Pertinacity and change in Mapudungun stress assignment


The stress assignment system of contemporary Mapudungun (a.k.a. Araucanian) has long been controversial. This paper reconsiders the system in the light of morphological structure, contrasting the present-day data with the sparse but suggestive historical record spanning 1606-1916. I argue that Mapudungun has undergone changes both to the metrical and morphological domains determining stress position. I show that early lack of weight-sensitivity is quickly replaced by a decidedly weight-sensitive system and that stress appears to have changed from marking the edge of verbal roots, to marking the edge of stems. Crucially, however, certain aspects of the system-such as right-alignment of prosodic units and the left-headedness of feet-show pertinacity: lack of change despite surface alternations. I conclude that stress assignment in Mapudungun is subordinate to morpho-phonological transparency both synchronically and diachronically, such that the hierarchy and position of stress may vary in order to highlight elements of the language’s polysynthetic, agglutinating morphology.

In International Journal of American Linguistics 84(4), 513-58
Benjamín Molineaux
Benjamín Molineaux
Lecturer in Linguistics

I am a historical linguist, working on sounds, spellings, word structure and stress in Mapudungun and Older Scots.