The phonology and morphology of Zacatepec eastern Chatino



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This dissertation presents an analysis of the phonology and some aspects of the morphology of Zacatepec Eastern Chatino (ISO 639-3: ctz), an Otomanguean language of the Zapotecan branch spoken near the Pacific coast of the State of Oaxaca, Mexico. It is based on primary data obtained from fieldwork conducted by the author (from 2006 to 2013) in the community of San Marcos Zacatepec, district of Juquila, Oaxaca, Mexico. Zacatepec Chatino is only spoken in that small community of about one thousand inhabitants. There are only about 300 speakers left, all above 50 years old. This variety of Chatino finds itself in an advanced language shift to Spanish, and as a result its vitality status is considered severely endangered. The description of Zacatepec Chatino is important within the study of Chatino languages in general, as contrary to most other Chatino varieties, it conserves all non-final syllables of its roots. This fact makes it a centerpiece for the Chatino language puzzle as its transparent morphology tells the story of the evolution of more innovative Chatino varieties. Indeed, beyond simply revealing lost segments/morphemes, it provides polymoraic structures that host clear sequences of tones that are not discernable in the monosyllabic/monomoraic varieties. The phonological analysis begins with a presentation of the segmental sound system, including two of the three contrastive supra-segmental features: nasalization and vowel length. Nasal vowels and long vowels are described together with oral vowels whereas tone, is dealt with in detail in a separate chapter. Directly following the segmental analysis, a chapter is devoted to the phonotactics of the language. Tone, being the hallmark of Otomanguean languages, is an area of the phonology that is described in great detail. The tonal system is intricate as it involves four levels of pitch represented in five mora-linked tones and three unlinked (floating) tones arranged in many tonal sequences which become the signatures for lexical classes. Furthermore, polysyllabicity allows for many moraic shapes resulting in a variety of possible phonetic realizations of the tonal sequences which mark the tonal Classes. The other highlight of this dissertation is a chapter dedicated to the description of the inflectional system, an area revealed to be quite com plex at the morphological and the morphophonological level. Nevertheless, despite its prima facie maze of irregularities, this intricate inflectional system actually presents a high rate of predictability in its segmental (aspect prefixes) and tonal conjugation Classes. This chapter describes the different patterns of inflection (segmental and tonal) for three different parts of speech: the verb, the inalienable noun, and the predicative adjective. The last chapter is devoted to the description of the numerical system which is interesting because the numerical phrases do not always follow the tonal sandhi rules of the language, and often result in idiosyncratic tonal patterns. It is important to document and describe this ancient numerical system as the language is in advanced language shift to Spanish. Its usage is loosing ground very rapidly and usually, when speakers need to count or utter a number (especially one above 15), they code-switch to Spanish. This work is a first step towards a comprehensive documentation of Zacatepec Chatino, which as of today, includes a large corpus of natural discourse recorded within the community by native speakers (about 170 hours), a collection of transcribed and translated texts, and a lexicon and verb database with full paradigms for more than 300 verb roots. The corpus is archived with open access at the Archive of Indigenous Languages of Latin America, University of Texas at Austin, and at the Endangered Languages Archive, School of Oriental and African Studies, London.