1. Facts
  2. Sources of the data
  3. Orthography
  4. Verbal stems
  5. Verbal inflection
  6. Inflectional classes by affixation


Chichicapan Zapotec is a Zapotec language spoken by about 3,000 people in and around the town of San Baltazar Chichicapan in the Mexican state of Oaxaca.

Sources of the data

Smith-Stark, Thomas. 2002. Las clases verbales del zapoteco de Chichicapan. Proceedings of the VI Encuentro Internacional de Lingüística en el Noroeste, pp. 165-212. Hermosillo: Editorial UniSon.


IPA notation
Source notation
Length VV
Laryngeal VˀV
Nasal Vn
t͡s ts
d͡z dz
t͡sh tsh
d͡zh dzh
ʃ sh
ʒ zh
t͡ʃ tx
d͡ʒ dx
Fortis n nn
ɾ r
ɲ ñ



Verbal stems

An inflected form of a given verb often either carries a prefix or is a bare stem with a mutated onset. It is not altogether straightforward where a given prefix ends and the stem begins, so segmentation is not an easy task for Zapotecan languages. Here we will follow the analysis provided by the source materials.

A stem may bear derivational prefixes, all of them unproductive nowadays. Many transitive verbs (and some agentive intransitives) bear one or more old causative prefixes organized into types in the database as an indication of the internal structure of the stem. Some intransitive verbs carry what is known as a ‘versive’ prefix, which vaguely indicates an action that has happened again.

CAUSATIVE Type 1 –u+la ‘defend’
Type 2 –u+g+uuˀyi ‘boil’
Type 3 –u+s+ialda ‘cool’
Type 4 –u+z+uʔyí ‘dismember’
Type 5 –u+sa+ldaʔ ‘loosen’
Type 6 –u+sa+g+uˀun ‘make cry’
Type 7 –u+s+u+zuˀu=zhibi ‘put sth. in a standing position’
VERSIVE –a+bann ‘wake up’

Old derivational morphology has left behind many pairs of verbs which contrast in valence. When possible, such pairs have been identified in the database.

The phonological onset of a given stem has consequences for the phonological realisation of its inflection. All causative and versive verbs are vowel initial. The database indicates whether a verb is vowel or consonant initial.

Verbal inflection

Verbs inflect in Zapotec for various aspect-mood categories, but the paradigm of a verb can be determined by just three principal parts. This is exemplified by the verb –gooˀba (tr) ‘suck’.

HAB rgooˀba
POT kŏba
CPL gudooˀba

Inflectional classes by affixation

Verbs in Chichicapan Zapotec fall into various classes depending on the aspect-mood prefixes they select and on whether they require a mutated stem for one (or two) of the aspect-moods. There are also tone changes targeting the first syllable of the stem when the prefix is phonologically reduced.

A r- gí- bi-
A–/iX/ r- dx- HIGH b-
A–/uX/ r- g- HIGH b‹u›i-
A–Causative r- g- HIGH b-u+ > ba-
B r- gí- gu-
C r- g-C> FORT ASCEND gu-
B/C–/VX/ r- g- HIGH gu-
rbaˀagú gíbaˀagú bibaˀagú ‘be tiled’
rinn dxînn binn ‘hear’
runn gûnn bwiʔnn ‘do’
ruldaˀatsi gúldaˀatsi baldaˀatsi ‘watch’
rbiyi gíbiyi gubiyi ‘unravel’
rdalá tălá gudalá ‘be plenty’
ratxi gâtxi gutxi ‘die’
rguuˀ kŭuˀ guluuˀ ‘insert’


Class A has four subclasses. In subclasses A–/iX/, A–/uX/ and A–Causative, the prefix gí- of the POT is seen by the source as dropping its vocalic nucleus in contact with the vocalic onset of the stem, but retaining its HIGH tone by adding it to the one of the stem, surfacing in most cases as a DESCENDING tone.

For the CPL, subclass A–Causative has the marker ba-. This is understood in the source as stemming from bi- plus the causative prefix u+, but in reality there is no phonological explanation as to why this substitution happens, since the outcome should instead be bwi- and not ba-. As causative prefixes are no longer meaning-bearing units for the speaker, in our opinion subclass A–Causative should be seen as an independent class in its own right (e.g. at least one member of the A–/uX/ class has migrated into the A-Causative class).

Classes C and D have a stem change in the POT, which is understood as originating from the fortification (FORT) of the initial consonant of the stem in contact with g-. Fortification may have originated as a genuine phonological process in historical times, but nowadays it should be seen as morphological and thus information pertaining to this change has been given in the database.

A similar stem change happens to verbs of class D in the CPL. The phenomenon is characterized as palatalization (PAL) for convenience, but in reality it involves stem suppletion and therefore information pertaining to this change has also been given in the database.

Vowel initial stems of Class B verbs are indistinguishable from those of Class C, hence the notation B/C. For such verbs, the vowel of the stem (commonly /a/) is dropped in contact with the CPL prefix gu-.