Sayula Popoluca

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Sayula Popoluca
Native toMexico
RegionVera Cruz
Native speakers
3,030 (2007)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3pos
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For a guide to IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Sayula Popoluca, also called Sayultec, is a Mixe language spoken by around 4,000 indigenous people in and around the town of Sayula de Alemán in the southern part of the state of Veracruz, Mexico. Almost all published research on the language has been the work of Lawrence E. Clark of the Summer Institute of Linguistics. More recent studies of Sayula Popoluca have been conducted by Dennis Holt (lexico-semantics) and Richard A. Rhodes (morphology and syntax), but few of their findings have been published.

'Popoluca' is the Castilian alteration of the Nahuatl word popoloca, meaning 'barbarians' or 'people speaking a foreign language'.[3] In Mexico, the name 'Popoluca' is a traditional name for various Mixe-Zoquean languages, and the name 'Popoloca' is a traditional name for a totally unrelated language belonging to the Oto-Manguean languages.

Natively it is known as yamay ajw 'local language' or tʉcmay-ajw 'language of the home'.[3]


Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Plosives b, p d, t ɡ, k ʔ
Fricatives s ʃ h
Affricates ts,
Nasals m n
Approximants w l, r j

s is only found in Spanish loans.

Front Central Back
High i, , iʔ ɨ, ɨː, ɨʔ u, , uʔ
Mid e, , eʔ o, , oʔ
Low a, , aʔ

Sayula vowels are short, long, and broken (i.e. glottalized, represented here as Vʔ).

There are two systems of orthography in the published literature.

  • Clark (1961, 1995) uses some Spanish orthographic principles. h is spelled j. j is spelled y. ʔ is spelled '. ʃ is spelled . is spelled ch. k is spelled qu before i and e, and c elsewhere. Similarly g is spelled gu before i and e, and g elsewhere. Syllable final w is spelled u. ɨ is spelled ʉ. Vowel length is indicated by an underline. Unassimilated Spanish loans are spelled as in Spanish.
  • Clark (1983) uses an orthography closer to IPA, but as in the other orthography ɨ is spelled ʉ, and ʔ is spelled '. s is š. ts is spelled c. is spelled č. Length is spelled with a colon.

The orthography of Clark (1983) is used here.


Sayula Popoluca verbs are inflected for person and number of subject and object, for aspect, and for the difference between independent and dependent.

Intransitive independent
'walk' imperfective perfective future
yoʔy -p -w -áh
1sg tʉ- tʉyóʔyp tʉyóʔyw tʉyòʔyáh
2sg mi- miyóʔyp miyóʔyw miyòʔyáh
3rd Ø yóʔyp yóʔyw yòʔyáh
1 excl tʉ- -ga tʉyóʔygap tʉyóʔygaw tʉyòʔygáh
1 incl na- -ga nayóʔygap nayóʔygaw nayòʔygáh
2pl mi- -ga miyóʔygap miyóʔygaw miyòʔygáh
3pl -ga yóʔygap yóʔygaw yòʔygáh

Dependency is marked by the allomorphy of the aspect markers, as shown in the following paradigm.

Intransitive dependent
'walk' imperfective perfective future
yoʔy -h -wáʔn
1sg tʉ- tʉyóʔy tʉyóʔhy tʉyòʔywáʔn
2sg ʔin- ʔinyóʔy ʔinyóʔhy ʔinyòʔywáʔn
3rd ʔi- ʔiyóʔy ʔiyóʔhy ʔiyòʔywáʔn
1 excl tʉ- -ga tʉyóʔyga tʉyóʔygah tʉyòʔywáʔn
1 incl na- -ga nayóʔyga nayóʔygah nayòʔygawáʔn
2pl ʔin- -ga ʔinyóʔyga ʔinyóʔygah ʔinyòʔygawáʔn
3pl ʔi- -ga ʔiyóʔyga ʔiyóʔygah ʔiyòʔygawáʔn

Sayula Popoluca marks agreement in transitive clause in an inverse system (Tatsumi, 2013). Speech Act Participants (SAP) 1EXCL, 1INCL, and 2 outrank 3. There is a separate system in which a topical 3rd person (PROXIMATE) outranks a non-topical 3rd person (OBVIATIVE). The pattern of person marking is given in Table I (adapted from Tatsumi, 2013:88).

Independent Transitive person markers
Object SAP Non-SAP
Subject 1EXCL 1INCL 2 3PROX 3OBV
1EXCL = tʉn=
2 ʔiš= in=
Non-SAP 3PROX tʉ=š- na=š- ʔi=š- ʔi=
3OBV ʔigi=

Table I

The inverse system is also reflected in the form of the plural marker. In the case in which a higher ranking singular acts on a lower ranking plural, the plural marker is -kʉš-, elsewhere the plural is as in the singular, -ka-. An example paradigm is given below:

Transitive independent
imperfective sg object pl object
yu:giy- 'cure' 1 2 3 1excl 1incl 2 3


1 yu:gip tʉnyu:gip yu:gigʉšp tʉnyu:gigʉšp
2 ʔišyu:gip ʔinyu:gip ʔišyu:gigap ʔinyu:gigʉšp
3 tʉšyu:gip ʔišyu:gip ʔiyu:gip tʉšyu:gigap našyu:gigap ʔišyu:gigap ʔiyu:gigʉšp
ʔigiyu:gip ʔigiyu:gigap

Inversion affects he allomorphy of both the person marking and the aspect marking (Clark (1961:195) with the result that the inverse forms have no distinct dependent form.

Transitive dependent
imperfective sg object pl object
yu:giy- 'cure' 1 2 3 1excl 1incl 2 3


1 yu:giy tʉšyu:giy yu:gigʉš tʉšyu:gigʉš
2 ʔišyu:gip ʔišyu:giy ʔišyu:gigap ʔišyu:gigʉš
3 tʉšyu:gip ʔišyu:gip ʔigiyu:giy tʉšyu:gigap našyu:gigap ʔišyu:gigap ʔigiyu:gigʉš
ʔigiyu:gip ʔigiyu:gigap


  1. ^ "Popoluca, Sayula". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2018-07-28.
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Sayula Popoluca". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ a b Sistema de Información Cultural 2007.


  • Clark, Lawrence E. 1959. “Phoneme classes in Sayula Popoluca.” Studies in Linguistics 14:25-33.
  • Clark, Lawrence E. 1961. "Sayula Popoluca Texts, with Grammatical Outline". Linguistic Series, 6. Norman, Oklahoma: Summer Institute of Linguistics of the University of Oklahoma.
  • Clark, Lawrence E. 1962. "Sayula Popoluca Morpho-Syntax. ''International Journal of American Linguistics'' 28(3):183-198.
  • Clark, Lawrence E. 1977. "Linguistic Acculturation in Sayula Popoluca." ''International Journal of American Linguistics'' 43(2):128-138.
  • Clark, Lawrence E. 1983. "Sayula Popoluca Verb Derivation". Amerindian Series, 8. Dallas, Texas: Summer Institute of Linguistics.
  • Clark, Lawrence E. 1995. Vocabulario popoluca de Sayula: Veracruz, México. Serie de vocabularios y diccionarios indígenas "Mariano Silva y Aceves", 104. Tucson: Instituto Lingüístico de Verano.
  • Holt, Dennis. 1998. Review of Vocabulario popoluca de Sayula: Veracruz, México. By Lawrence E. Clark. Language 74.2:438-40.
  • Holt, Dennis. 2002. "Poemo Sayula Popoluca". The Third Page. [1]
  • Sistema de Información Cultural, Government of Mexico. 26 January 2007. Mixe–popoluca de Oluta, Mixe–popoluca de Sayula
  • Tatsumi, Tomoko. 2013. Inversion in Sayula Popoluca. 言語研究(Gengo Kenkyu)144: 83–101.