1. Facts
  2. Sources of the data
  3. Orthography
  4. Verb types
  5. Inflectional classes by prefixes
  6. Inflectional classes by tone


Zenzontepec Chatino is a Chatino language of the Zapotecan branch of Oto-Manguean. The language is spoken by about 8,000 people in the locality of Santa Cruz Zenzontepec in the state of Oaxaca.

Sources of the data

Data courtesy of Eric Campbell.

Campbell, Eric and Troi Carleton. Diccionario del idioma chatino de Santa Cruz Zenzontepec, Oaxaca; Chatino-Castellano. Mexico City: INALI.

Campbell, Eric. 2014. Aspects of the phonology and morphology of Zenzontepec Chatino, a Zapotecan language of Oaxaca, Mexico. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas at Austin. Available online.

Campbell, Eric. 2011. Zenzontepec Chatino aspect morphology and Zapotecan verb classes. International Journal of American Linguistics 77(2):219-46. Available online.

Campbell, Eric. Accepted. Layered complexity in Zenzontepec Chatino verbal inflectional classes, in Enrique L. Palancar, Matthew Baerman and Timothy Feist (eds.), Inflectional complexity: New lights from the Oto-Manguean languages of Mexico.


IPA notation
Source notation
NASALITY į, ą, etc. (hook)
ʔ ʔ
ʃ x
ts tz
h h
j y


Zenzontepec Chatino has two level tones, but there are also words with morae which bear no lexical tone.

2 H High
1 M Medium
_ X No tone

Note: morae with no tone are observed in tonal sandhi effects.

Verb types

Verbs in Chatino can be basic, derived or compounds. Derived verbs mainly include Causatives (with a set of different causative prefixes, mainly u-) and Iteratives. Causative verbs are no longer the outcome of a productive derivational rule, and should be viewed as lexicalized items. The database provides information about the status of non-basic verbs with a schematic gloss in Spanish taken directly from the source data, e.g. –u¹-hni² (tr) [CAUS-crecer] ‘lengthen’.

Inflectional classes by prefixes

Zenzontepec Chatino is the most conservative Chatino language. Verbs in this language inflect for four aspect-mood values: Completive, Potential, Habitual and Progressive. Campbell (2011) proposes the existence of various inflectional classes, which he groups into three main types A, B and C, following a traditional proposal by Kaufman (1987). In the notation of the different classes, these capital letters are then followed by a lower case letter which mainly points to a phonological property of the stem. Some examples of Campbell's inflectional classes are presented below.

Class CPL POT HAB PROG Example
Ac nka-sesu ki-sesu nti-sesu nte-sesu ‘turn’ (intr)
Au nka¹-ra² k-u¹ra² nt-u¹ra² nte¹-ra² ‘hit’ (tr)
At nka-tehę¹ tyehę¹ n-tyehę¹ nte-tehę¹ ‘have diarrhea’ (intr)
A2 nkwi¹-so²ʔ ki-so¹ʔ nti-so¹ʔ nte-so¹ʔ ‘pick’ (tr)
Bc nku-hna² ki-hna¹ nti-hna¹ nte¹-hna² ‘flee’ (intr)
Bt nku-tyehna¹ tyehna¹ n-tyehna¹ nte-tyehna¹ ‘start’ (intr/tr)
By nk-ya²na¹ ch_ana n-ch-ana nte-y-a²na¹ ‘wilt’ (intr)
Ca ke²ʔ k-a¹ke²ʔ nti¹-ke²ʔ nch-ake¹ʔ ‘cook’ (intr)
C2 y-aku k-aku nt-aku nch-aku ‘eat’ (intr/tr)

NOTE: c: consonant; u: stem with onset in /u/; a: stem with onset in /a/; t: stem with onset in /t/; y: stem with onset in /j/.

Because of their morphological complexity, the database presents all forms of all verbs.

Inflectional classes by tone

Independently from aspect-mood prefixes and their organization, tone also plays a role in verbal inflection (see Campbell, accepted, for details). For example, of the above verbs, there are two fundamental types: invariable and variable verbs.

NOTE: As Potential and Habitual share the same tone, only Potential is illustrated.

NOTE: No-tone is indicated by X.

Invariable verbs – Verbs which do not change tonal melody across the different aspect-mood forms:

CPL POT PROG Example Class
X-X nka-seˣsuˣ ki-seˣsuˣ nte-seˣsuˣ ‘turn’ (intr) Ac
y-aˣkuˣ k-aˣkuˣ nch-aˣkuˣ ‘eat’ (intr/tr) C2
1-2 nka¹-ra² k-u¹ra² nte¹-ra² ‘hit’ (tr) Au
X-1 nka-teˣhę¹ tyeˣhę¹ nte-teˣhę¹ ‘have diarrhea’ (intr) At
nku-tyeˣhna¹ tyeˣhna¹ nte-tyeˣhna¹ ‘start’ (intr/tr) Bt

Variable verbs – Verbs which fall into different tonal classes:

CPL POT PROG Example Class
2,1,1 nkwi¹-so²ʔ ki-so¹ʔ nte-so¹ʔ ‘pick’ (tr) A2
2,1,2 nku-hna² ki-hna¹ nte¹-hna² ‘flee’ (intr) Bc
2-1, X-X, 2-1 nk-ya²na¹ ch_aˣnaˣ nte-y-a²na¹ ‘wilt’ (intr) By
_2, 1-2, X-1 ke²ʔ k-a¹ke²ʔ nch-aˣke¹ʔ ‘cook’ (intr) Ca

Given their lexical specificity, the database also includes information about the schematic tonal structure of all forms.