Tzeltal // (or Ts'eltal) is a Mayan language spoken in the Mexican state of Chiapas, mostly in the municipalities of Ocosingo, Altamirano, Huixtán, Tenejapa, Yajalón, Chanal, Sitalá, Amatenango del Valle, Socoltenango, Villa las Rosas, Chilón, San Juan Cancun, San Cristóbal de las Casas and Oxchuc. Tzeltal is one of many Mayan languages spoken near this eastern region of Chiapas, including Tzotil, Ch'ol, and Tojolab'al, among others. There is also a small Tzeltal diaspora in other parts of Mexico and the United States, primarily as a result of unfavorable economic conditions in Chiapas.
The area in which Tzeltal is spoken can be divided in half by an imaginary north-south line; to the west, near Oxchuc, is the ancestral home of the Tzeltal people, predating Spanish colonials, while the eastern portion was settled primarily in the second half of the twentieth century. Partially as a result of these migrations, during which the Tzeltal people and other cultural groups found each other in close proximity, four different dialects of Tzeltal have been described: north, central (including Oxchuc), south, and southeast, though the southeastern dialect is today spoken only by a few elderly and geographically dispersed speakers. It is a living language with some 371,730 speakers as of 2005, including a number of monolinguals.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Phonology
- 3 Morphology
- 4 References
- 5 External links
Tzeltal forms, together with the Tzotzil language, a branch of the Mayan languages, called Tzeltalan, which in turn forms a branch with the Ch'olan languages called Cholan–Tzeltalan. All these languages are the most spoken Mayan languages in Chiapas today. Historically, the branches are believed to have split about 1,400 years ago. Also, some researchers believe that the Tzeltal language has been spoken as far away as in Guatemala.
One of the primary differences between the Tzeltalan and the Ch'ol languages today is that while the Ch'ol languages feature split ergativity, the Tzeltalan languages are fully morphologically ergative.
In 2013, Pope Francis approved translations of the prayers for Mass and the celebration of sacraments into Tzotzil and Tzeltal. The translations include "the prayers used for Mass, marriage, baptisms, confirmations, confessions, ordinations and the anointing of the sick ... Bishop Arizmendi said Oct. 6 that the texts, which took approximately eight years to translate, would be used in his diocese and the neighboring Archdiocese of Tuxtla Gutierrez. Mass has been celebrated in the diocese in recent years with the assistance of translators -- except during homilies -- Bishop Arizmendi said in an article in the newspaper La Jornada.
The phonology of Tzeltal is quite straightforward with a common vowel inventory and a typical consonant inventory for Mayan languages. Some phonological processes do occur, however, including assimilation, epenthesis, lenition and reduplication.
Tzeltal has 5 vowels:
Kauffman (1971) describes four vowel lengths: extra short, short, normal, and long. The /a/ phoneme, when short or extra short, is pronounced as the unrounded mid back vowel /ʌ/, and the extra short /e/ phoneme is pronounced as the mid central /ə/. Kauffman makes the following five observations on vowel length:
- Vowels are extra short when unstressed before a consonant following a stressed vowel.
- Vowels are short when unstressed before /ʌ/.
- Vowels are normal when (1) unstressed before a consonant cluster or a vowel, before /+/ or /#/, preceding a stressed syllable (unless followed by a stressed syllable), and when (2) stressed before a consonant cluster.
- Vowels are long when stressed before a single consonant, a vowel, or /#/.
- Vowels are glottal preceding glottalized consonants.
Tzeltal has 21 consonants, including the glottal stop. Though Tzeltal does not have a standardized orthography, the bolded letters in the chart below represent one orthography heavily derivative of Spanish:
|Plosive||aspirated||p [pʰ]||t [tʰ]||k [kʰ]||' [ʔ]|
|ejective||p' [pʼ]||t' [tʼ]||k' [kʼ]|
|Nasal||m [m]||n [n]|
|Fricative||z [s]||x [ʃ]||j [x]||h [h]|
|Affricate||aspirated||w [β]||tz [t͡sʰ]||ch [t͡ʃʰ]|
|ejective||tz' [t͡sʼ]||ch' [t͡ʃʼ]|
|Approximant||l [l]||y [j]||w [w]|
- [pʼ] at the end of a word: early, sap' [sapʼ]
- [ʔb] between vowels: many, tzop'ol [t͡sʰoʔbol]
- [b] everywhere else: road, p'e [be]
However, in the Oxchuc (central) dialect, the ejective [p'] does not exist, having been replaced by the phone [b]. Phonemic charts representing this dialect would include [b] but not [p']. In this dialect, suffixes carrying b often may be realized as [m]. In the initial position of a suffix following a consonant, it is realized as the true stop [b], but in the postvocalic position it is preceded by a glottal stop, such that chabek ('wax') sounds like cha'bek. When ['b] is found in the final position, it can be pronounced as ['m], or even disappear completely; thus cheb ('two') could sound like che'b, che'm, or even che'.
[w] has two allophones:
- [β] when it is the first member of a CC-consonant cluster,
- or if it is at the end of a word: seed, awlil [ʔaβlil]
- [w] everywhere else: I feared, ziwon [siwon]
Note, however, that it can be interchangeably [w] or [β] in the beginning of a word, as in older sister, wix [wiʃ] ~ [βiʃ].
Contraction may occur with consecutive identical phonemes, either at a word- or morpheme-boundary. For example, the word /ta a'tel/ ("at work") may be pronounced [ta'tel], the two [a] phonemes having been pronounced as one.
The phoneme [h] may undergo a number of processes depending on context and dialect. In most dialects, most notably that of Bachajón, word-final [h] is very light and in rapid speech often disappears entirely if not protected by some other element. For example, in the Bachajón dialect, the nominal root bah ("corncob/field mouse") in isolation would lose the final [h] and sound like ba, but if the root takes the particle -e, the word will be pronounced [bahe]. This process does not hold true for word-final [j]. All dialects retain [h] before voiceless consonants. Similarly, medial [h] has disappeared from the Oxchuc dialect but not from the Bachajón dialect, such that yahl ("below") and ch'ahil ("smoke") in Bachajón would be said yal and ch'ail in Oxchuc. Further, in the Oxchuc dialect, an [h] preceding a plain consonant will change the consonant into an ejective stop; thus baht' ("he/she went") in Oxchuc corresponds to baht in other dialects.
In the majority of cases, root-initial glottal stop is pronounced, though it is often omitted in orthography. ['] is only lost when the root is closely related to the preceding word. For example, the glottal stop in the particle -ʼix ("already") will never be pronounced, because the particle always attaches to the preceding word. The prefix ʼa- ("you/your") sometimes retains the glottal stop, but not when it occurs in a verb form. Similarly, the glottal stop in the particle ma' has been lost in verbal forms. Thus, words beginning or ending with a vowel and not a glottal stop should be pronounced together with the word preceding or following it. For example, tal ix ("he already came") would sound like [talix].
Root syllable structure and stress
As is typical of the Mayan languages, the majority of Tzeltal roots are monosyllabic. The basic structure is CVC or CVhC, and most longer words can be analyzed in terms of an affixed CVC or CVhC root. The following forms are the most common, in which C represents any consonant (unless otherwise indicated), and in which V represents any vowel:
- VC (including glottalized consonants and glides)
- CVC (including CV', CVh, CVw, and CVy)
- CCVC (in which the initial consonants are limited to s, x, and j).
Common bisyllabic roots include:
Stress always falls on the last syllable of a word. If a root takes a suffix or if it follows a particle, the accent falls on the latter. Many Spanish loanwords retain penultimate stress in the Spanish style.
Kaufman provides the following list of minimal pairs from "dialects other than that of Aguacatenango," though recall that, for example, [p'] is a phoneme in some dialects and does not exist in others.
- /hpís/ ("one stone") and /hp'ís/ ("I measure)
- /spók/ ("he washes") and /sbók/ ("his vegetable")
- /hp'ál/ ("one word") and /hbál/ ("my brother-in-law")
- /bá/ ("gopher") and /wá/ ("tortilla")
- /htúl/ ("one man") and /ht'úl/ ("one drop")
- /stsák/ ("he grabs") and /sts'ák/ ("he mends")
- /tʃín/ ("pimple") and /tʃ'ín/ ("small")
- /kúʃ/ ("he woke up") and /k'ùʃ/ ("painful")
- /tsám/ ("nice") and /tʃám/ ("he died")
- /súl/ ("fish-scale") and /ʃul/ ("he arrives")
- /tám/ ("it was picked up) /tsám/ ("nice")
- /tám/ ("it was picked up") and /tʃám/ ("he died")
- /kól/ ("he escaped") and /tʃól/ ("it was lined up")
- /sík/ ("cold") and /síʔ/ ("firewood")
- /hák'/ ("I answer") and /háʔ/ ("water")
- /hám/ ("it opened") and /ʔám/ ("spider")
- /stám/ ("he picks it up") and /stán/ ("his ashes")
- /ʃpululét/ ("bubbling") and /ʃpururét/ ("fluttering")
- /wilél/ ("flying") and /welél/ ("fanning")
- /htén/ ("one level") and /htán/ ("my ashes")
- /tán/ ("ashes") and /tón/ ("stone")
- /kót/ ("my tortilla") and /kút/ ("I say")
- /yútʃ'/ ("he drinks") and /yítʃ'/ ("he takes")
- /haláw/("agouti") and /snàu/ ("he spins thread") [subminimal]
- /ʔáy/ ("there is") and /ʔai/ ("particle") [subminimal]
Tzeltal is an ergative–absolutive language, meaning that the single argument of an intransitive verb takes the same form as the object of a transitive verb, and differently from the subject of a transitive verb. It is also an agglutinative language, which means that words are typically formed by placing affixes on a root, with each affix representing one morpheme (as opposed to a fusional language, in which affixes may include multiple morphemes). Tzeltal is further classified as a head-marking language, meaning that grammatical marking typically occurs on the heads of phrases, rather than on its modifiers or dependents.
Types of morphemes and morphological processes
There are three types of morphemes in Tzeltal: roots, affixes, and clitics. Kaufman distinguishes between roots, from which stems are derived, and stems, which are inflected to form full morphological words. Each root and stem belongs to a class, which determines the ways in which it may be affixed; see the section below for details. Affixes cannot appear alone; they are bound morphemes found only attached to roots and stems, and in Tzeltal are usually suffixes. Derivational affixes turn roots into stems and can change the grammatical category of the root, thought not all roots need to be affixed to become a stem. Inflectional affixes denote syntactic relations, such as agreement, tense, and aspect. Cliticss are syntactically and prosodically conditioned morphemes and only occur as satellites to words.
In addition to suffixation and prefixation, Tzeltal uses the morphological processes infixation, reduplication, and compounding. The only infix is -j-, and only appears in CVC roots, yielding a CVjC root. With a transitive verb, -j derives a passive; compare mak ("to close") and majk ("to be closed").
Reduplication can only occur with monosyllablic roots, and is typically used with numbers and numeral classifiers. With classifiers, reduplication also entails the insertion of a Vl syllable between the repeated roots. For example, wojk' ("group") can become wojk'-ol-wojk' ("group by group/one group after the other"). When a redoubled root takes the suffix -tik, it creates the effect of a distributive plural; thus be ("road") becomes be-be-tik ("a network of roads"). With redoubled adjective roots, -tik attenuates the quality of the verb, such that tsaj ("red") becomes tsaj-tsaj-tik ("reddish").
Compounding is most commonly used to compound a transitive verb with its object, in so doing creating a noun describing the action in question.
pas ("make") + na ("house")→pasna ("house construction")
pak' ("strike with the hand") + waj ("tortilla")→pak'waj ("tortilla baking")
Stem and root classes
There are six stem classes defined by unique sets of inflectional affixes with which they may occur. The unique set for each stem class may be increased by up to four affixes. Although the total set representing each stem class is unique, certain subsets of affixes are shared by multiple stem classes. Kaufman describes six stem classes, followed by his abbreviations: nouns (n), adjectives (aj), transitive verbs (tv), intransitive verbs (iv), affect verbs (av), and inflectible particles (ip). A seventh class, particles, exists but is never inflected; they are radical or derived stems that function as words in syntactic constructions.
There are seven classes of roots: noun root (N), adjective root (A), transitive verb root (T), positional verb root (P), intransitive verb root (I), inflectible particle root (Pi) and particle root (Pn). When roots function as stems, they belong to the following stem classes (expressed using the abbreviations described above): N roots become n stems, A roots become aj stems, T roots become tv stems, P roots become tv stems, I roots become iv stems, Pi roots become ip stems, and Pn roots become p stems.
There is a small set of multivalent stems that may occur with the inflectional affixes of more than one stem class with no change in the morpheme. Kaufman supplies this list, but does not say whether or not it is complete.
- /tʃ'ày/ "to lose" (transitive verb) or "to be lost" (intransitive verb)
- /k'àhk'/ "fire" (noun) or "hot" (adjective)
- /k'òk/ "to cut" (transitive verb) or "to be cut" (intransitive verb)
- /mès/ "broom" (noun) or "to sweep" (transitive verb)
- /pùl/ "to pour out" (transitive verb) or "to gush forth" (intransitive verb)
- /tùp'/ "to put out/extinguish" (transitive verb) or "to go out/be extinguished" (intransitive verb)
- /t'ìm/ "bow" (noun) or "to stretch a string" (transitive verb)
- /yàk/ "snare" (noun) or "to snare" (transitive verb)
- /ʔùtʃ'/ "to drink" (transitive verb), "to drink" (intransitive verb), or "louse" (noun)
Typical phonetic shapes of morphemes
|Root class||Phonetic shapes||Example (in IPA)||Translation||Exceptions|
|T roots||CV, CVC||/lè, lòʔ/||"seek," "eat fruit"||/ʔaʔi/ "to hear"|
|I roots||CV, CVC, CVhC||/t͡ʃ'ì, ʔòt͡ʃ, ʔòht͡s/||"to grow," "enter," "contract"|
|P roots||CV, CVC||/t͡s'è, mèl/||"leaning," "fixed"|
|N roots||Cv, CVC, CVhC, CVCV, CVCVC, CVhCVC, CVʔCVC||/nà, lùm, k'àhk', páta, wìnik, màhtan, ʔòʔtan/||"house," "earth," "fire," "guava," "man," "gift," "heart"||/ʔànt͡s/ "woman"|
|A roots||CV, CVC, CVCV, CVCVC||/t͡s'à, bòl, poko, tàkin/||"bitter," "stupid," "used up," "dry"|
|P roots||CV, CVC, CVCV, CVCVC, CVʔCVC||/to, naʃ, màt͡ʃ'a, k'àlal, yaʔtik/||"yet/still," "only," "who," "until," "now"|
|Prefixes||C, VC, CVC||/s, ah, lah/||"third person," "agent," "plural"|
|Suffixes||C, VC, CVC||/t, et, tik/||"theme formative," "intransitive," "plural"|
The affixes of person marking depend on the case of the verb. In the absolutive case, all person-marking affixes are suffixes:
|3||-0||-0 (+ -ik)|
Use of the -ik in the third person plural is optional.
Ergative case is marked with a prefix, each of which has two allomorphs depending on whether the word begins with a vowel or a consonant. Rather than having different prefixes for singular and plural person, the plural is expressed with the addition of a suffix as well as the prefix:
Variation between k-~jk is characteristic of central Tzeltal. Thought often pre-aspirated, the prevocalic second person ergative form is the sole case of a Tzeltal initial vowel not preceded by a glottal stop. The sets of phrases below demonstrate various combinations of person marking, one with the consonant-initial verb t'un ("follow") and the vowel-initial verb il ("see") (all are in the imperfective aspect, denoted by ya).
i. ya j-t'un-at I am following you
ii. ya a-t'un-on You are following me
iii. ya s-t'un-otik He is following us
iv. ya j-t'un-tik-0 We are following him
v. ya j-t'un-tik-at We are following you
vi. ya a-t'un-otik You are following us or you (pl.) are following us
vii. ya j-t'un-tik-ex We are following you (pl.)
viii. ya a-t'un-on-ik You (pl.) are following me
ix. ya s-t'un-at-ik They are following you
i. ya jk-il-at I see you
ii. ya aw-il-on You see me
iii. ya y-il-otik He sees us
iv. ya jk-il-tik-0 We see him
v. ya jk-il-tik-at We see you
vi. ya aw-il-otik You see us or You (pl.) see us
vii. ya jk-il-tik-ex We see you (pl.)
viii. ya aw-il-on-ik You (pl.) see me
ix. ya y-il-at-ik They see you
Conjugated verbs include at least a transitive or intransitive theme (formed from either an unaffixed root or a root with derivational affixes), one person maker (if transitive) or two (if intransitive), and an aspectual mark (which can be a zero-mark in the case of intransitive verbs with imperfective aspect). Verbs are also the only part of speech to take aspectual markers. In almost every case, these markers differ between transitive and intransitive verbs, a difference further systematized by the ergative-absolutive case system. Among the affixes shared by both transitive and intransitive verbs are -el (derives a verbal noun, similar to an infinitive marker), and the lexical aspect suffixes -(V)lay (iterative aspect marker), and -tilay (expresses plurality of action). For example, the verb tam ("collect") may be affixed to tam-tilay-el ("to collect multiple scattered objects"), and the verb way ("sleep") can be affixed to way-ulay-el ("to sleep without waking"). Transitive verbs marked with -el are interpreted as having passive voice. To create a transitive, active infinitive, the -el suffix is used along with a third-person ergative prefix which must agree with the subject of the verb. Thus, the transitive verb le ("look for") could be affixed as le-el ("to be looked for") and as s-le-el ("to look (for something)/looking for something"). Alternatively, a transitive infinitive can be expressed with the suffix -bel to the verbal theme; notably, these forms are fully inflected for ergative and absolutive cases. Thus the morphemes in j-le-bel-at ("for me to look for you") correspond to (first-person ergative marker)-"look for"-(infinitive marker)-(second person absolutive marker).
Like many Mayan languages, Tzeltal has affect verbs, which can be thought of as a subcategory of intransitive verbs. They generally function as secondary predicates, with adverbial function in the phrase. In Tzeltal they are often onomatopoeic. Affect verbs have the following characteristics: 1) they have their own derivational morphology (the suffixes -et, lajan, and C1on being the most frequent); 2) they take the imperfective prefix x- but never its auxiliary imperfective marker ya, which is usually present with x- for intransitive verbs; 3) they take the same person markers as intransitive verbs (the absolutive suffixes), but aspect–tense markers appear only in the imperfective; and 4) they may function as primary or secondary predicates. For example, the onomatopoeic affect verb tum can function as a primary predicate in describing the beating of one's heart: X-tum-ton nax te jk-ot'an e (essentially, "to me goes tum my heart"). As a secondary predicate, an effect verb is typically exhortative, or indicative/descriptive as in the sentence X-kox-lajan y-akan ya x-been ("his injured leg he walks," "he limped").
All verbs can, but do not have to, be marked as imperfective with the auxiliary ya, intransitives further requiring the prefix -x.
The imperfective aspect corresponds to an event or action considered as ongoing or unbound. If the action marked as imperfective is understood to be in the present tense, it is generally interpreted as an expression of habit.
Clitics appear in one of three places in a clause: in the second position ("the Wackernagel position"), in the final position (determined in particular by prosodic and information structures), or immediately following the lexical predicate. There are eight second-position clitics, and several can appear on the same word. When multiple second-position clitics appear, they follow the following order:
|=to ("already/until/since")||=nax ("only")||=nix ("same")||=la(j) (evidential marker), =wan ("maybe"), =kati(k) (expresses surprise)||=ba(l) (interrogative) =me (context-sensitive modal verb)|
For example, the sentences Kich'oj to (I already have it) and Ma to kich'oj ("I don't have it yet") both use the second-position clitic to.
Certain pairs of second-position clitics may be phonologically altered when appearing consecutively.
|First clitic||Second clitic||Compound||Translation|
|=nax||=nix||=nanix||"still", emphasizes continuity|
|=nix||=bal||=nibal||'"same" + interrogative|
The most common final-position clitic is =e. It is typically used in conjunction with the determiner te, though the possible semantic outcomes are numerous and governed by complex rules. The remaining four final-position clitics are all deictic: =a or =aː (distal or adverbial marker), =to (proximal marker), =uːk ("also"), and =ki (exclamative).
Finally, the clitic =ix always follows the lexical predicate of a phrase, regardless of the phrase's other constituents. Its signification is similar to those of the Spanish word ya; it is semantically opposed to the clitic =to ("yet")
- Tzeltal reference at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
- Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student’s Handbook, Edinburgh
- Polian, Gilles (2006). Éléments de grammaire du Tseltal: Une langue maya du Mexique. Paris: L'Harmattan. p. 12. ISBN 9782296009790.
- Polian, Gilles (2006). Eléments de grammaire du tseltal: Une langue maya du Mexique. Paris: L'Harmatan. p. 12.
- Campbell, Lyle (1988). The linguistics of Southeast Chiapas, Mexico. Provo: Bringham Young UP.
- Ethnologue: tzh
- Catholic News Service. "In Chiapas, Mayans get Mass, sacraments in two of their languages". Catholic Sentinel (Portland, OR). Retrieved 2013-10-24.
- Shklovsky, Kirill (2005). Person Marking in Petalcingo Tzeltal.
- Kaufman, Terrence (1971). Tzeltal phonology and morphology. Berkeley: University of California Berkeley Press. p. 12. ISBN 31198020506361 Check
- Gerdel, Florence (1955). Tzeltal (Maya) Phonemes.
- Smith, Joshua Hinmán. "Manual of Spoken Tzeltal". Retrieved 9 February 2014.
- Polian, Gilles (2006). Éléments de grammaire du Tseltal: Une langue maya du Mexique. Paris: L'Harmattan. p. 18. ISBN 9782296009790.
- Monod-Becquelin, Aurore (1997). Parlons Tzeltal: Une langue Maya du Mexique. Paris: L'Harmattan. p. 65. ISBN 9782738457998.
- Smith, Joshua Hinmán. "Manual of Spoken Tzeltal".
- Polian, Gilles (2006). Eléments de grammaire du Tseltal. Paris: L'Harmattan. p. 8.
- Polian, Gilles (2006). Eléments de grammaire du Tseltal. Paris: L'Harmattan. p. 57.
- Polian, Gilles (2006). Eléments de grammaire du Tseltal. Paris: L'Harmattan. p. 57.
- Kaufman, Terrence (1971). Tzeltal phonology and morphology. Berkeley: University of California Berkeley Press. p. 32. ISBN 31198020506361 Check
- Polian, Gilles (2006). Elements de grammaire du Tseltal. Paris: L'Harmattan. p. 35.
- Polian, Gilles (2006). Elements de grammaire du Tseltal. Paris: L'Harmattan. p. 35.
- Polian, Gilles (2006). Elements de grammaire du Tseltal. Paris: L'Harmattan. p. 68.
- Robinson, Stuart P. (2009). Manual of Spoken Tzeltal.
|Tzeltal language test of Wikipedia at Wikimedia Incubator|