Survey and sociolinguistic variation analysis of Kaqchikel word associations
This dissertation centers on the study of Kaqchikel word associations and the social variation that exists within them. Theoretical and methodological considerations for this project stem from the fields of psycholinguistics, variationist sociolinguistics, and cognitive linguistics. Together, these form an approach that fits within a blossoming program of cognitive sociolinguistics that seeks to understand the social drivers and functions of linguistic knowledge. Word associations were gathered from bilingual Kaqchikel-Spanish participants in Guatemala through a free association task, then quantitatively analyzed to see how patterns of association responses correlate with social factors including town identity, age, gender, and language dominance as defined through social and habitual use. Three dependent variables of response language, distribution of shared and idiosyncratic responses, and distribution of response types across participants were targeted to observe whether these different aspects of association patterns significantly corresponded with culturally-relevant and meaningful Kaqchikel social groups. While most participants overall responded in Kaqchikel, there did appear to be an effect of language dominance on response language. Language dominance also seemed to have an effect on group consensus within broad association networks. Town identity, however, was more often a significant factor on whether participants shared specific links among stimulus words and responses. The findings from this dissertation research offer new insights into how associative knowledge of language can be tied to social and cultural factors as they specifically relate to speakers of an indigenous Mayan language that is Kaqchikel.