1. Facts
  2. Sources of the data
  3. Orthography
  4. Verbal inflection
  5. Inflectional classes
  6. Inflectional class interactions


Matlatzinca belongs to the Atzinca subgroup of the Otomian group of Oto-Pamean, the northern-most branch of Oto-Pamean. It is the sister language of Tlahuica and the two have many structural features in common. Matlatzinca is spoken by less than 700 people in the village of San Francisco Oxtotilpan, in the State of Mexico.

Sources of the data

Data courtesy of Leonardo Carranza.

Carranza, Leonardo. 2012. Flexión verbal del matlatzinca: Marcación de persona-número y de tiempo-aspecto-modo. Unpublished MA dissertation at the Metropolitan Autonomous University of Mexico.

Carranza, Leonardo. 2014. Flexión y clases verbales en matlatzinca. Coloquio sobre lenguas otomangues y vecinas. Paper read at COLOV VI, Oaxaca, Mexico, 24-27, April.


IPA notation Source notation
ʃ x
j y

Verbal inflection

Verbs inflect for at least seven TAM values. The grammatical tenses are called ‘Present’ (in reality an aspectual incompletive), ‘Imperfect’ (a past incompletive), ‘Past’ (a completive), ‘Perfect’, ‘Potential’, ‘Future’ (an irrealis completive), and a ‘Future progressive’ (an irrealis incompletive).

Verbs realize these TAM values by means of a string of prefixes which commonly also index the person of the subject in a cumulative way.

–choti (tr) ‘plant’
PRS 1SG tu-h- choti
1DU.EXCL kwé-n- choti
1DU.INCL kwe-n- choti
1PL.EXCL khwé-n- choti
1PL.INCL khwe-n- choti
2SG ʔí-h- choti
2DU če-n- choti
2PL čhe-n- choti
3SG ku-h- choti
3DU kwé-n- choti
3PL ro-n- choti
IMPRF 1SG tu-h- choti
1DU.EXCL kwé-n-aʔ- choti
1DU.INCL kwe-n-aʔ- choti
1PL.EXCL khwé-n-aʔ- choti
1PL.INCL khwe-n-aʔ- choti
2SG ʔí-h- choti
2DU če-n-aʔ- choti
2PL čhe-n-aʔ- choti
3SG ku-h- choti
3DU kwé-n-aʔ- choti
3PL ro-n-aʔ- choti
PST 1SG t-aʔ- choti
1DU.EXCL kw-aʔ- choti
1DU.INCL kw-aʔ- choti
1PL.EXCL khw-aʔ- choti
1PL.INCL khw-aʔ- choti
2SG ʔ-aʔ- choti
2DU č-aʔ- choti
2PL čh-aʔ- choti
3SG maʔ- choti
3DU kw-aʔ- choti
3PL ro-maʔ- choti
PRF 1SG to- choti
1DU.EXCL ko-bú- choti
1DU.INCL ko- choti
1PL.EXCL kho-bú- choti
1PL.INCL kho- choti
2SG ʔo- choti
2DU čo- choti
2PL čho- choti
3SG tu- choti
3DU tu- choti -we -wí
3PL tu- choti -he
POT 1SG ru- choti
1DU.EXCL ru- choti -we -bí
1DU.INCL ru- choti -we -wí
1PL.EXCL ru- choti -he-bí
1PL.INCL ru- choti -he
2SG ri- choti
2DU ri- choti -we -wí
2PL ri- choti -he
3SG tá-tu- choti
3DU tá-tu- choti -we -wí
3PL tá-tu- choti -he
1SG ru-hoʔ choti
FUT 1DU.EXCL ru-koʔ-koʔ- choti
1DU.INCL ru-koʔ choti
1PL.EXCL ru-khoʔ-khoʔ- choti
1PL.INCL ru-khoʔ choti
2SG ri-ʔoʔ choti
2DU ri-čoʔ choti
2PL ri-čhoʔ choti
3SG tá-hoʔ choti
3DU tá-koʔ choti
3PL tá-hoʔ choti
FUT.PROG 1SG ru-h- choti
1DU.EXCL ru-kwé-n- choti
1DU.INCL ru-kwe-n- choti
1PL.EXCL ru-khwé-n- choti
1PL.INCL ru-khwe-n- choti
2SG ri-ʔí-h- choti
2DU ri-če-n- choti
2PL ri-čhe-n- choti
3SG tá-h- choti
3DU tá-kwé-n- choti
3PL tá-ro-n- choti

NOTE: A suffix marking number (dual or plural) applies when the prefix does not convey a contrast in number by itself, as for example in the 3rd person of the Perfect or in all persons in the Potential.

Inflectional classes

Verbs fall into at least five different classes attending to the set of prefixes they select (e.g. the verb -choti ‘plant’, just illustrated, is a Class I verb). The first three classes contain transitive verbs and are notated with roman numerals as Class I-III. The remaining two classes contain intransitive verbs and are notated as Class 1 and 2.

Class I Class II Class III Class 1 Class 2
tr tr tr intr intr
PRS 1SG tu-h- tu-h-t- tu-tú- tu- tu-te-
1DU.EXCL kwé-n- kwé-n-t- kwé-n-tú- kwé-n- kwé-n-te-
1DU.INCL kwe-n- kwe-n-t- kwe-n-tú- kwe-n- kwe-n-te-
1PL.EXCL khwé-n- khwé-n-t- khwé-n-tú- khwé-n- khwé-n-te-
1PL.INCL khwe-n- khwe-n-t- khwe-n-tú- khwe-n- khwe-n-te-
2SG ʔí-h- ʔí-h-t- ʔí-tú- ʔí- ʔi-te-
2DU če-n- če-n-t- če-n-tú- če-n- če-n-te-
2PL čhe-n- čhe-n-t- čhe-n-tú- čhe-n- čhe-n-te-
3SG ku-h- ku-h-t- ku-tú- ku- ku-te-
3DU kwé-n- kwé-n-t- kwé-n-tú- kwé-n- kwé-n-te-
3PL ro-n- ro-n-t- ro-n-tú- ro-n- ro-n-te-
IMPRF 1SG tu-h- tu-h-t- tu-tú- tu- tu-te-
1DU.EXCL kwé-n-aʔ- kwé-n-aʔ-t- kwé-n-aʔ-tú- kwé-n-aʔ- kwé-n-aʔ-te-
1DU.INCL kwe-n-aʔ- kwe-n-aʔ-t- kwe-n-aʔ-tú- kwe-n-aʔ- kwe-n-aʔ-te-
1PL.EXCL khwé-n-aʔ- khwé-n-aʔ-t- khwé-n-aʔ-tú- khwé-n-aʔ- khwé-n-aʔ-te-
1PL.INCL khwe-n-aʔ- khwe-n-aʔ-t- khwe-n-aʔ-tú- khwe-n-aʔ- khwe-n-aʔ-te-
2SG ʔí-h- ʔí-h-t- ʔí-tú- ʔí- ʔi-te-
2DU če-n-aʔ- če-n-aʔ-t- če-n-aʔ-tú- če-n-aʔ- če-n-aʔ-te-
2PL čhe-n-aʔ- čhe-n-aʔ-t- čhe-n-aʔ-tú- čhe-n-aʔ- čhe-n-aʔ-te-
3SG ku-h- ku-h-t- ku-tú- ku- ku-te-
3DU kwé-n-aʔ- kwé-n-aʔ-t- kwé-n-aʔ-tú- kwé-n-aʔ- kwé-n-aʔ-te-
3PL ro-n-aʔ- ro-n-aʔ-t- ro-n-aʔ-tú- ro-n-aʔ- ro-n-aʔ-te-
PST 1SG t-aʔ- t-aʔ- t-aʔ- t-aʔ- t-aʔ-te-
1DU.EXCL kw-aʔ- kw-aʔ- kw-aʔ- kw-aʔ- kw-aʔ-te-
1DU.INCL kw-aʔ- kw-aʔ- kw-aʔ- kw-aʔ- kw-aʔ-te-
1PL.EXCL khw-aʔ- khw-aʔ- khw-aʔ- khw-aʔ- khw-aʔ-te-
1PL.INCL khw-aʔ- khw-aʔ- khw-aʔ- khw-aʔ- khw-aʔ-te-
2SG ʔ-aʔ- ʔ-aʔ- ʔ-aʔ- ʔ-aʔ- ʔ-aʔ-te-
2DU č-aʔ- č-aʔ- č-aʔ- č-aʔ- č-aʔ-te-
2PL čh-aʔ- čh-aʔ- čh-aʔ- čh-aʔ- čh-aʔ-te-
3SG maʔ- maʔ- maʔ- maʔ- maʔ-te-
3DU kw-aʔ- kw-aʔ- kw-aʔ- kw-aʔ- kw-aʔ-te-
3PL ro-maʔ- ro-maʔ- ro-maʔ- ro-maʔ- ro-maʔ-te-
PRF 1SG to- to- to- t-aʔ- tah-te-
1DU.EXCL ko-bú- ko-bú- ko-bú- kwé-ʔ- kwé-ʔ-be-
1DU.INCL ko- ko- ko- kwe-ʔ- kwe-ʔ-
1PL.EXCL kho-bú- kho-bú- kho-bú- khwé-ʔ- khwé-ʔ-be-
1PL.INCL kho- kho- kho- khwe-ʔ- khwe-ʔ-
2SG ʔo- ʔo- ʔo- ʔí-ʔ- ʔe-ʔ-
2DU čo- čo- čo- če-ʔ- če-ʔ-
2PL čho- čho- čho- čhe-ʔ- čhe-ʔ-
3SG tu- tu- tu- k-aʔ- re-
3DU tu-...-we -wí tu-...-we –wí tu-...-we –wí kwé-ʔ- kwé-ʔ-re-
3PL tu-...-he tu-...-he tu-...-he ro-ʔ- ro-ʔ-re-
POT 1SG ru- ru- ru- ru-h- ru-h-te-
1DU.EXCL ru-...-we -bí ru-...-we -bí ru-...-we -bí ru-kwé-ʔ- ru-kwé-ʔ-be
1DU.INCL ru-...-we -wí ru-...-we -wí ru-...-we -wí ru-kwe-ʔ- ru-kwe-ʔ-
1PL.EXCL ru-...-he -bí ru-...-he -bí ru-...-he -bí ru-khwé-ʔ- ru-khwé-ʔ-be
1PL.INCL ru-...-he ru-...-he ru-...-he ru-khwe-ʔ- ru-khwe-ʔ-
2SG ri- ri- ri- ri-ʔí-ʔ- ri-ʔe-
2DU ri-...-we -wí ri-...-we -wí ri-...-we -wí ri-če-ʔ- ri-če-ʔ-
2PL ri-...-he ri-...-he ri-...-he ri-čhe-ʔ- ri-čhe-ʔ-
3SG tá-tu- tá-tu- tá-tu- tá-ʔ- tá-ʔ-re-
3DU tá-tu-...-we -wí tá-tu-...-we -wí tá-tu-...-we -wí tá-kwé-ʔ- tá-kwé-ʔ-re-
3PL tá-tu-...-he tá-tu-...-he tá-tu-...-he tá-ro-ʔ- tá-ro-ʔ-re-
1SG ru-hoʔ ru-hoʔ-rú- ru-hoʔ-rú- ru-hoʔ ru-hoʔ-re-
FUT 1DU.EXCL ru-koʔ-koʔ- ru-koʔ-koʔ-rú- ru-koʔ-koʔ-rú- ru-koʔ-koʔ- ru-koʔ-koʔ-re-
1DU.INCL ru-koʔ ru-koʔ-rú- ru-koʔ-rú- ru-koʔ ru-koʔ-re-
1PL.EXCL ru-khoʔ-khoʔ- ru-khoʔ-khoʔ-rú- ru-khoʔ-khoʔ-rú- ru-khoʔ-khoʔ- ru-khoʔ-khoʔ-re-
1PL.INCL ru-khoʔ ru-khoʔ-rú- ru-khoʔ-rú- ru-khoʔ ru-khoʔ-re-
2SG ri-ʔoʔ ri-ʔoʔ-rú- ri-ʔoʔ-rú- ri-ʔoʔ ri-ʔoʔ-re-
2DU ri-čoʔ ri-čoʔ-rú- ri-čoʔ-rú- ri-čoʔ ri-čoʔ-re-
2PL ri-čhoʔ ri-čhoʔ-rú- ri-čhoʔ-rú- ri-čhoʔ ri-čhoʔ-re-
3SG tá-hoʔ tá-hoʔ-rú- tá-hoʔ-rú- tá-hoʔ tá-hoʔ-re-
3DU tá-koʔ tá-koʔ-rú- tá-koʔ-rú- tá-koʔ tá-koʔ-re-
3PL tá-hoʔ tá-hoʔ-rú- tá-hoʔ-rú- tá-hoʔ tá-ro-hoʔ-re-
FUT.PROG 1SG ru-h- ru-h-t- ru-h- ru-h- ru-h-te-
1DU.EXCL ru-kwé-n- ru-kwé-n-t- ru-kwé-n-tú- ru-kwé-n- ru-kwé-n-te-
1DU.INCL ru-kwe-n- ru-kwe-n-t- ru-kwe-n-tú- ru-kwe-n- ru-kwe-n-te-
1PL.EXCL ru-khwé-n- ru-khwé-n-t- ru-khwé-n-tú- ru-khwé-n- ru-khwé-n-te-
1PL.INCL ru-khwe-n- ru-khwe-n-t- ru-khwe-n-tú- ru-khwe-n- ru-khwe-n-te-
2SG ri-ʔí-h- ri-ʔí-h-t- ri-ʔí-h- ri-ʔí-h- ri-ʔí-ʔ-te-
2DU ri-če-n- ri-če-n-t- ri-če-n-tú- ri-če-n- ri-če-n-te-
2PL ri-čhe-n- ri-čhe-n-t- ri-čhe-n-tú- ri-čhe-n- ri-čhe-n-te-
3SG tá-h- tá-h-t- tá-h- tá-h- tá-re
3DU tá-kwé-n- tá-kwé-n-t- tá-kwé-n-tú- tá-kwé-n- tá-kwé-n-te-
3PL tá-ro-n- tá-ro-n-t- tá-ro-n-tú- tá-ro-n- tá-ro-n-te-

Inflectional class interactions

Like in Tlahuica, a verb in Matlatzinca may be inflected as though it belonged to different inflectional classes, resulting in a change in meaning.

For example, the verb –kanchi, inflected as a Class I verb means ‘hit someone’ but as a Class 2 verb it means ‘hit each other’. Similarly, –bati inflected as a Class III verb means ‘lose something’ but as a Class 2 verb it means ‘get lost’. For these two verbs Class 2 serves as a conveyor of middle voice meanings (i.e. reciprocal and reflexive meanings). Similarly, the verb –noni, as a transitive verb of Class III, means 'plough', while as a Class 1 verb it means something like ‘do a ploughing activity’, and as a Class 2 verb it means ‘be ploughed.

When a verb belongs to different inflectional classes, we have indicated this is the following way:

  • Verbs have been given a unified lexical gloss: e.g. –kanchi ‘hit’, –bati ‘lose’, –noni ‘tile’, etc.
  • The transitive reading of a verb (i.e. referring to an agentive scenario where a subject performs the action on a different participant as object) is given as ‘action’, e.g. as a Class I verb –kanchi means ‘hit’, and as Class III verbs –bati, –noni and –xuk’a mean ‘lose’, ‘plough’ and ‘burn’, respectively.
  • When the verb can also be inflected as intransitive, there are different options, besides the obvious ones (motion, state, etc.):
    • ‘autonomously performed’ actions refer to typical reflexive situations involving human beings, where a subject performs the action independently from external causes while holding some control over their actions. This reading is typical of Class 2 verbs: e.g. –bati ‘get lost’.
    • ‘spontaneous’ actions refer to similar situations as ‘autonomously performed’ actions but involving inanimate participants which do not exert control, e.g. as a Class 2 verb –xuk’a ‘burn’ means for food to ‘get burned’.
    • ‘reciprocal’ actions, refer to typical reciprocal actions, e.g. as a Class III verb with a dual or plural subject –kanchi ‘hit’ can also mean ‘hit each other’.
    • ‘passive-impersonal’ actions, refer to the result of the action after a given unspecified agent has acted, e.g. as a Class III verb –noni 'plough a field’ would mean ‘for a field to be ploughed’.

This situation in Matlatzinca and in Tlahuica has come about because inflectional class distinctions in both languages are based on old derivational morphology which was productive in the proto-language but which became unproductive and in most cases phonologically opaque. Classes II and III contain old causative verbs derived by an old morpheme tu-, while Class 2 contains most middle verbs (reflexives, reciprocals, spontaneous, motion, etc.) which were once derived by the old morpheme te-.