Intonation in Palenquero

José Ignacio Hualde, Armin Schwegler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The least understood aspect of Palenquero phonology is its intonational system. This is a serious gap, as it is precisely in the realm of prosody that the most striking phonological differences between Palenquero and (Caribbean) Spanish are apparent. Although several authors have speculated that African influence may be at the source of Palenquero's peculiar intonation, to date published research offers no detailed information about the intonation of the creole. The goal of this study is to remedy this situation. Here we identify several specific intonational features where conservative (or older-generation) Palenquero differs from (Caribbean) Spanish. One of these features is a strong tendency to use invariant word-level contours, with a H tone on the stressed syllable and L tones on unstressed syllables, in all sentential contexts, including prenuclear positions. A second feature that we have identified is the use of a sustained phrase-final high or mid level contour in declaratives accented on the final syllable, and a long fall it declaratives; accented on the penult. The final section addresses the issue of the possible origin of these intonational features. We point out similarities with Equatorial Guinea Spanish and conclude that, at some point in the history of Palenquero, the Spanish prosodic system was interpreted as involving lexical tone, in conformity with claims in the literature regarding several Atlantic creoles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-31
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Pidgin and Creole Languages
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2008


  • Accent
  • Bantu
  • Colombia
  • Creole
  • Intonation
  • Palenque
  • Palenquero
  • Prosody
  • Spanish
  • Substrate
  • Tone
  • Vowel lengthening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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