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Página principal  >  Familia zapoteca  >  La pluralización en lenguas zapotecas
Home  >  Zapotecan family  >  Pluralization in Zapotec Languages


Pluralization in Zapotec Languages[*]

Stephen A. Marlett and Velma B. Pickett

Index

Introduction

The Zapotec language family of the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico includes an estimated forty mutually unintelligible languages. There are many phonological, lexical and structural similarities which clearly bind them together as single family within the larger Otomanguean stock (see Marlett 1985). But the differences in these areas are also notable.

Pluralization is an example of an aspect in which there is significant structural difference. In this paper we discuss the pluralization of noun phrases and third person pronouns. There are three "features" in which Zapotec languages differ: they either have a given feature or they do not.

In this paper we document these features in the Zapotec languages. The twenty-three languages we have considered display all of the eight possible combinations of these three features (see Table 1). For example, some languages have none of these features. One has all three of them.

Table 1: Attested Combinations

Type Language
(see note * for abbreviations)
Feature A
NP Proclitic
Feature B
Verbal Prefix
Feature C
Clitic Floating
1 ate, cho, gh, glv, ist, lac, mit, oco, sda, tex, wi Yes No No
2 tab No Yes No
3 ylg No No Yes
4 rin Yes Yes No
5 rsur Yes Yes Yes
6 caj, ytz, zoo No Yes Yes
7 chi Yes No Yes
8 ama, mia, mix, qui No No No

We ignore here the matter of the "optionality" of a plural marking. In some languages, such as Isthmus Zapotec, plural marking is fairly obligatory (except when a quantifier is present, when it is not possible); in many of these languages, however, plural marking is not at all obligatory or necessarily common.

Type 1

Type 1 (of the eight attested combinations of features) is represented by many of the twenty-three Zapotec languages under consideration. The following languages are included in this group: Atepec, Choapan, Guevea de Húmbolt, Guelavía, Isthmus, Lachixío, Mitla, Ocotlán, Santo Domingo Albarradas, Texmelucan and Western Ixtlán. (These are not language names, but designators based on the names of regions or towns where particular varieties are spoken.) These languages represent a significant geographical and linguistic spread. This group has only feature A; it marks plural only by a proclitic which occurs immediately before the head of the relevant noun phrase. (We write it here as a separate word.) The examples in this section are from Isthmus Zapotec:

(1) a. yaga 'tree'   ca yaga 'trees'
  b. mani' 'animal'   ca mani' 'animals'

Zapotec languages typically distinguish between clitic pronouns and free pronouns. Clitic pronouns are used, inter alia, for subjects, and we transcribe them below with hyphens preceding them. (They are not agreement affixes.) The plural morpheme simply occurs in front of a third person clitic pronoun to make it plural.

(2) a. b-yaba
Compl-fall
-be
 3hum
  's/he fell'
  b. b-yaba
Compl-fall
ca
Pl
-be
 3hum
  'they fell'

The usage of free pronouns and compound pronouns varies from language to language. In many languages, these pronouns can be or must be used for (at least) objects (see Marlett 1993). Compound pronouns have the structure of inalienably possessed nouns: a stem followed by a clitic pronoun. The pluralizer precedes the clitic pronoun.

(3) b-i-di'
Compl-ThV-give
-du
 1plexc
ca
Pl
-ni
 3inan
laa
stem
ca
Pl
-be
 3hum
  'we gave them to them'

Type 2

Type 2 is represented by only one language: Tabáa. It has only feature B; pluralization is indicated only by a verbal prefix, for subjects.[note 1] This is illustrated in (4). (Pronouns are ambiguously singular or plural; this is true for the bound pronouns, as shown in (4), and for the free pronouns. For example the free pronoun lä' means 'he/she/they'.)

(4) a. dxe-le'e
Cont-see
-nä'
 3resp
  's/he sees'
  b. dxe-le-le'e
Cont-Pl-see
-nä'
 3resp
  'they see'

Type 3

Type 3 is exemplified by one language, Yalálag, which is closely related to those languages of type 6. It has only feature C: clitic floating. Of course, in order to have clitic floating, a language must have a plural clitic. But most of the languages which have clitic floating use a plural morpheme which occurs only with pronouns. Therefore we classify them as not having feature A (because noun phrases are not pluralized with this morpheme). This plural morpheme in Yalálag is seen in the examples in (5). These examples illustrate that in a large number of cases the plural proclitic is contiguous to, and presumably a sister constituent of, the pronoun which it is modifying, much as the plural proclitic in type 1 languages.

(5) a. Prepositional phrase
    que
of
ac
Pl
-ba'
 3anim
  'of them'
  b. Possessed noun
    lizh
home
aqu
Pl
-e'
 3resp
  'their home'
  c. Compound pronoun
    lle
stem
aqu
Pl
-e'
 3resp
  'they/them (3 resp)'
  d. Clitic pronoun as subject [note 2]
    polisia
police
ca'
those
b-e'x
Compl-grab
aqu
Pl
-e'
 3resp
to
a
be'nne
person
    'The police arrested a person'

In the following example the plural morpheme is not contiguous to the pronoun with which it is associated semantically. It appears that it has 'floated' away from the pronoun to a post-verbal position. Clitic floating is obligatory in all of the Zapotec languages (of our sample) which have it. The complete set of conditions governing clitic floating is not known.

(6) a. b-le'
Compl-see
ac
Pl
-la
 1s
  ___ -ba'
 3anim
    'I saw them'
  b. *ble' -la ac -ba'

The next examples are ambiguous as to the source of the plural clitic since only one plural morpheme may occur following the verb and this morpheme can be interpreted as relating to one or more pronouns.

(7) b-go'x
Compl-hand
ac
Pl
-a
 1s
  ___ -be
 3fam
  ___ -n
 3inan
  'I handed it/them to him/her/them'
(8) b-go'x
Compl-hand
aqu
Pl
  ___ -e
 3resp
  ___ -be
 3fam
  ___ -n
 3inan
  's/he/they handed it/them to him/her/them'

If it is assumed that the plural morpheme is indeed a sister constituent of the pronoun at some level of analysis and that there is a rule positioning the plural post-verbally rather than pre-nominally, then it is also necessary to have a rule reducing a sequence of identical plural morphemes to one.

Type 4

Type 4 does pluralization with a noun phrase proclitic and also with a verbal prefix. The one language which attests this type, Rincón, has different morphemes for the plural clitic used with pronouns and that used with nouns. (The morpheme used with nouns is etymologically the word for 'all'; but this quantifier has been generalized to a simple plural proclitic in Rincón, as in some other Otomanguean languages.) The verbal prefix occurs only if the subject is third person. In this language this verbal prefix may occur in lieu of or in addition to the plural proclitic (when the latter is before a subject). Example (9) shows the plural proclitic used before nouns, (10) that used before pronouns, and (11) the verbal prefix.

(9) yaga   'tree'
  yugu' yaga   'trees'
(10) a. ri-le'e
Cont-see
-da'
 1s
le
stem
gaca
Pl
-nu
 3f
    'I see them (f)'
  b. ru-yu
Cont-watch
gaca
Pl
-nu
 3f
    'they (f) watch'
(11) a. gu-la'-ginaj
Compl-Pl-fall
yugu'
Pl
yaga
tree
    'the trees fell'
  b. gu-la'-gu'
Compl-Pl-hit

 3m
-ba'
 3anim
    'they (m) hit it'
  c. tu'-yu
Cont.Pl-watch
gaca
Pl
-nu
 3f
  (ru 'Cont' + la' 'Pl' becomes tu')
    'they (f) watch'

Type 5

Type 5 is also represented by only one language, which is very closely related to Rincón: Rincón Sur. This language includes all three features. Clitic floating is one of the few ways in which this language (or dialect, perhaps) differs from Rincón.[note 3] It has a plural proclitic in noun phrases, it uses a verbal prefix to pluralize subjects and it also has clitic floating (when the plural morpheme precedes a pronoun). In most situations the Rincón Sur facts parallel those of Rincón and do not need exemplification here. The difference shows up in the verb when a non-subject pronoun is plural. The following restriction prevents some ambiguity in this language: a third person plural object must be realized as a compound pronoun if the subject is third person plural.

(12) a. ri-le'e
Cont-see
-dä'
 3m
-nu
 3f
    'he sees her'
  b. ta'-le'e
Cont.Pl-see
gaca
Pl
-dä'
 3m
-nu
 3f
  (r 'Cont' + la' 'Pl' becomes ta')
    'they (m) see her'
  c. ri-le'e
Cont-see
gaca
Pl
-da'
 1s
  ___ -nu
 3f
    'I see them (f)'
  d. ri-le'e
Cont-see
gaca
Pl
-dä'
 3m
  ___ -nu
 3f
    'he sees them (f)'

Type 6

Type 6 is represented by three closely-related languages: Cajonos, Yatzachi, and Zoogocho. This type uses the verbal prefix and also has plural clitic floating, but only for nonsubjects. In the case of ditransitive verbs with two clitic pronouns, the reference of the plural marker is frequently ambiguous. We use Yatzachi examples to illustrate.

(13) a. ch-ene
Cont-hear
-bo'
 3fam
 
    's/he hears'  (Butler 1980:142)
  b. ch-se'-ene
Cont-Pl-hear
-bo'
 3fam
 
    'they hear'  (Butler 1980:142)
  c. ch-ësë'ë-sed
Cont-Pl-study
gueyë'
five
bidao'
child
 
    'five children are studying'  (Butler 1980:148)
  d. y-osezh  
Pot-untie
ga'ac
Pl
-bo'o
 3fam
  ___ -b
 3anim
 
    's/he is going to untie them'  (Butler 1980:148)
  e. gw-sa'-aclen
Compl-Pl-help
ga'aqu
Pl
-e'e
 3resp
  ___ -bo'
 3fam
 
    'they helped them'  (Butler 1980:149)
  f. b-nezhjhw 
Compl-give
ga'ac
Pl
-bo'o
 3fam
  ___ -ne'e
 3resp
  ___ -b
 3anim
    's/he gave it/them to him/her/them'

Type 7

Type 7 is attested by one language: Chichicapan. This language does not use a verbal prefix to pluralize third person subjects, but it does use a plural morpheme in the noun phrase and it has clitic floating. In the following example the plural has floated from the object noun phrase to follow the verb.

(14) g-acane'e
Pot-help
ra'
Pl
-lu'h
 2s
  ___ lasa'a'
relative
-lu'h
 2s
  'you should help your relatives'

This is the only Zapotec language (to our knowledge) which has plural clitic floating from something other than a pronoun.[note 4]

Type 8

Type 8 has no markers for plural, either with nouns, pronouns, or verbs. This type is exemplified by four languages which are geographically- and linguistically-close: Mixtepec, Amatlán, Quioquitani, and Miahuatlán. In this respect these languages are similar to the geographically-close Chatino languages.

Summary

We have shown that within the Zapotec language family there exist eight different combinations of three manners of indicating plural for third person. The exact historical relationship between these systems remains to be worked out. It is interesting to note, however, that the isoglosses which might be drawn based on the phonological shapes of the plural clitics will not be the same as the isoglosses which are drawn from the syntactic patterns. (See the lists of morphemes in appendix 1 and the map of isoglosses in appendix 2.)

Appendix 1: Comparison of morphemes

We present here the plural morphemes, grouping them by probable historical relationship. (In some cases there are phonologically-conditioned allomorphs; we present here the basic form.) We use the plural morpheme which occurs before pronouns.

Plural proclitic
gaca rin, rsur ra' chi be'e lac
ga'ac ytz ra oco be oco (subdialect)
gac caj, zoo re mit, sda
ac ylg de glv, tex
yaca cho
yahc gh
ca ate, ist, wi
 
Verbal prefix
la'- rin, rsur sV'- caj, ytz
le- tab sV- zoo

Appendix 2: Map showing relative locations of Zapotec languages, with isoglosses for syntactic features and plural proclitics

Map: relative locations of towns and isoglosses

Notes

note *. This is a slightly revised version of a paper which appeared in 1986 (Pluralization in Zapotec languages, Proceedings of the 1985 meeting of the Linguistic Association of Canada and the United States, ed. by Mary C. Marino and Luis A. Pérez, 246-255, Lake Bluff, IL: Linguistic Association of Canada and the United States). We thank Albert Bickford for editorial help in preparing the web version.

The following table gives the abbreviations used for the different Zapotec languages and the primary sources from which our information was obtained.

ama Amatlán David Riggs, p.c.
ate Atepec Bartholomew 1983
caj Cajonos Don Nellis, p.c.
chi Chichicapan Joseph Benton, p.c.
cho Choapan Larry and Rosemary Lyman, p.c.
glv Guelavía Ted Jones, p.c.
gh Guevea de Húmboldt Donna Marks Kreutz, p.c.
ist Isthmus Pickett 1967
lac Lachixío David Persons, p.c.
mia Miahuatlán David and Gerry Gutierrez, p.c.
mit Mitla Morris and Carol Stubblefield, p.c.
mix Mixtepec Roger Reeck, p.c.
oco Ocotlán Donald Olson, p.c.
qui Quioquitani Michael Ward, p.c.
rin Rincón Robert Earl, p.c.
rsur Rincón Sur Robert Earl, p.c.
sda Santo Domingo Albarradas Wolfram Kreikebaum, p.c.
tab Tabáa Robert Earl, p.c.
tex Texmelucan Charles Speck, p.c.
wi Western Ixtlán Grace Thiessen, p.c.
ylg Yalálag Ron Newberg, p.c.
ytz Yatzachi Butler 1980, p.c.
zoo Zoogocho Rebecca Long, p.c.

The orthographies used for the Zapotec data here are adapted from current practical orthographies for ease of presentation on the web.

The following abbreviations are used for glosses:

anim animal   pl, Pl plural
Compl completive aspect   resp respect
Cont continuative aspect   s singular
f feminine   ThV thematic vowel
exc exclusive   1 first person
hum human   2 second person
inanim inanimate   3 third person
m masculine  

[return to top or Table 1]

note 1. This language (and also the others in the Villa Alta district which do not have feature A: Yatzachi, Zoogocho, and Yalálag) uses a plural demonstrative in the noun phrase as a means of indicating plural. Apparently the usage of this plural demonstrative is such that the deictic nature of the morpheme is being lost: xhaga na' 'that tree', xhaga ca' 'those trees'.

This plural deictic is cognate with a postnominal deictic found in other Zapotec languages and not with the plural proclitic.  [return to text]

note 2. The fronting of a subject requires, in a number of Zapotec languages, the use of a clitic copy in the postverbal subject position. [return to text]

note 3. The fact that Rincón and Rincón Sur have such similar grammars, one difference being the feature of clitic floating, makes it seem attractive to write their grammars in as similar a fashion as possible, differing only in the inclusion or noninclusion of a rule such as clitic floating. [return to text]

note 4. Our data from Chichicapan is not as extensive as we would like it, especially in respect to the matter of a clitic floating away from a noun. Further research is necessary. [return to text]

References

Bartholomew, Doris. 1983. Gramática zapoteca. In Nellis and Nellis 1983.

Butler, Inez. 1980. Gramática zapoteca. Instituto Lingüístico de Verano: Mexico City.

Nellis, Neil and Jane Nellis. 1983. Diccionario zapoteco: Zapoteco de Juárez. Instituto Lingüístico de Verano: Mexico City.

Marlett, Stephen A. 1985. Some aspects of Zapotec clausal syntax. Workpapers of the Summer Institute of Linguistics, University of North Dakota.

Marlett, Stephen A. 1993. Zapotec Pronoun Classification. International Journal of American Linguistics 59:82-101.

Pickett, Velma B. 1967. Isthmus Zapotec. Handbook of Middle American Indians, vol. 5, ed. N. McQuown. University of Texas Press: Austin.


Marlett, Stephen A. and Velma B. Pickett
Pluralization in Zapotec Languages
http://www.sil.org/mexico/zapoteca/G025a-ZapotecPlurals.htm
[November 2001]