1. Facts
  2. Sources of the data
  3. Orthography
  4. Verb types
  5. Verbal inflection
  6. Inflectional classes
  7. Stem alternation patterns


Otomi is a small language family within Oto-Manguean. Eastern Highland Otomi is an Otomi language spoken by about 70,000 people in various communities in the highlands of Eastern Hidalgo, Western Veracruz and Northern Puebla. The variety of Eastern Highland Otomi represented here is spoken in the villages of San Antonio el Grande and San Bartolo, in the municipality of Huehuetla, Hidalgo.

Sources of the data

Voigtlander, Katherine and Artemisa Echegoyen. 1979 [1985]. Luces contemporáneas del otomí: Gramática del otomí de la sierra. Mexico: Instituto Lingüístico de Verano.

Voigtlander, Katherine and Artemisa Echegoyen. 2007. Gramática del yuhú: Otomí de la Sierra Madre Oriental. Mexico: Instituto Lingüístico de Verano. Ms.

Echegoyen, Artemisa and Katherine Voigtlander. 2007. Diccionario yuhú (Otomí de la Sierra Madre Oriental): Estados de Hidalgo, Puebla y Veracruz, México. Mexico: Instituto Lingüístico de Verano.


IPA notation
Source notation
Our notation
NASALITY ¨ (diaeresis)
ɨ ʉ
ɘ ø
ɛ ẹ (dot below)
ʔ ʔ
ʃ x
j y
ɲ ñ


We have changed the tone marking of lexical stems from diacritics to superscript numerals for clarity and to aid with future analysis. However, since tone on clitics is lexical (and thus invariable) we have left tone marking on clitics untouched.

Stems Clitics
Low 1 ma¹di ‘take care’ __ ga 2.IRR
High 2 nde² ‘want’ ´ 2.CPL
Low > High
12 mu¹² ‘gather’

Verb types

Verbs in Eastern Otomi can be basic, derived (denominal or denumeral) or old compounds. Basic verbs commonly consist of a monosyllabic root and a stem formative, but there are also many which are obscure compounds, and some entries in the dictionary involve stems which carry additional morphemes. In the database, we have indicated this where possible.

NOTE: Verbal entries may also appear with a nasal clitic (at times infixed) which conveys middle voice (used for typical reflexive and reciprocal situations).

Verbal inflection

Like a typical Otomi language, verbs in Eastern Highland Otomi inflect for TAM values and for person of the subject by means of a series of clitic words that precede the verbal stem. Examples for the 1st person of the verb joni ‘gather’, are presented below. In the source materials, the ‘incompletive’ subparadigm is commonly treated as ‘present’, the ‘completive’ as ‘past’, and the ‘irrealis’ as ‘future’.

Note: For practical purposes, in the database we treat such formatives as if they functioned like affixes.

1st person
Incompletive joni
Imperfect dmí joni
Completive joni
Perfect xtá joni
Pluperfect xtá joni
Irrealis ga joni

Inflectional classes

Verbs fall into five different inflectional classes attending to the clitic series they select. Echegoyen and Voigtlander (2007) follow the principles of the classification in Voigtlander and Echegoyen (1979), and they propose seven classes. In our analysis, we propose that middle marked verbs (with a pre-thematic n in all forms) do not form separate inflectional classes.

Echegoyen and Voigtlander's classification
Our classification
1.a I.a
2.a I.b
1.b & 2.b (middle verbs with n=) II
3.a & 4 (middle verbs with n=) III
3.b IV

Example paradigms for each class are given below:

Class I.a Class I.b Class II Class III Class IV
‘gather’ ‘save’ ‘walk’ ‘fix’ ‘hurry’
Incompletive 1st joni -n yäni ’yo -dí hoki -dí xøni
2nd joni -n yäni ’yo -dí hoki -dí xøni
3rd (i) joni i -n yäni (i) ’yo (i) -di hoki (i) -di xøni
Imperfect 1st dmí joni dmí -n yäni dmí ’yo dmí -dí hoki dmí -dí xøni
2nd gmí joni gmí -n yäni gmí ’yo gmí -dí hoki gmí -dí xøni
3rd joni -n yäni ’yo -dí hoki -dí xøni
Completive 1st joni yäni -n ’yo hoki -n xøni
2nd joni yäni -n ’yo hoki -n xøni
3rd bi goni bi yäni bi -n ’yo bi hoki bi -n xøni
Perfect 1st xtá joni xtá yäni xtá -n ’yo xtá hoki xtá -n xøni
2nd xká joni xká yäni xká -n ’yo xká hoki xká -n xøni
3rd xø-n goni -n yäni -n ’yo hoki -n xøni
Pluperfect 1st xtá joni xtá yäni xtá -n ’yo xtá hoki xtá -n xøni
2nd xkí joni xkí yäni xkí -n ’yo xkí hoki xkí -n xøni
3rd goni yäni -n ’yo hoki -n xøni
Irrealis 1st ga joni ga -n yäni da -n ’yo ga hoki da -n xøni
2nd gi joni gi -n yäni ga -n ’yo gi hoki ga -n xøni
3rd da goni da yäni di -n ’yo di hoki di -n xøni

Stem alternation patterns

Many verbs of Class I.a display some sort of stem alternation pattern. Verbs which do not we treat as Type 1, while those that do can be seen as belonging to three types.

Type 2 verbs

Type 2 verbs select a secondary stem for the 3rd person in all aspect-moods except the incompletive and the imperfect, e.g. joni ‘gather’. The database lists all secondary stems for verbs that have them.

1st 2nd 3rd
Incompletive joni joni joni
Imperfect ndí joni ngí joni joni
Completive joni joni bi goni
Perfect stá joni xká joni xa goni
Pluperfect stí joni xkí joni xki goni
Irrealis ga joni gi joni da goni

Type 3 verbs

Type 3 verbs all have a glottal onset /h, ʔ/ and select the secondary stem for the 2nd person and the 3rd person in all aspect-moods except the incompletive and the imperfect, e.g. hëʔmi ‘look down’.

1st 2nd 3rd
Incompletive hëʔmi hëʔmi hëʔmi
Imperfect ndí hëʔmi ngí hëʔmi hëʔmi
Completive hëʔmi hyëʔmi bi hyëʔmi
Perfect stá hëʔmi xká hyëʔmi xa hyëʔmi
Pluperfect stí hëʔmi xkí hyëʔmi xki hyëʔmi
Irrealis ga hëʔmi gi hyëʔmi da hyëʔmi

Type 4 verbs

There is only one verb instantiating this type. It is the verb pa ‘go’. This verb selects the secondary stem for all persons, in all aspect-moods except the incompletive and the imperfect.

1st 2nd 3rd
Incompletive pa pa pa
Imperfect ndí pa ngí pa pa
Completive ma ma bi ma
Perfect stá ma xká ma xa ma
Pluperfect stí ma xkí ma xki ma
Irrealis ga ma gi ma da ma