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Patterns of Linguistic Diffusion in Space and Time: The Case of Mazatec

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Complexity theory is a major interdisciplinary paradigm which provides a unified framework for natural and social sciences. At an operative level, it is based on a combined application of quantitative and qualitative methods at various phases of research, from observations to modeling and simulation, to improve the interpretation of complex phenomena (Anderson in Science 177:393–396 1972; Ross and Arkin in Proc Natl Acad Sci 106:6433–6434 2009). Among the many applications, ranging from physics to biology and the social sciences, the study of language through the methods of complexity theory has become an attractive and promising field of research. In this contribution we consider the complex and interesting case of the Mazatec dialects, an endangered Otomanguean language spoken in south-east Mexico by about 220,000 speakers (SSDSH 20112016; Gudschinsky 1955, 1958).

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  1. 1.

    For more details, see for a complete list of population centers.

  2. 2.

    Northern Midland dialects make up a much diversified group, with San José Independencia, Santa Maria Chilchotla (see Meneses Moreno 2004: 48). According to our ALMaz fieldwork (especially in 2013, see, we can assert that both dialects have a strong drive towards the Huautla phonological and inflectional patterns, although the former is somewhat influenced by IX, and the latter is even more strongly similar to HU.

  3. 3.

    <ï> stands here for a retracted tongue root high velar vowel, as Japanese/u/.







Santo Domingo




San Pedro Ixcatlán




(Santa Maria) Jiotes


San Lorenzo


San Miguel Huautla


San Mateo Yoloxochitlán


San Miguel Soyaltepec


San Jerónimo Tecoatl

(abréviations reprise de Kirk 1966).


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Anirban Chakraborti and Kiran Sharma acknowledge the support by the University of Potential Excellence-II grant (Project ID-47) of JNU, New Delhi, and the DST-PURSE grant given to JNU by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.

Kiran Sharma acknowledges the University Grants Commission (Ministry of Human Research Development, Govt. of India) for her senior research fellowship.

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Correspondence to Jean Léo Léonard .

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Léonard, J.L., Patriarca, M., Heinsalu, E., Sharma, K., Chakraborti, A. (2019). Patterns of Linguistic Diffusion in Space and Time: The Case of Mazatec. In: Massip-Bonet, À., Bel-Enguix, G., Bastardas-Boada, A. (eds) Complexity Applications in Language and Communication Sciences. Springer, Cham.

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