Huastec language

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Native toMexico
RegionSan Luis Potosí, Veracruz and Tamaulipas
Native speakers
170,000 (2020 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3hus
Approximate extent of Huastec-speaking area in Mexico
A speaker of Huastec, also known as Tenek

The Wasteko (Huasteco) language of Mexico is spoken by the Huastecos living in rural areas of San Luis Potosí and northern Veracruz. Though relatively isolated from them, it is related to the Mayan languages spoken further south and east in Mexico and Central America. According to the 2005 population census, there are about 200,000 speakers of Huasteco in Mexico (some 120,000 in San Luis Potosí and some 80,000 in Veracruz).[2] The language and its speakers are also called Teenek, and this name has gained currency in Mexican national and international usage in recent years.

The now-extinct Chicomuceltec language, spoken in Chiapas and Guatemala, was most closely related to Wasteko.

The first linguistic description of the Huasteco language accessible to Europeans was written by Andrés de Olmos, who also wrote the first grammatical descriptions of Nahuatl and Totonac.

Wasteko-language programming is carried by the CDI's radio station XEANT-AM, based in Tancanhuitz de Santos, San Luis Potosí.


Huasteco has three dialects, which have a time depth of no more than 400 years (Norcliffe 2003:3). It is spoken in a region of east-central Mexico known as the Huaxteca-Potossina.

  1. Western (Potosino) — 48,000 speakers in the 9 San Luis Potosí towns of Ciudad Valles (Tantocou), Aquismón, Huehuetlán, Tancanhuitz, Tanlajás, San Antonio, Tampamolón, Tanquian, and Tancuayalab.
  2. Central (Veracruz) — 22,000 speakers in the 2 northern Veracruz towns of Tempoal and Tantoyuca.
  3. Eastern (Otontepec) — 12,000 speakers in the 7 northern Veracruz towns of Chontla, Tantima, Tancoco, Chinampa, Naranjos, Amatlán, and Tamiahua. Also known as Southeastern Huastec. Ana Kondic (2012) reports only about 1,700 speakers, in the municipalities of Chontla (San Francisco, Las Cruces, Arranca Estacas, and Ensinal villages), Chinampa, Amatlan, and Tamiahua.[3]



Short vowels Front Central Back
Close i [i], [ɪ] u [ʊ]
Mid e [e], [ɛ] o [ɔ], [ʌ]
Open a [ə], [a]
Long vowels Front Central Back
Close ii [iː] uu [ʊː], [uː]
Mid ee [ɛː], [eː] oo [ɔː], [oː]
Open aa [aː]
  • /aː/ can be realized as laryngealized [a̰ː] after a glottalized consonant.
  • /ʊ/ in unstressed syllables can also be heard as [ʌ].


  Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Labial-velar Glottal
plain ejective plain ejective plain ejective plain ejective plain ejective
Nasal m  [m] n  [n]      
Plosive voiceless p  [p] t   [t]  [tʼ] k  [k]  [kʼ] kw  [kʷ] kwʼ  [kʼʷ] ʼ   [ʔ]
aspirated p  [pʰ] t   [tʰ] k  [kʰ] kw  [kʷʰ]
voiced b  [b] (d [d]) ( [ɡ]) (kwʼ [ɡʷ])
Affricate voiceless ts  [ts] tsʼ  [tsʼ] ch  [tɕ] chʼ  [tɕʼ]      
aspirated ts  [tsʰ] ch  [tɕʰ]
Fricative (f  [f]) z [θ] s  [s] x  [ɕ]   j  [h]
Approximant w [w] l  [l] y  [j]    
Flap   r  [ɾ]      
  • Unaspirated sounds of both plosives and affricates, only occur as realizations of sounds occurring word-medially. They are realized elsewhere as aspirated. /p/ can also become voiced [b] in word-final positions.
  • Sounds /f, d/ may appear from Spanish loanwords.
  • The affricate sounds /ts, tsʼ/ can also be realized as [s, dz].
  • /b/ can also be realized as a fricative [β], and also as a voiceless fricative [ɸ] in word-final positions.
  • Ejective velar sounds /kʼ, kʼʷ/ can be realized as voiced [ɡ, ɡʷ] in word-medial positions.
  • Approximant sounds /l, w, j/ can be realized as voiceless [l̥, ʍ, j̊] in word-final positions.
  • /n/ before velar sounds is realized as a palatal nasal [ɲ].
  • /h/ before /i/ can be realized as a velar sound [x].[4]


  1. ^ Lenguas indígenas y hablantes de 3 años y más, 2020 INEGI. Censo de Población y Vivienda 2020.
  2. ^ INEGI, 2005
  3. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-09-28. Retrieved 2013-01-09.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ Edmonson, Barbara Wedemeyer (1988). A descriptive grammar of Huastec (Potosino dialect). Tulane University.


Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Geografía, e Informática (INEGI) (an agency of the government of Mexico). 2005. 2005 Mexican population census, last visited 22 May, 2007

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