Madison Adams, a rising senior at UVa-Wise, is spending her summer investigating ways that contact between Mayan and Spanish in the Yucatan Peninsula has had an impact on the variety of Spanish spoken in that area.

The Norton, Virginia resident received a summer research stipend to work on her project, and her preliminary findings are promising.

“I have been working since May to identify possible research questions and to identify differences in the Spanish of the Yucatan,” Adams said. “Maya is spoken by many people in that area, so I believe that there has been some contact-induced influences in their Spanish.”

In just a few weeks Adams, a Spanish major, has identified some research questions that she says have not been studied closely. She plans to use those questions to develop experiments that will continue previous research made in the field of contact linguistics.

“My focus is the phonetics and phonology of Yucatan Spanish and how it is influenced by Maya,” Adams explained. “I have identified the differences of sounds between the two languages. I have studied the sounds of Maya and Spanish and how they are each manifested in real life speaking.”

Adams has identified two major studies that she hopes to carry out and continue in graduate school. One study is how the phoneme “(l)“ is pronounced in coda position. The other study is how the allophones “b, d, and g” are being pronounced among younger Spanish speakers.

Adams discovered her interest in linguistics after she arrived at UVa-Wise. Her original plan was to major in biology.

“I became interested in language study during my freshman year,” she said. “I realized that I had a huge passion for learning about language. As my study of Spanish carried on, I realized that I was very interested in linguistics, but I still love the literature and historical part of it as well.”

Her faculty and project advisor is Christine Weissglass, assistant professor of Spanish. They are working together on the project as part of the College’s emphasis on student-faculty research.

In addition to her plans to further the research project once she is in graduate school, her plans are to focus in Hispanic linguistics. After graduate school Adams wants to work toward a doctorate degree. Her ultimate goal is to become a translator or a professor. In the meantime, her summer research will give her plenty of work to do on campus this fall.