|Region||Chiapas Oaxaca Veracruz|
|Native speakers||225,000 (2000)|
Tzotzil /ˈᵗsoʊtsɪl/ (native name: Bats'i k'op [ɓatsʼi kʼopʰ]) is a Maya language spoken by the indigenous Tzotzil Maya people in the Mexican state of Chiapas. According to an INEGI (Instituto Nacional de Estadística Geografía e Informática) 2005 census, there are 329,937 speakers of Tzotzil in Mexico, making it the 6th most spoken indigenous language in the country. Most speakers are bilingual in Spanish as a second language. In Central Chiapas, some primary schools and a secondary school are taught in Tzotzil. Tzeltal is the most closely related language to Tzotzil and together they form a Tzeltalan sub-branch of the Mayan language family. Tzeltal, Tzotzil and Ch'ol are the most widely spoken languages in Chiapas.
There are six dialects of Tzotzil with varying degrees of mutual intelligibility, named after the different regions of Chiapas where they are spoken: Chamula, Zinacantán, San Andrés Larráinzar, Huixtán, Chenalhó, and Venustiano Carranza. The Tzotzil variant of San Bartolomé de Los Llanos, in the Venustiano Carranza region, is unique for having two phonemic tones.
Centro de Lengua, Arte y Literatura Indígena (CELALI) suggested in 2002 that the name of the language (and the ethnicity) should be spelled Tsotsil, rather than Tzotzil. Native speakers and writers of the language are picking up the habit of using s instead of z.
|Close||i [i]||u [ü ɯ]|
|Mid||e [e̞]||o [o̞ ɤ̞]|
Before a glottalized consonant, a vowel appears to lengthen and tense, such as a in tak'in "money".
|Nasal||m [m]||n [n]|
|Plosive||b [b̪]||p' [pʼ]||t [tʰ]||t' [tʼ]||k [kʰ]||k' [kʼ]||' [ʔ]|
|Affricate||p [ɸʰ]||tz [tsʰ]||tz' [tsʼ]||ch [tʃʰ]||ch' [tʃʼ]|
|Fricative||v [v], [f]||s [s]||x [ʃ]||j [ħ]|
|Approximant||l [l]||y [j]|
/v/ may be unvoiced pronounced as the voiceless [f] when in a consonant cluster or in fast speech.
/b/ is frequently implosive [ɓ], especially when intervocalic or in initial position. It is also weakly glottalized in initial position.
/kʰ pʰ tʰ/ are more strongly aspirated in final position.
/w d f ɡ/ occur as well, but only in loanwords, such as bweno from Spanish bueno.
Aspirated and ejective consonants form phonemic contrasts, for example, kok, kok', and k'ok' all have different meanings: ('my leg', 'my tongue', and 'fire', respectively).
Syllable Structure 
All words in Tzotzil begin with a consonant (which may be a glottal stop). Consonant clusters are permissible, almost always found at the beginning of a word and consisting of a prefix together with a root. Roots in Tzotzil occur in the forms CVC (t'ul "rabbit"), CV (to "still"), CVCVC (bik'it "small"), CV(C)VC (xu(v)it "worm", the second consonant disappears in some dialects), CVC-CVC (’ajnil "wife"), CVCV (’ama "flute") or CVC-CV (vo'ne "long ago"). The most common root is CVC. Almost all Tzotzil words can be analyzed as a CVC root together with certain affixes.
Stress and Intonation 
In normal speech, stress falls on the first syllable of the root in each word and the last word in a phrase is heavily stressed. For words in isolation, primary stress falls on the final syllable except in affective verbs with -luh, first person plural exclusive suffixes, and reduplicated stems of two syllables. In these instances the stress is unpredictable and is therefore indicated with an acute accent.
Phonological Processes 
- When intervocalic, /b/ is pre-glottalized and when it is followed by a consonant, b becomes a voiced m preceded by a glottal stop. In final position, b becomes a voiceless m preceded by a glottal stop: thus, tzeb "girl" is pronounced [tseʔm]
- When adding an affix results in double fricative consonants, only one is pronounced: thus xx, ss, nn, or jj should be pronounced as x [ʃ], s [s], n [n], or j [h]. For example, ta ssut "He is returning" is pronounced [ta sut] . Other double consonants are pronounced twice, like tztz or chch, in verbal construction or in words with the same two consonants appearing in conjoining syllables: chchan "He learns it" is pronounced [tʃ-tʃan]
- s changes to x when prefixed to a stem beginning with ch, ch', or x
- x changes to s when prefixed to a stem with an initial or final tz or s
In Tzotzil, only nouns, verbs, and attributives can be inflected.
Nouns can take affixes of possession, reflexive relation, independent state (absolutive suffix), number, and exclusion, as well as agentives and nominalizing formatives. Compounds can be formed in three ways:
- nominal root+nominal root jol-vitz "summit" (head-hill)
- verbal root+nominal root k'at-in-bak "inferno" (to burn-bone)
- attributive root/particle+nominal root unen-vinik "dwarf" (small-man)
An example of a prefix for nouns is x-, an indicator of a non-domesticated animal: x-t'el "large lizard"
The plural suffixes for a noun change based on whether or not the noun is possessed:
- -t-ik, -ik. Plural suffix for possessed nouns, linked with possessive prefixes: s-chikin-ik "his/her/their ears", k-ich'ak-t-ik "our fingernails"
- -et-ik. Plural suffix for non-possessed nouns: vitz-et-ik "hills", mut-et-ik "birds"
- -t-ak. Plural suffix for objects that come in pairs, or when it is necessary to indicate the plural of both the noun and the possessor: j-chikin-t-ak "my (two) ears", s-bi-t-ak "their names"
Some nouns, such as words for body parts and kinship terms, must always be possessed. They cannot be used without a possessive prefix, or otherwise must be used with an absolute suffix to express an indefinite possessor. The possessive prefixes are:
|k- / j-||k- / j-...-t-ik|
|av- / a-||av- / a-...-ik|
|y- / s-||y- / s-...-ik|
The prefix listed first is the one used before a root starting with a vowel, the prefix listed second is the one used before a root starting with a consonant. For example, k+ok kok "my foot", j+ba jba "my face"
The absolute suffix is usually il but can also have the form el, al, or ol: k'ob-ol "hand (of some unspecified person)"
Verbs receive affixes of aspect, tense, pronominal subject and object and formatives of state, voice, mood and number. They can also form compounds in three ways:
- verb+noun tzob-tak'in "to raise money"
- verb+verb mukul-milvan "to murder"
- attributive+verbo ch'ul-totin "to become a godfather"
Attributives are words that can function as predicates, but are neither verbs nor nouns. Often they can be translated into English as adjectives. Unlike verbs, they do not inflect for aspect, and unlike nouns, they cannot head a noun phrase or combine with possessive affixes. The composition of attributives occurs in three ways:
- verbal root+noun ma'-sat "blind" (negative-eye)
- attributive of color+verbal root+formative -an "shadow, shade (of color)" k'an-set'-an "shade of yellow"
- attributive of color reduplicated+t-ik "type of plural" tzoj-tzoj-t-ik < tzoj "red" This construction implies intensity in the color.
The basic word order of Tzotzil is VOS (verb-object-subject). Subjects and direct objects are not marked for case. The predicate agrees in person, and sometimes in number, with its subject and direct object. Non-emphatic personal pronouns are always left out.
Verb agreement 
Since the agreement system in Tzotzil is ergative-absolutive, the subject of an intransitive verb and the direct object of a transitive verb are marked by the same set of affixes, while the subject of a transitive is marked with a different set of affixes. For example, compare the affixes in the following sentences:
- l- i- tal -otik "We (inclusive) came."
- 'i j- pet -tik lok'el ti vinik -e "We (inclusive) carried away the man."
In the first sentence, the intransitive verb tal ("come") is affixed by -i-...-otik to show that the subject is the 1st person plural inclusive "we," but in the second sentence, since the verb pet ("carry") is transitive, it is affixed by j-...-tik to mark the subject as the 1st person plural inclusive "we."
- l- i- s- pet -otik "He carried us (inclusive)"
From this sentence we can see that the 1st person plural inclusive object "us" is being marked the same as the 1st person plural inclusive intransitive subject "we" using -i-...-otik. Thus, -i-...-otik is the absolutive marker for 1st person plural inclusive and j-...-tik is the ergative marker for 1st person plural inclusive.
Also from the sentence l- i- s- pet -otik "He carried us (inclusive)" it is possible to see the 3rd person ergative marking s-, which contrasts with the 3rd person absolutive marking Ø in the sentence 'i- tal "He/she/it/they came."
With many nouns, numbers must be compounded to numeral classifiers that correspond to the physical nature of the object being counted. This precedes the noun being counted. For example, in vak-p'ej na "six houses" the classifier -p'ej "round things, houses, flowers, etc." is compounded to the number vak "six" and precedes the noun na "house(s)."
Sample Lexicon 
There are also many Spanish loanwords in Tzotzil, such as:
- rominko < domingo "Sunday"
- pero < pero "but"
- preserente < presidente "president"
- bino < vino "wine"
Dictionaries and grammars 
In 1975, the Smithsonian Institution produced a dictionary of Tzotzil, containing some 30,000 Tzotzil-English entries, and half that number of English-Tzotzil entries, the most comprehensive resource on Tzotzil vocabulary to that date. Tzotzil word-lists and grammars date back to the late 19th century, most notably in Otto Stoll's Zur Ethnographie der Republik Guatemala (1884).
- Tzotzil at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
- Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student’s Handbook, Edinburgh
- http://www.webs.uvigo.es/weba575/ldm/resumos/TZOTZIL.PDF Resumen Gramatical
- Ethnologue report for Mexico
- Sarles, Harvey B. 1966. A descriptive grammar of the Tzotzil language as spoken in San Bartolomé de Los Llanos, Chiapas, México. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Chicago.
- García de León (1971). op. cit..
- Aissen (1987). op. cit..
- Haviland (1981). op. cit..
- Laughlin (1975). op. cit..
- The work in question is Laughlin (1975); a revised and enlarged edition is Laughlin (1988).
- See Dienhart (1997), "Data Sources Listed by Author".
- Aissen, Judith (1987). Tzotzil Clause Structure. Berlin: Springer. ISBN 90-277-2365-6.
- Dienhart, John M. (1997). "The Mayan Languages- A Comparative Vocabulary" (electronic version). Odense University. Retrieved 2007-08-20.
- García de León, Antonio (1971). Los elementos del Tzotzil colonial y moderno. México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. (Spanish)
- Haviland, John (1981). Sk'op Sotz'leb: El Tzotzil De San Lorenzo Zinacantan. México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. ISBN 968-5800-56-1. (Spanish)
- Laughlin, Robert M. (1975). The Great Tzotzil Dictionary of San Lorenzo Zinacantán. Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology series, #19. Washington D.C: Smithsonian Institution Press; U.S. Government Printing Office. OCLC 1144739.
- Laughlin, Robert M. (1988). The Great Tzotzil dictionary of Santo Domingo Zinacantán: with grammatical analysis and historical commentary. Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology series, #31. Washington D.C: Smithsonian Institution Press; U.S. Government Printing Office.
- Stoll, Otto (1884). Zur ethnographie der republik Guatemala. Zürich: Orell Füssli. OCLC 785319.
- Stoll, Otto (2001) . Guatemala. Reisen und Schilderungen aus den Jahren 1878–1883. Elibron Classics series (Replica of 1886 edition by F. A. Brockhaus, Leipzig (unabridged) ed.). Boston: Adamant Media Corporation. ISBN 1-4212-0766-4. OCLC 2369330.
- Vázquez López, Mariano Reynaldo (2004). Chano Bats'i K'op: Aprenda Tsotsil (["Learn Tzotzil"] ed.). Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas: Centro Estatal de Lenguas, Arte y Literatura Indígenas (CELALI); Gobierno del Estado de Chiapas. ISBN 970-697-097-5. OCLC 76286101. (Spanish)
- Sk'op Sotz'leb, an online grammar, with glossary and pronunciation examples for Zinacantán
- Comparative Tzotzil Swadesh vocabulary list (from Wiktionary)