Pertinacity and change in Mapudungun stress assignment

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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 om 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 le -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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)513-558
JournalInternational Journal of American Linguistics
Issue number4
Early online date29 Sep 2018
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


  • Mapudungun
  • stress
  • phonology
  • historical linguistics
  • Native American languages
  • Araucanian
  • language change
  • missionary grammars
  • morphophonology


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