Aspects of the phonology and morphology of Zenzontepec Chatino, a Zapotecan language of Oaxaca, Mexico
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This dissertation is an analysis of aspects of the phonology and morphology of Zenzontepec Chatino (ISO 639-3: czn), a Zapotecan (Otomanguean) language spoken in a remote area of Oaxaca, Mexico (16°32"N, 97°30"W). There are an estimated 8,000 speakers of the language, but its vitality is weakening due to accelerating shift to Spanish. The phonological analysis begins with the segmental inventory. After that, the autosegmental contrasts are treated, with the highlight being the tone system. The tone bearing unit is the mora, which may bear high tone /H/, mid tone /M/, or no tone Ø. In tone systems with a three-way contrast, the unspecified category is usually the mid-level one. Therefore, Zenzontepec Chatino is typologically unusual in this respect. Special chapters are devoted to phonotactics and phonological processes, including a play language of "speaking backwards" that sheds light on crucial phonological questions, such as the status of glottalization and the limits of prosodic domains. There are also chapters on special topics in phonology: regional variation, Spanish loanwords, and sound symbolism. Another chapter bridges the phonology and the morphology, defining and comparing the phonological word versus the grammatical word, and outlining the basic morphological building blocks: roots, affixes, clitics, and particles. After that, lexeme classes are defined using morphosyntactic criteria, providing a syntactic sketch of the language. The language is strongly head-marking with somewhat agglutinating and synthetic morphology. Another chapter gives an overview of verbal morphology, which is the locus of most of the language's morphology. The dissertation is the beginning of a full descriptive grammar and is part of a larger project to document Zenzontepec Chatino, complementing a dictionary and a documentary text corpus recorded in the community with native speakers. The theoretical approach is one in which the language is explored as much as possible on its own terms using naturalistic textual data supplemented by lexicographic and elicited material. The analysis is not bound by any formal framework, but it is informed by socio-cultural and diachronic considerations. It is situated in a typological perspective to offer more of a contribution to the scientific understanding of the structure of human language.