|Region||Chiapas, Oaxaca, Veracruz|
|550,000 (2020 census)|
Tzotzil (/( ) /; Batsʼi kʼop [ɓatsʼi kʼopʰ]) is a Maya language spoken by the indigenous Tzotzil Maya people in the Mexican state of Chiapas. 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 Chʼol are the most widely spoken languages in Chiapas besides Spanish.
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. 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.
Tzotzil has five vowels.
|Close||i [i]||u [u]|
|Mid||e [e]||o [o]|
Before a glottalized consonant, a vowel appears to lengthen and tense, such as a in takʼin "money".
|Nasal||m [m]||n [n]|
|Plosive||voiceless||p [pʰ]||pʼ [pʼ]||t [tʰ]||tʼ [tʼ]||k [kʰ]||kʼ [kʼ]||ʼ [ʔ]|
|Affricate||tz [tsʰ]||tzʼ [tsʼ]||ch [tʃʰ]||chʼ [tʃʼ]|
|Fricative||v [v], [β], [w]||s [s]||x [ʃ]||j [h]|
|Approximant||l [l]||y [j]|
/b/ is frequently implosive [ɓ], especially in 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 but only in loanwords.
Aspirated and ejective consonants form phonemic contrasts: kok, kokʼ and kʼokʼ all have different meanings: ('my leg', 'my tongue' and 'fire', respectively).
All words in Tzotzil begin with a consonant, which may be a glottal stop. Consonant clusters are almost always at the beginning of a word, with a prefix and a root. Roots in Tzotzil occur in the forms CVC (tʼul "rabbit"), CV (to "still"), CVCVC (bikʼit "small"), CV(C)VC (xu(v)it "worm", the second consonant disappears in some dialects), CVC-CVC (ʼajnil "wife"), CVCV (ʼama "flute") or CVC-CV (voʼne "long ago"). The most common root is CVC.
Almost all Tzotzil words can be analyzed as a CVC root together with certain affixes.
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. Then, the stress is unpredictable and so is indicated with an acute accent. The Tzotzil variant of San Bartolomé de Los Llanos, in the Venustiano Carranza region, was analyzed as having two phonemic tones by Sarles 1966. Research by Heriberto Avelino in 2009 was not able to confirm more than an unstable and incipient tone contrast.
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:
An example of a prefix for nouns is x-, an indicator of a non-domesticated animal: x-tʼel "large lizard"
The plural suffixes for a noun change based on whether or not the noun is possessed:
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: kʼob-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:
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:
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.
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:
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."
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 ʼi- 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-pʼej na "six houses" the classifier -pʼej "round things, houses, flowers, etc." is compounded to the number vak "six" and precedes the noun na "house(s)."
There are also many Spanish loanwords in Tzotzil, such as:
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).
In 2013, Pope Francis approved translations of the prayers for Mass and the celebration of sacraments into Tzotzil and Tzeltal. The translations include "the prayers used for Mass, marriage, baptisms, confirmations, confessions, ordinations and the anointing of the sick ... Bishop Arizmendi said Oct. 6 that the texts, which took approximately eight years to translate, would be used in his diocese and the neighboring Archdiocese of Tuxtla Gutiérrez. Mass has been celebrated in the diocese in recent years with the assistance of translators — except during homilies — Bishop Arizmendi said in an article in the newspaper La Jornada.
Tzotzil-language programming is carried by the CDI's radio stations XEVFS, broadcasting from Las Margaritas, Chiapas, and XECOPA, based in Copainalá, Chiapas.