1. Facts
  2. Sources of the data
  3. Orthography
  4. Verbal inflection
  5. Inflectional classes by stem alternations


Yoloxóchitl Mixtec is one of the many Mixtec languages that belong to the Mixtecan branch of Oto-Manguean. Yoloxóchitl Mixtec is spoken in four villages along the Pacific Coast of southern Guerrero, Mexico. The greatest linguistic vitality is found in the villages of Yoloxóchitl (pop. approx. 3,000) and Arroyo Cumiapa (pop. approx. 1,500) about 6.5 miles to the northeast of Yoloxóchitl. In both of these villages almost all speakers are highly fluent. Yoloxóchitl Mixtec is also spoken, though rapidly disappearing, in Cuanacaxtitlan (pop. approx. 4,000) and Buenavista and its surrounding farms (pop. approx. 5,000).

Sources of the data

Data courtesy of Jonathan Amith and Rey Castillo García.

Enrique L. Palancar, Jonathan Amith and Rey Castillo García. Verbal inflection in Yoloxóchitl Mixtec. Accepted in Enrique L. Palancar & Jean-Léo Léonard (eds.), Tone and Inflection: New facts under new perspectives. Submitted to DeGruyter. Available online.


IPA notation Source notation
Nasality Vn
ʃ x
j y
ʒ j
ɲ ñ

Basics of tonal phonology

Yoloxóchitl Mixtec has nine basic tones that can occur on a single mora: four level tones (written as superscript numbers from /1/ for the low tone through to /4/ for the high tone); three rising tones (/13/, /14/, and /24/) and two falling tones (/32/ and /42/). Monomoraic words are rare; there are no monomoraic verbs in the language. The vast majority of content words in Yoloxóchitl Mixtec are bimoraic, either mono- or disyllabic, though longer trimoraic words are not uncommon. There are 21 main tonal melodies on bimoraic lexical stems.

/1–1/ bi¹ka¹ ‘comb’ /4–3/ iʔ⁴in³ ‘mute’
/1–3/ ta¹a³ ‘man’ /4–4/ sa⁴bi⁴ ‘rainy season’
/1–4/ xi¹i⁴ ‘grandfather’ /4–13/ che⁴e¹³ ‘big’
/1–32/ xa¹ko³² ‘opossum’ /4–14/ na⁴ni¹⁴ ‘long (PL)’
/1–42/ ta¹kwi⁴² ‘water’ /4–24/ ya⁴a²⁴ ‘tongue’
/3–2/ ñu³u² ‘village’ /13–2/ tiʔ¹³bi² ‘lightning bug’
/3–3/ taʔ³ni³ 'breast (of animal)’ /14–1/ naʔ¹⁴a¹ ‘demoniac’
/3–4/ bi³ko⁴ ‘feast’ /14–2/ ma¹⁴ñu² ‘central place’
/3–42/ ñu³u⁴² ‘night’ /14–3/ nu¹⁴u³ ‘face’
/4–1/ yaʔ⁴a¹ ‘darkish, brown’ /14–4/ yeʔ¹⁴e⁴ ‘door’
/4–2/ xaʔ⁴a² ‘lime-soaked maize (nixtamal)’

A bimoraic stem instantiates the basic lexical template for a verbal lexeme. With few exceptions, the tonal melody of the irrealis represents lexical tone.

ka¹ku³ /1–3/ (intr) ‘escape’ ~ ka³ku³ /3–3/ (intr) ‘be born’
ke¹ta³ /1–3/ (intr) ‘get in’ (SG sub.) ~ ke³ta³ /3–3/ (intr) ‘get out’ (SG sub.)
ki¹ni⁴ /1–4/ (intr) ‘be balanced’ ~ ki³ni⁴ /3–4/ (tr) ‘shoot’
ka³ba³ /3–3/ (intr) ‘lie to sleep’ ~ ka³ba⁴ /3–4/ (tr) ‘turn around’
ka³si² /3–2/ (tr) ‘take a shortcut’ ~ ka³si⁴ /3–4/ (intr) ‘get goose bumps’
ka¹an¹ /1–1/ (intr) ‘get drilled’ ~ ka¹an³ /1–3/ (intr) ‘get used’
kaʔ¹a¹ /1–1/ (intr) ‘drown’ ~ kaʔ³a³ /3–3/ (intr) ‘emit a sound’
ka¹sun¹ /1–1/ (intr) ‘creak’ ~ ka³sun² /3–2/ (intr) ‘get fried’
ti³bi² /3–2/ (intr) ‘blow out air’ ~ ti¹⁴bi³ /14–3/ (intr) ‘rot’

Trimoraic stem verbs display opaque prefixation. Most trimoraic melodies have tone /3/ on the first mora. Minimal pairs involving trimoraic verbs also occur.

ku³nda¹a⁴ /3–1–4/ (intr) ‘grow hoarse’ ~ ku³nda⁴a⁴ /3–4–4/ (intr) ‘darken’
ko³nde³e³ /3–3–3/ (intr) ‘sit’ (PL sub.) ~ ko³nde³e⁴ /3–3–4/ (intr) ‘endure’
ka³ti¹in¹ /3–1–1/ (intr) ‘resound, throb’ ~ ka³ti¹in³ /3–1–3/ (intr) ‘pile up’

Verbal inflection

Verbs in Yoloxóchitl Mixtec inflect for incompletive and completive aspect and for irrealis mood. There is also an inflectional form for the negative of verbs in this mood and, conditionally, in the two aspects. The language has two alternative forms for the completive, which for convenience we call CPL-1 and CPL-2. Two other verb forms, stative and progressive, will not be covered here as they are relatively rare and in many cases irregular in form. The verbal paradigms of four verbs in Yoloxóchitl Mixtec are presented below.

'hang' 'drag' 'break' 'boil'
(tr) (tr) (tr) (intr)
IRR chi³kun² ku³+ñu³u³ taʔ³bi⁴ kwi¹so¹
NEG.IRR chi¹⁴kun² ku1⁴+ñu³u³ taʔ¹⁴bi⁴ kwi¹⁴so¹
CPL-1 ni¹-chi³kun² ni¹-ju³+ñu³u³ ni¹-taʔ³bi⁴ ni¹-si¹so¹
CPL-2 chi¹³kun² ju¹³+ñu³u³ taʔ¹³bi⁴ si¹so¹
INCPL chi⁴kun² ju⁴+ñu³u³ taʔ⁴bi⁴ si⁴so¹

Tone plays a fundamental role in marking aspect/mood in Yoloxóchitl Mixtec verbs. The completive CPL-1, with the prefix ni¹–, is the only inflected form built by segmental affixation. We take the segments and tonal melody of the CPL-1 stem as representing the basic lemma of the verb. In most cases the tonal melody of the irrealis matches that of CPL-1 although in a few cases it is distinct.

Inflectional classes by stem alternations

Tonal verbal inflection is fully regular in Yoloxóchitl Mixtec, although morphophonologically complex. A full account is given in Palancar, Amith and Castillo (forthcoming), available online. In this way, we can do without having to appeal to the existence of inflectional classes. Inflectional classes can, nonetheless, be postulated in the existence of stem alternation patterns. Most verbs called "invariant" maintain constant segments throughout their paradigms, but others, called "variant verbs", have two segmentally distinct stems: one for the irrealis mood (and for the negative irrealis) and another for the incompletive and completive aspects.

Invariant verb Variant verb
(intr) (intr)
‘be a nuisance’ ‘be ashamed’
IRR ku³+kiʔ⁴bi³ ku³+ka'³an³
NEG.IRR ku¹⁴+kiʔ⁴bi³ ku¹⁴+ka'³an³
CPL-1 ni¹- ku³+kiʔ⁴bi³ ni¹- xi³+ka'³an³
CPL-2 ku¹³+kiʔ⁴bi³ xi¹³+ka'³an³
INCPL ku⁴+kiʔ⁴bi³ xi⁴+ka'³an³

Most Yoloxóchitl Mixtec verbs are invariant but in the database there are 101 variant ones. Such verbs appear to be remnants of an older system in which the stem formatives involved in the building of the irrealis stem were once irrealis markers of some sort. Variant verbs fall into two inflectional classes attending to the stem formative of the irrealis: ku+ or ka+.

Some examples of ku+ class verbs are presented below.

cha+achi ku+achi /3–3/ (intr) ‘be torn apart’
chi+chi ku+chi /1-3/ (intr) ‘mature, ripen’
ja+nuʔu ku+nuʔu /1–1–4/ (intr) ‘go back to one's place’
ji+ni ku+ni /3–2/ (tr) ‘see’
jo+ndaa ko+ndaa /3–2–2/ (tr) ‘look after’
ju+ndaʔa ku+ndaʔa /1–1–3/ (intr) ‘remove oneself (from place)’
ju+eta ku+eta /3–3/ (intr) ‘be measured’
ki+xin ku+sun /1–1/ (intr) ‘sleep’
si+iso ku+iso /1–1/ (intr) ‘come to a boil’
xa+aʔa ku+aʔa /1–3/ (dtr) ‘give’
xi+iin ku+iin /1–1/ (intr) ‘copulate’
xu+xa ku+xa /3–3/ (intr) ‘become an adult’

Some examples of ka+ class verbs are presented below.

sa+si ka+si /3–2/ (tr) ‘look after cattle’
xa+ʔnu ka+ʔnu /1–1/ (tr) ‘split in two’
xi+kan ka+kan /1–1/ (tr) ‘ask for’
ja+nduʔu ka+nduʔu /3–4–4/ (intr) ‘lie down’

Irregular verbs

Eight verbs in the database are irregular, although most of them could be alternatively analyzed as members of the ku+ class. Such verbs have suppletive irrealis stems that at times also bear tonal melodies that are distinct from those of the lexical stem.

i+³xa³ a+³sa³ (tr) ‘do’
ju³+na³ni² na³ni² (intr) ‘be able to reach out to grab (something)’
xi+ʔ³i³ ko+ʔ³o³ (tr) ‘drink’
xa+ʔ¹an¹ ku+ʔ¹un¹ (intr) ‘go’
xi+¹xi¹ ko+³ko³ (intr) ‘get burnt’
xi+¹yo³ ko+³o³ (tr) ‘be (existential)’
xi+ʔ¹i¹ ku+³u² (intr) ‘die’
xi+¹ka³ ka+³ka³ (intr) ‘walk’