Texistepec language

Wää 'oot
Native to Mexico
Region Vera Cruz
Native speakers
100  (2007)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 poq

Texistepec, commonly called ether Texistepec Popoluca or Texistepec Zoque, is a Mixe–Zoquean language of the Zoquean branch spoken by around 400 indigenous Popoluca people in and around the town of Texistepec in Southern Veracruz, Mexico.

Within the Mixe–Zoquean family, Texistepec Popoluca is most closely related to Sierra Popoluca.

Texistepec Popoluca has been documented primarily in work by Søren Wichmann, a Danish anthropological and historical linguist and Ehren Reilly, a former graduate student at Johns Hopkins University. Reilly's work was a part of the larger Project for the Documentation of the Languages of Mesoamerica, under the leadership of the University of Pittsburgh's Terrence Kaufman, and contributed to Kaufman's project of deciphering Epi-Olmec writing.

Less than 100 native speakers of Texistepec Popoluca remained when Søren Wichmann, Ehren Reilly, and Terrence Kaufman conducted their research between 1990 and 2002, and the language was moribund, with no new speakers acquiring the language natively, due to the prevalence of Spanish. Today, all remaining speakers, are elderly, if any survive at all. However, according to a publication from the Program of Revitalization, Strengthening, and Development of the Languages of the Indigenous Nationals, there was a recorded 238 speakers in Vercruz, Mexico (INALI).


The phonemes /l/ and /r/ do not occur natively within the Texistepec language. These two phonemes are borrowed from Spanish phonology and have become integrated into Texistepec phonology (Reilly).


Bilabials: stop- /p/, /b/ -nasal- /m/ Alveolar: stop- /t/, /d/ /dʲ/ -nasal- /n/ -lateral, trill- /l/, /r/ Palatal: nasal- /ɲ/ -affricates- /t͡s/ -fricatives-/s/ Velar: stop- /k/ -velar- /ɳ/ Glottal: stop- /ʔ/ -fricatives- /h/

  Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Stop /p/,  /b/ /t/,  /d/   /dʲ/   /k/ /ʔ/
Nasal       /m/        /n/       /ɲ/     /ɳ/  
Lateral, Trill   /l/,  /r/      
Affricates   /t͡s/ /t͡ʃ    
Fricatives   /s/ /ʃ/   /h/


Vowels ɨ, u, ɛ, ɔ, a

Vowels Front Central Back
High   /ɨ/          /u/
Mid-low /ɛ/            /ɔ/
Low     /a/

Vowel Phonemes

Underspecified ɛ ɨ a u o
high + +
back +
round + +
Fully Specified ɛ ɨ a u o
high - + - + -
back - + + + +
round - - - + +

“Long and short vowels are also contrastive in lexical representations as is evident from the following minimal pair:

t͡ʃɛːɲ ‘honey’
t͡ʃɛɲ ‘shit’

(Reilly 2002, 11)


Morpho-Phonological Alterations

Second Person: palatal glide and nasal autosegment
(17) 'key' 'candle' 'bean' 'go' 'honey'
UR: Nj-jaːpɛʔ Nj-daj Nj-sɨk Nj-dɨk Nj-t͡ʃ_ːɲ
Metathesis Njjaːpɛʔ Ndjaj Nsjɨk Ndjɨk Nj-t͡ʃ_ːɲ
Palatalization Ndjaːpɛʔ Ndjaj Nʃjik Ndjik Nt͡ʃj_ːɲ
N-Spreading ɲaːpɛʔ ɲjaj ʒjik ɲjik nd͡ʒj_ːɲ
Relinking nd͡ʒjːŋ
j-Deletion ʒik ɲik
Peak Filter nd͡ʒiːɲ
SR ɲaːpɛʔ ɲjaj ʒik ɲik nd͡ʒiːɲ

“This inventory distinguishes nasal stops /m/ and /n/ from oral stops /b/ and /d/, respectively…/d/ and /b/ occur in complementary distribution with /n/ and /m/, with the oral stops appearing in onsets and the nasals appearing in the codas” (Reilly 2002, 18).

Nasalization Processes
X. /N-b/ → [m]

/N-d/ → [n]

Y. /N-p/ → [m͡b]

/N-t/ → [n͡d]
/N-k/ → [n͡g]
/N-{ʔ,h}V/ → [{ʔ,h} Ṽ]
/N-{w,j}V/ → [{w̃, j̃}Ṽ]
/N-{s, ʃ}/ → [{z, ʒ}]

Palatalization Processes
A. /j-Ci/ → [Ci],/Ci/ → [Cɛ] elsewhere

B. /j-Cɨ/ → [Ci]

C. /j-s/ → [ʃ]

/j-t/ → [tʃ]
/j-d/ → [dj]

D. /j-[-COR]/ → [Cj]

(Reilly 2005)

Aspect Markers

“The use of a single marker... is sufficient to indicate the persons and grammatical functions... The GFM [Grammatical function morpheme] system in TEX [Texistepec Popoluca] always uses only a single prefix on a given verb.” This shows a more complex pattern than “simple accusative, ergative or aspect-split pattern”. ... ”Group X marks the A as Ergative but leaves P unmarked. Group Y marks the Past Absolutive but leaves the A unmarked. Group Z seems to be a separate and autonomous set. This pattern, where sometimes the P is marked and sometimes the A is marked, is called inverse alternation. (Reilly 2004, 53-54)"

The complete paradigm
Transitive Intransitive
Group X 1/3 N- 1st Person N- k-
1in/3 taN- 1st Person Exclusive taN- te-/ta-
2/3 Nj- 2nd Person Nj- kj-
3/3 j- 3rd Person j- Ø
Group Y 3/1 k-
3/1in te/ta-
Group Z 1/2 kN-
2/1 kNj-

(Reilly 2004, 54)

Comparison of personal marker contrast between Texistepec Popoluca speakers and other Zoque languages:

A Proto-Zoque Sierra Popoluca Texistepec Popoluca San Miguel Chimal Chiapas
1ex *än- an- n- ‘än= (ä) N-
1in *tän- tan- ta=n- dän, tän ndä-
2 *min- iñ- ny- ‘äm= (mi) N-
3 *äy- i- y- ‘äy=/’ äy y-
1ex *ä- a- k= dä=
1in *tä- ta- ta - tä-
2 *mi- mi- k=y- äm=, 3/2 mi=Ny-  
3 *∅- ∅- ∅- ∅= ∅-
1/2 *mi+än mi+an > miñ k=n- mix=, mix+’än N-
2/1 >*ä+in(ʔ) a+iñ > an- k=ny- mix= N-

(Wichmann 2004, 209)

Personal aspect markers

“Imperfective aspect is indicated by a proclitic ʔu, and Perfective aspect is indicated by a proclitic maʔ.” ... A third aspect functions very much like a future tense, indicated by a suffix –p(ɛʃ). (Reilly 2004, 36-37)”

“The cross-referencing of core arguments in Texistepec Popoluca employs a paradigm of affixes (Set A) and a paradigm of clitics (Set B).… Also, cross-referencing for first and second persons always aligns with the verb stem, often at the expense of any third person argument in the clause. This is known as “inverse alignment” (Klaiman 1993). In Texistepec Popoluca, inverse clauses … lack subject agreement. (Reilly 2004, 133)”

Subj → Obj (any asp’t) Subj → Obj (any asp’t) Subj (imperf.) Subj (perf.,fut)
1 → 3 1st-A /N-/ 3 → 1 1st-B /k+/ 1 1st-A /N-/ 1 1st-B /k+/
2 → 3 2nd-A /j-N-/ 3 → 2 2nd-B /k+j-/ 2 2nd-A /j-N-/ 2 2nd-B /k+j-/
3 → 3 3rd-A /j-/ 3 3rd-A /j-/ 3
1 → 2 /k+N-/; 2 → 1 /k+jN-/ = portmanteau

Cross-referencing morphology for all possible argument structures (Reilly 2007, 1581)


Once believed that native words for many numbers had been lost with the assimilation of Spanish, a little known word list compiled by Dr. Eustorjio Calderón in 1892 was lost for some time which now “provides comparative data for number systems used in Oluta, Sayula, and Texistepec, in southern Veracrus, Mexico. The data are surprisingly accurate, considereing that they were collected by a medical doctor who made a hobby of collecting word lists of little-known languages. (Clark 1982, 223)”

Numbers Calderón’s notations phonemic script Clark's forms
1 tum tum tum
2 huisna wisna wɨsna'
3 tuguná tuguná túguna'
4 bacsná baksná báksna'
5 bosná bosná bósna'
6 tujná tuhná túhna'
7 huestujná westuhná wɨstúhna’
8 tugtujná tuhtuhná tuktúhna’
9 bacstujná bakstuhná bakstúhna’
10 bacná bakná bákna’
11 bactumná baktumná baktúmna’
12 bac’huisná bakwisná bakẃɨsna’
13 bactuguná baktuguná baktúguna’
14 bacbacsná bakbaksná bakbáksna’
15 bacbosná bakbosná (bakbósna’)
16 bactujná baktuhná (baktúhna’)
17 bac’huestujná bakwestuhná (bakwɨstúhna’)
18 bactujtujná baktuhtuhná (baktuhtúhna’)
19 bacbacstunjá bakbakstuhná (bakbakstúhna’)
20 ipxñá ipšñá é'pšña’
21 ipxtumná ipštumná (e'pštúmna')
30 ipxcomoc ipškomok (e'pškomak)
31 ipxcomoctumná ipškomoktumná (e'pškomaktúmna')
40 vusskipx vuuskipš (wɨske'pš)
50 vuuskipx comöc vusskipškomɨk (wɨske'pškomak)
60 tuguipx tugu ipš (tuguk'pš)
70 tuguipx comöc tugu ipš komɨk (tuguke'pškomak)
80 bac chipx bak čipš (bakské'pš)
90 bac chipx comöc bak čipš komɨk (bakske'pšbákna')
100 box boš boské'pš
400 bacsnabox baksnaboš baksnaboš
1,000 bacnabox baknaboš baknaboš

“Where I have not actually heard the forms but can reasonably reconstruct them from other data, these are included in the third column in parentheses. (Clark 1982, 225)”


  1. ^ Texistepec at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)

Clark, Lawrence. 1982. An Obsolete Numbering System Uncovered. International Journal of American Linguistics, Vol. 48, No. 2. 223-225.

INALI (Instituto Nacional de Lenguas Indígenas). 2009. Programa de Revitalización, Fortalecimiento y Desarrollo de las Lenguas Indígenas Nacionales 2008-2012.

Reilly, Ehren. 2002. A Survey of Texistepec Popoluca Verbal Morphology. Unpublished undergraduate thesis. Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota

Reilly, Ehren. 2004. Promiscuous Paradigms and the Morphologically Conditioned "Ergative Split" in Texistepec Popoluca (Zoquean). Proceedings of Berkeley Linguistics Society 30, Special Session on the Morphology of Native American Languages. February; 127-138.

Reilly, Ehren. 2005. Choosing just the right amount of over-application: An acquisition puzzle in Texistepec Popoluca. In HUMDRUM Conference on Optimality Theory, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Reilly, Ehren. 2007. Morphological and phonological sources of split ergative agreement. 117: 1566-1590.

Wichmann, Søren. 1994. Underspecification in Texistepec Popoluca phonology. Acta Linguistica Hafniensia 27.2: 267-285.

Wichmann, Søren. 2004. La gramaticalización de un paradigma de auxiliares en popoluca de Texistepec. 2:205-220.