presented, e.g., at the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Ethnohistory (2002) and are summarized in The phonology of fortis/lenis in Zapotec in the light of loanwords from Spanish.

Historical Phonology of Zaniza Zapotec

    This is an on-going investigation of the historical aspects of Zaniza Zapotec phonology based on the available reconstructions (Benton 1988; Kaufman 1994, 2007) and the evidence of borrowings from Spanish. Preliminary results are summarized, e.g., in Spanish loanwords and the historical phonology of Zaniza Zapotec.

A Descriptive Study of Zaniza Zapotec

    One of the goals of this project is to create a dictionary of Zaniza Zapotec, an endangered language from the Papabuco subbranch of Zapotec spoken in and around Santa María Zaniza in western Oaxaca, Mexico (click here for more information).
A preliminary descriptive study of Zaniza Zapotec phonology is contained in Zaniza Zapotec phonology: Synchronic and historical aspects, and the expression of spatial relations is described in Positional verbs in Zaniza Zapotec.