The Tzotzil spoken in Zinacantan (that is, Zinacantec Tzotzil) has more or less the same phonemic system as other dialects of Tzotzil.
a i e o u (nearly the same as the vowels in Spanish)
Stops and Affricates:
p t tz ch k
p' t' tz' ch' k' ` b (occlusive glottalized voiced consonant)
v s x j
Approximants: l (r) y
There are also two hypothetical proto-phonemes that represent different sounds depending upon the context in which they occur:
A (a root vowel, which is pronounced as a or
H (a consonant that in other dialects is a voiced pharyngeal or velar, but is pronounced as v, y or j in Zinacantec Tzoztil.)
The symbol (`) represents a glottal stop (which is written as 7 or ? in other orthographies). This symbol contrasts with ('). The symbol (') after a consonant indicates the glottalization of that consonant, which results in a strong explosion of air. (In order to learn to pronounce these sounds it is better to imitate the pronunciation of a native-speaker of Tzotzil.)
The letters b and v contrast. The v is articulated with the lips above the teeth, more or less like the v in English (vine), although in other dialects (including certain words of Zinacantec Tzotzil that occupy an intermediate position) the v appears more like a bilabial fricative or w. The Zinacantec word vinik "man" is equivalent to the Tzeltal word winik. The b, in initial or post-consonant position, is equivalent to the English b--it is a bilabial stop, lightly glottalized, often implosive. In intervocalic position, the b is strongly pre-glottalized. At the end of a syllable or a word, b is reduced to a sound that resembles m. Thus, in the word tzeb "girl" the
In reality, all glottalized consonants include three sounds, according to their position, such that the consonant is:
(It is necessary to test these words with someone who speaks Tzotzil.) In the third context (in word-final or pre-consonant position), a glottalized consonant produces an apparent prolongation and tension in the preceding vowel.
The x represents a voiceless alveo-palatal fricative (like the sh in short). The k is a velar stop (like the c in can or cable), and k' is its ejective equivalent. The j is a velar fricative, which is somewhat strongly aspirated according to the dialect, although before a glottal stop, the j sounds smoother.
The Tzotzil r is never pronounced as the spanish trill rr. The latter occurs only in Spanish loan words with rr:
The letter r occurs in very few native words, but in loan words it is frequently equivalent to d, r, and rr:
|roston||fifty centavo piece|
|Romin||Domingo (proper noun)|
In new or recently derived words, the letters d, f, and g are occasionally found, even when there also exist transformed, more "Tzotzilized" forms.
I also write a few words, all Spanish loan words, with w -a letter that corresponds to the initial u of diphthongs in Spanish words.
|bwelta "vuelta,"||walk, stroll|
Exceptions to this norm are:
In other dialects of Tzotzil, the sound represented here by w is pronounced more like v (like: Chamulan bveno or veno "bueno").
Some roots contain the hypothetical letter A, a vowel which exhibit an alternation between a and o. The most common situation is the following: a noun or adjective has o, but the derived forms from the same root have a:
|-chabaj||to cultivate corn (intransitive verb)|
|-pamta||to cense (transitive verb)|
In these cases, we can postulate the hypothetical roots chAb and pAm. Verbal roots with A sometimes produce derived numeral classifiers (see section 7.4) with o, but verbs with a.
|-jov||slice, cut, half(numeral classifier)|
|-jav||to split (transitive verb)|
Here we also postulate a root jAv, which produces the forms that now occur through regular processes. (In many cases, but not all, the corresponding words in Tzeltal have an a, without a change in the vowel:
The two languages have developed different patterns, based upon common past forms.)
On the other hand, the sound represented by the letter H now exists in other dialects of Tzotzil. This sound represents a development of the proto-consonant *H, which in Zinacantec Tzotzil becomes v before o and u; j before a; and y before i or e. Compare:
|Zinacantn||Huistan (and parts of Chamula)||Gloss|
These words come from pre-existing proto-forms with *H. Zinacantec Tzotzil retains reflexes of this phonetic inheritance. For example, a possessed form of vo'ob "five" would be, according to regular processes, svo'obal "the fifth." This form co-exists with another, I>yo'obal, where the combination of the possessive prefix plus the initial H becomes y. The same process can be seen in the word I>vo', from the proto form HA`. A derived form, with the suffix I>-Vl (vowel + l) shows the vowel change, and the initial consonant is completely dropped:
There is also an inchoative verb that is formed with the suffix -ub:
|ja`ub||to get wet|
Some words in Zinacantec Tzotzil are exceptions, and the H becomes y before u; these words also show traces of the lost I>H. For example, there are two verbal roots in yu-, which are descendents of proto-forms with *Hu.
|yu`- be able (intransitive verb= *Hu`-)|
|yul- to arive here (= *Hul-)|
(Compare Tzeltal hu`- "finish" and Chamulan vul- "arrive here"). With the tense marker "non-past" in the third person, ch-, the initial y of the two verbs is lost:
|(i)yu` He was able to.||chu` He is going to be able.|
|(i)yul He arrived.||chul He is going to arrive.|
On the other hand, the "true" y in other verbs is not lost:
|chyal||He is going to descend.|
|(i)yuk'e||He cleaned himself.|
|chyuk'e||He is going to clean himself.|
One must take into consideration these phonetic complexities when learning another dialect of Tzotzil, because this phonetic variation is concentrated precisely in modern words that contain letters like H, p', and w (the last one in loan words).
The most common form of a Tzotzil root is CVC (C=consonant, V=vowel). Almost all Tzotzil words can be analyzed as a root of this form together with certain affixes. The following words consist of simple roots:
One can see that there are no roots with an initial vowel (although the glottal stop (`) is lost in combination with certain prefixes). There are also monosyllabic roots, of the form CV. Aside from the particles, these roots appear to be derived from proto-forms with a word-final *H.
|xa||already (temporal particle)|
|te||there (demonstrative and temporal particle)|
|mi||if, whether (interrogative particle)|
However, certain forms are exceptions to the rule. For example:
On the other hand, compare:
The final H has left its stamp in derived forms of certain Tzotzil words. Thus, the word no "thread" has the hypothetical form *naH.
|najomaj-||to thread (intransitive verb)|
|najebal||gourd dish into which the spindle is put (literally: "place for spinning")|
|-navu||spin (transitive verb)|
|-navul||the thread of ___ (possessed noun)|
There is also another hypothetical root of the form *siH that can be seen in:
|jsijom||person that softens wool|
|-sivu||soften (wool, to prepare it for spinning)|
Here, through non-productive rules, the *H becomes v or j, or it is dropped completely in word-final position.
There are also bisyllabic roots, mostly nouns and adjectives. The typical form of such a root is CVCVC. With adjectival roots the formula is more restricted: the same vowel appears in both syllables.
|`elan-||to be (intransitive verb)|
|-`a`iy||feel, hear (transitive verb)|
A few bisyllabic roots do not conform to this pattern. There are roots of the form CV(C)VC, in which the intermediary consonant disappears in a few dialects; also, certain apparently non-compound roots show the form CVC-CVC.
|ta(y)iv||crushed ice, frost(Tzeltal: tahiv)|
|cha(v)uk||thunder and lightning|
|bankil||older brother (of a man)|
|xibnel||older brother (of a woman)|
Roots with consonants clusters do not exist, except in the roots mentioned above, and in the following:
|krem (v. kelem "rooster")||boy|
|`abt- (Tzeltal: `abat "servant")||work|
Finally, there are a few bisyllabic roots with final syllables that end with vowels, of the form CVCV or CVC-CV:
|batz'i (Tzeltal: bats'il)||truly|
|bak'ni (variation: bak'in)||early, when|
These phonetic notes will help students look up a root in the dictionary (or in the vocabulary included in this grammar). The consonant clusters that begin words almost always consist of a prefix together with a root, and roots are alphabetized according to their initial consonant. Thus, sna "his house" can be analyzed as the prefix s- together with the root na "house." And the word chtal "he comes" is analyzable as the prefix ch- with the root tal- "to come" (intransitive verb). Similarly, words with three syllables or more, almost always consist of a monosyllabic or bisyllabic root with affixes. The word `ixtalal, for example, is in the dictionary under the root `ixtol "toy, ring" (therefore as a form of the hypothetical root `ixtAl). After eliminating prefixes and suffixes in the word jvabajom "musician," and taking into account the possibility of a change in the vowels between a and o (engendered by the hypothetical vowel A), the root vob emerges (= vAb) "string instrument," from which the word jvabajom is derived.
The primary accent of a word in Tzotzil falls on the first syllable of the root; there is also an even stronger accent that accompanies the last syllable of a phrase or sentence (it can consists of a single word, pronounced in isolation, or of words uttered in the same breath). For example, see the following phrases (which can be heard as a .WAV file):
|li jvabajome||the musician|
|Chtal li jvabajome.||The musician is coming.|
|Chtal xa li jvabajom `une.||Well, the musician is coming|
|`Ali jvabajome, chtal xa.||The musician, he's coming already.|
Here the symbol / represent word, and the symbol // represents phrasal accent, which is even more emphatic. It is clear that particles are not accented unless they are in final position.
I will give a few representative words in order to demonstrate the language's contrasting phonemes.
|chi||henequen fiber (Spanish, "agave")|
|xi`||to be afraid|
|jvix||my older sister|
|lub||He got tired.|
|ich'am||He received it.|
|ch'um||type of squash|
|chi||henequen fiber (fr. Spanish, "agave")|
|chich'||He receives it.|
|kok||deaf, my leg|
|ch'ib||type of palm|
|ch'uch'||plant (canna edulis)|
|nop'ol glowing, flashing
||water for rinsing
p' (Zinacantec dialect)
|ibaj||It was locked up.|
|ch-`av||Its planted or seeded.|
|chak-`ulan||purple (for example, a flower)|
|kuch-`e||with a foot coming out of the mouth|
|ch'av||to scream angrily|
|ch'uch'(e)||plant species (Canna)|
|chak'ulan||to give continually|
|lot'ol||lying, sitting, standing together|
In these last examples, the hyphen before the glottal stop is written to make clear the correct pronunciation -the glottal stop follows the non-glottalized consonant, either the result of the use of a prefix, or in a compound word. If one does not confuse the glottal stop (`) with the apostrophe (') that indicates glottalization of a consonant, it is unnecessary to write the dash. In this case, words like ch`ul "it evaporates" and ch'ul "holy" will not be confused. These are problems with orthography with little analytical importance. A few students of Tzotzil prefer to use only one symbol (usually (')) for both glottal stops and consonant glottalization, in which case it would be preferable to use the hyphen to indicate the glottal stop that follows a consonant, although for those people that already speak the language, there is little possibility of confusion.
Not being standardized, the orthography produces other similar problems, which every student will resolve differently. For example, the division of a sentence into separate words is somewhat arbitrary; some particles (for example, -e, which ends phrases, or -a`a "indeed") do not have an initial glottal stop, and always unite with the previous words in the phrase. In my case, I write these words separately, but with the intial glottal stop. Other words, in Zinacantec Tzotzil, also begin with a vowel without a glottal stop: i (contraction of li "definite article"), and words with the prefix i- (completive aspect) and a- (second person). All other words are written with an initial glottal stop or with another initial consonant. Similarly, when the process of adding an affix produces double fricative consonants, these reduce to only one consonant: thus when I write xx, ss, or jj in order to make clear the grammatical structure of the phrase, these letters should be pronounced as x, s, or j. Other double consonants are pronounced twice, like chch or tztz, in verbal construction or in words with the same two consonants appearing in conjoining syllables. I will give a few examples:
|li tzebe||the girl||li tzebe|
|ta ana||in your house||taana|
|nom ibat||He went far away.||nomibat|
|`oy `on||There is avocado.||`oy `on|
|ta xxi`||He is scared.||ta xi`|
|ta ssut||He is returning.||ta sut|
|jjamtik||Let's open it!||jamtik|
|chchan||He learns it.||ch-chan|
|tztzak||He grabs it.||tz-tzak|
|ixcha`-`al||He returned to say.||(two glottal stops together)|
|vak-koj||six grades||(with two k's together, not *vakoj)|
Contrast vuk-koj "six grades" with svukoj sba "It puffed up."