Mocho’ language

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Native to Mexico
Region Eastern Chiapas (villages of Tuzatlán and Motozintla), Southern Mexico
Native speakers
<30 (2011)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 mhc
Glottolog moch1257[2]

Mocho’ or Motozintleco is a moribund Mayan language spoken by the Motozintleco people of Chiapas, Mexico. It is part of the western branch of Mayan languages. Mocho' speakers refer to their own language as qatô:k (spelled "Cotoque" in some older sources), which means 'our language'.[1] The closely related language Tuzanteco is often considered a dialect, but stands as a separate language.

Mocho' is considered a moribund language, with fewer than 30 currently recorded speakers, and no focus on passing down the language to children. Most speakers are bilingual in modern Spanish, which is effectively displacing the Mocho' language in southern Mexico.


Mocho is a moribund language with less than 30 fluent speakers as of 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.[1]


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.

It is worth noting that pronunciation rules change compared to modern Spanish, as ñ becomes an "ng" sound like in sing, and glottalization becomes important for many consonants.


All Orthographical information below is sourced directly from the Native Languages of the Americas website. Included are the standard characters for each alphabetical sound, as well as replacement symbols used in varying scholarly texts.


Standard Character Also Used
aa a·, a:
ee e·, e:
ii i·, i:
oo o·, o:
u v
uu u·, u:


Standard Character Also Used
ay ai
ey ei
oy oi


Standard Character Also Used
ch č
ch' č', chh, 'ch
h j
j h, x
k c, qu
k' c', q'u, qu', 'c
ky cy
ñ ŋ, nh, ng
q k
q' k', 'k
ts tz, ¢
ts' tz', ¢', 'tz
w u, hu, v, vu
x š, sh
' None, represents a pause sound


  1. ^ a b c Palosaari, N. E. (2011). Topics in mocho' phonology and morphology (Doctoral dissertation). The University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT.
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Mocho". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Kaufman, T. (1969). Preliminary mocho' vocabulary (Working Paper 5). Berkeley, CA: University of California.
  • Campbell, L. (1988). The linguistics of southeast chiapas, mexico (Vol. 50). Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press.
  • Martin, L. (1998). Irrealis constructions in mocho' (mayan). Anthropological Linguistics (2), 198-213.
  • Martin, L. (1987). The interdependence of language and culture in the bear story in Spanish and mocho. Anthropological Linguistics (4), 533-548.
  • England, N. C., & Maldonado, R. Z. (2013). Mayan languages. Oxford University Press.

External links[edit]