Mocho’ language

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Native to Mexico
Region Eastern Chiapas (villages of Tuzatlán and Motozintla)
Native speakers
estimates run from less than 30 (2011)[1] to 106  (2010 census)[2]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 mhc
Glottolog moch1257[3]

Mocho’ or Mototzintleco is a language belonging to the western branch of Mayan languages spoken in the Mexican state of Chiapas. Mocho' speakers refer to their own language as qatô:k (spelled "Cotoque" in some older sources), which means 'our language' (Palosaari 2011:4).


Mocho is a moribund language with less than 30 fluent speakers as of 2011 (Palosaari 2011). All speakers are over the age of 70. As of 2009, there are fewer than 5 speakers of Tuzanteco, a closely related language variety.

The two dialects of Mocho' are spoken in two different villages: the Tuzantec dialect in Tuzantán (a town near Huixtla, Chiapas), and the Motozintlec dialect in Motozintla de Mendoza. Historically, the two groups descend from a single population living in the region of Belisario Dominguez about 500 years ago. According to local legend, the split and migration was caused by a plague of bats. Speakers have also been reported in the nearby towns of Tolimán, Buenos Aires, and Campana. Palosaari (2011) describes the Motozintlec dialect.


Unlike most Mayan languages, Mocho' is tonal. Stress is regular and at the last syllable.

  • Short vowels have level or rising pitch.
  • Long vowels have tonal contrast, with falling pitch found only in stressed syllables. Stressed plain long vowels have a rising pitch or a level high pitch.

In Mocho', Proto-Mayan *j [x] and *h [h] have merged to /j/ in Motozintleco, while Tuzanteco preserves this distinction. Tuzanteco, however, has lost vowel length.


  1. ^ Palosaari
  2. ^ INALI (2012) México: Lenguas indígenas nacionales
  3. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Mocho". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  • Kaufman, Terrence. 1967. Preliminary Mocho Vocabulary. Working Paper Number 5, Laboratory for Language-Behavior Research, University of California, Berkeley.
  • Palosaari, Naomi Elizabeth. 2011. Topics in Mocho' phonology and morphology. Ph.D dissertation. The University of Utah.