Chapter Nine:
Complex Forms

We have already seen all the basic word classes in Tzotzil. Every sentence has a predicate (which is either stative or verbal) with absolutive affixes that cross-index a noun: the subject. Transitive and ditransitive sentences also have nouns that engender ergative prefixes on the verb, as well as other optional constituents: of time, place, manner, mode, etc. In this chapter we will consider a few more specialized forms of Tzotzil predicates.

9.1 The Plural

Tzotzil is not especially fussy when it comes to plurality. Many phrases without any sign of plurality can communicate a plural meaning.

Chtal `ep vinik. Many people are coming.
Chib pexu ijtoj. I paid two pesos.
`Ali mol e, `oy ska`. The old man has a horse/horses.

Tzotzil avoids the use of plural forms if the plural meaning can be derived from context. Also, even when the plural suffix appears, it is quite common for it to appear only once in a sentence.

Chbat ta snaik. They are going to their houses.

Mi chaman alo`bolik? Are you going to buy fruits?

Here the plural suffix -ik only appears with the possessed nouns: s-na-ik "their houses" and a-lo`bol-ik "your fruits." But the verbs, regardless of their transitivity or intransitivity, do not have plural suffixes, although they clearly have plural meanings. This is the most common pattern: the plural suffix combines with the possessed noun in order to indicate the plurality of the possessor and to avoid having a plural suffix on the verb.

Mi chabatik? Are you going?
Mi chabat ta anaik? Are you guys going to your houses?

It is important to note that in these examples that it is the plurality of the verb's subject (and of the noun's possessor), and not the plurality of the noun itself, that is being expressed.

They are going to their houses.
Chbat ta snaik.

Here, the noun's possessor "house" is plural: thus, the word snaik can mean "their house" or "their houses." According to context, the meaning can be fairly ambiguous.

Mi ta karo ital? Did they go by car?
Ital ta yokik. They went by foot.
Batz'i jk'ulej li mol Xun xchi`uk skrem. John and his son are very rich.
Ja` `oy ska`ik. They have a horse/horses.

In the last example, the noun ska`ik "their horse (or: horses)" determines the plural form of the verb's English translation: They have a horse. (Literally: Their horse exists.)

The plural forms of the second and third person, with transitive verbs and with possessed nouns, employ the suffix -ik.

Chbat ta anaik. You are going to your house(s).
Chbat ta snaik. They are going to his/their house(s).
Chamanik bek'et. You guys are gong to buy meat.
Ta smanik bek'et. They are gong to buy meat.
Mi latal ta avokik? Did you guys come by foot?
Mi ital ta yokik? Did they come by foot?

Tzotzil distinguishes between two forms of the first person plural: the "inclusive," which includes both the person who is speaking and the person who is listening ("you and I") and the "exclusive," which includes the speaker and another person, but excludes the listener.


Mi `oy jtak'intik? Do we have money?
Ch'abal jtak'intik. We have none.
Pero `oy jka`tik. But we have a horse/horses.
Mi ta jmantik bek'et. Will we buy meat?
Mu xu` jmantik bek'et, yu`un ch'abal jtak'intik. We can't buy meat because we don't have money.

The ergative and possessive suffix of the inclusive plural form is -tik. The exclusive plural form is reduplicated: -tikŪtik. (Note the accent.)


Mi `oy atak'inik? You you guys have money?
Ch'abal jtak'intiŪtik. We have none.
Mi chavak'bon atak'in vo`ot. You don't want to give me your money?
Mi chamanik bek'et? Are you guys going to buy meat?
Muk' bu jmantikŪtik bek'et; mano vo`ot. We are not gonig to buy mean; you buy it.
Mi avuch'ik pox? Did you guys drink sugarcane liquor?
Ikuch'tikŪtik che`e. Well, yes we did.
Ikuch'tik ta jkoltik. Let's drink (you included).

The plural forms of kotol "all" are more common than the singular forms.

jkotoltik all of us (with you)
jkotoltikŪtik all of us (without you)
akotolik all of you
skotolik all of them

We can list the ergative and possessive affixes in a tabular form, as below.

Speaker Hearer Plural Prefix Suffix Translation
yes no no j- / k- I
yes no yes j- / k- -tikŪtik someone else and I (but not you)
yes yes yes j- / k- -tik you and I (and perhaps others)
no yes no a- / av- you
no yes yes a- / av- -ik you guys
no no no s- / y- he / she
no no yes s- / y- -ik they

Other dialects of Tzotzil show the same distinctions, although each dialect has various variations, primarily in the "exclusive" first person plural. For example, someone from Zinacant·n migh say:

jnatik "our house" (inclusive)
jnatikŪtik "our house (not yours)" (exclusive)

whereas someone from Chamula would say:

jnatik "our house" (inclusive)
jnakutik "our house" (exclusive)

The absolutive affixes maintain the same person and number distinctions nevertheless.

`Ali Xune xchi`uk yajnil, mi `ipik? Are John and his wife sick?
`Ipik che`e. Yes, they are.
`Ip skotolik. They are all sick.
Mi tzotz avo`onik, mi xi`emoxuk? Are your hearts strong or are you afraid?
Mi li`ot e? Are you here?
Li`on e. I am here.
Mi li`oxuk e? Are you guys here?
Li`otikŪtik e. We (excl.) are here.
Ch'abal jtak'intik, ch'abal kosiltik, solel pobreotik, me`onotik ta jkotoltik. We don't have money, we don't have land. We are poor, we are all orphans (inclusive).
Mi `antzotik mi vinikotik? Are we men or women?

Intransitive verbs require nominal prefixes and suffixes in order to indicate plurality.

`Ali Xun e, xchi`uk yajnil, mi chtalik xa? Are John and his wife coming?
Jayib `ora chikok'otik `ok'ob? At what time are we leaving tomorrow?
Chilok'otik ta chib `ora xchi`uk `ol`ol. We are leaving at two thirty.
Bu la`ayik volje? We were you guys yesterday?
Li`aytikotik ta k'in. We went to a party (exclusive).
K'usi apasik ta k'in? What did you guys do at the party?
Li`ak'otajotikotik. We (excl.) danced.

We can summarize the absolutive affixes in the following tabular form:

Speaker Hearer Plural Suffix Prefix-Suffix Translation
yes no no -on i- I
yes no yes -otikŪtik i- -otikŪtik someone else and I (but not you)
yes yes yes -otik i- -otik you and I (and perhaps others)
no yes no -ot a- you
no yes yes -oxuk a- -oxuk you guys
no no no -’ ’-
no no yes -ik ’- -ik they

Combing ergative plural affixes with absolutive plural affixes produces very complex forms. Surface constrainsts restrict the occurence of plural suffixes. For example, the sequence ikik is impossible, resulting in ambiguous verbs.

Chakilik. I am going to see you guys.
Chavilikon. You guys are going to see me.
Chavilik. You guys are going to see them. Or: You guys are going to see them.
Lismajik. They hit me.
Ijmaj(ik). I hit them.
Ijmajtikotik. We (excl.) hit them.
Chajmajtikotik. We are going to hit you (sing. or pl.)
Chasmajik. They are going to hit you.
He is going to hit you guys.
They are going to hit you guys.
Chtal sk'eloxuk. He/she/they is/are coming to see you guys.
`A sk'oponotik. He/she came to talk with us.
Tal yak'boxuk atak'inik. He/she came to give you guys your money.
They came to give you guys your money.
Liyalbotikotik jp'eluk k'op. He/they told us (excl.) a word.

The previous forms, as well as many others, do exist and do occur in everday speech. But in general it is possible to avoid the explicit use of so many plural affixes, that is, if the context prevents ambiguity or confusion.

Mi xu` xibatotikotik ta sna li Xun e? Can we (excl.) go to John's house?
Xu` xabatik li vo`oxuk a`a, pero chasmajik. Indeed, you can go, but he will hit you (pl.).
Timi chabat ta k'in li vo`ot e, `ep nan chanup jyakubel. Chasmajik nan. If you go to the party, you may run into many drunks. Perhaps they will hit you.

The verb chasmajik, in these examples, has two meanings, according to the subjects and complements.


The form with two explicit plural suffixes, ***chasmajikik, does not exist. One sees that personal "pronouns" are strictly related to the absolutive suffixes. The forms are:

vo`on I
vo`ot you
vo`otik we (you and I)
vo`otikŪtik we (not you)
vo`oxuk you guys

(Third person forms do not exist.) The following diagram describres the pronominal system.


The only distinction that is not expressed in the pronominal system is the weak contrast between the singular and the plural of the third person: that is to say, between singular and plural nouns.

Jayib `ora chabatik li vo`oxuk e? At what time are you guys going?
Vo`on chibat ta jun `ora. I'm going at one.
Ja` nan chbat ta chib `ora li Xun e, li Petul e. Perhaps John and Pedro are going at two.
Ta chib `ora chbatik. At two they are going.

The last two sentences contain plural subjects, but only in the latter is there an explicit plural sufix. The intransitive verb bat "to go" is irregular: the form with vo`otik "we (inclusive) is chibatik (and not ***chibatotik). However, the exclusive form is regular:

ChibatotikŪtik tana. We (but not you) will go in a little bit.

The imperative of the first person plural is irregular:

Batik! Let's go!

9.2 Plurality of Nouns

Tzotzil also signals the plurality of nouns somewhat informally. We already know the suffix -tik (or -altik), which is used to denote an extension of something.

tontik "rocky place"
ton, "rock"
chobtik, "cornfield"
chob, "corn (of someone)"
te`tik, "forest"
te, "tree, wood"
`uk'umalik, "extension of river" [spelling]
`uk'um, "river"
nichimaltik, "expanse of cultivated flores"
nichim, "flower"

These forms with -tik are not possessible. The ordinary plural of unpossessed nouns is formed with the suffix -etik.

na, "house"
naetik, "houses"
vinik, "man"
viniketik, "men"
`antz, "woman"
`antzetik, "women"
karo, "car, truck"
karoetik, "cars"

Only one irregular form is known:

krem, "boy"
kremotik, "boys"1

Nouns with plural possessive affixes can be either plural or sigular, according to context.

Chbat ta snaik.

This sentence means "They are going to his house" or "They are going to their houses," according to the group referred to by "they," the subject of the sentence. The plural meaning, in this construction, is distributive: every person has his own house.

Mi `o amachitaik, mi `o atuk'ik? Do you guys have machetes, do you have rifles?
tuk', "rifle"

In this sentence, the meaning is again distributive: "Every one of you has his own machete, his own rifle?" In order to express a plurality of possessed objects, there is a suffix, -tak, with a collective meaning.

Ik'ak' snatak. His houses burned down.
`Ip xch'amaltak. His children are sick.

The suffix -tak, together with a possessive prefix, indicates that a few things are all possessed by the same possessor.

Bulavitz'intak e? Where are your children?
Ch'abal kitz'in. K'ajomal `oy ch`a-vo` jbankil. I don't have a little brother. I only have two >older brothers.

(Note that in the last sentence the noun jbankil does not carry an explicit plural suffix.)

It is possible to combine the collective suffix -tak with plural possessive affixes. Thus, one hears the following expression:

jchi`iltaktik companions

which can be analyzed in the following manner:


The results is the expression: "our companions (which we share in common)."

With the words tot "father" and me` "mother" there are derived forms that serve as terms of respect.

Totik Xun. Mister John.
Me`tik Xunka`. Mrs. [Xunka]

These words appear to be derived from j-tot-tik "our father" and from j-me`-tik "our mother"; the forms with prefixes denote definite people, as kinship terms.

`Ip li jtotik e. Our father (for example, our grandfather) is sick.
Ja` ti k'u xi li jme`tik e. It depends on what our (grand)mother says.
There is also an archaic suffix of collective plurality, -ab, which in the speech of Zinacantecos only shows up in ritual phrases.
yalab, snich'nab his sons (in other words: [la novia y el novio])
-Al, "son (of a woman)"
-nich'(o)n, "son (of a man)"

(These nouns have more ordinarily forms based on the following radicals: `ol-ol, and nich'on-il.)

Predicate adjectives have plural forms with the remaining stative verbs.

`Ep jtz'unoj nichim. Batz'i lekik. I have seeded many flowers. They are very good.
Mi `ipoxuk to? Are you guys still sick?
Mu xibatotikŪtik, bik'itotikŪtik to. We're not going to go (because) we're still little.

The adjectives formed from a positional root plus the suffix -Vl alternates between the plural forms with -Vl-ik (in other words: with the plural suffix -ik) and a special form with -ajtik.

Va`alotik. We are standing.
Va`alik li jsa`k'opetik. The litigants are standing
Va`ajtik li `oyetik e. The [postes] are standing.
Mi chapaloxuk xa? Are you guys ready yet?
`Ali ka`etik e, chapalik xa. The horses are already ready?
Ja` no`ox li nichimetik e, mu to bu chapajtik. Only the flowers are still not yet ready.

Forms with -Vl-ik are predicated of animate things and things that due to their powerful properties achieve the position of being indicated by a positional root. On the other hand, the use of the forms with -ajtik suggests that something is in a passive position as a result of some external action. (A similar relationship appears to be hold between singular adjectives, based on positional roots, which have the form CVCVl and the form CVC-CVC (reduplicated).

In attributive position, ajdectives do not generally carry plural affixes.

K'elo li sakil naetik e. Look at the white houses.
Ich'ay kik'al pixoltak. My black hats were lost.

But some adjecties have quasi-plural forms basd on the suffix -ik, in attributive position.

`Oy muk'tik ton. There are huge rocks.
Maka bik'itik te` taj to e. There are only little trees over there.

Furthermore, reduplicated adjectives, with the suffix -tik, are not plural, but rather diminuitive.

Muk'muk'tik li ton e. The rock is somewhat large.
Leklektik no`ox li kabtel e. My work is only a little good.

The plural forms of -kotol "all" in the second or third person very often omit explicit plural affixes in the sentence's verb.

Mi chabat akotolik? Are all of you going?
Batik jkoltik ch`e. Let's go (all of us).
Ilok' `ech'el skotolik. All of them left.
Mi ilok'ik xa. Did they leave already?

In those contexts, the verb without a plural suffix can be considered a shortened form, indeterminate with respect to the plurality of the subject. On the other hand, verbs with subjects in the first person should be more explicit.

Chisut xa li vo`on e. I am returning already.
Chajchi`in. Mi chisutotik jcha`-va`altik? I will accompany you. Will we return together?
Batik jkotoltik. Let's go (all of us).
Vo`ot chakom. ChisutotikŪtik ta jkotoltikŪtik. You stay. We (excl.) we will return.

Also, take note of the fact that plural affixes are used with numeral classifier expressions.

Ikom xcha`-va`alik. Those two remained.
Mi cha`abtej avox-va`alik? All three (of you) are going to work?
Li`ipajotik jayva`altik e. Us, as many as we are, are sick.
[= j-jay-va`al-tik]
Ta `ox jmil chan-kot kalak', pero ijatav xchan-kotolik.
I was going to kill my four chickens, but they all ran away.

9.3 Reflexive and Reciprocal Verbs

`Ali Xun e, ismaj yamiko. John hit his friend.
`Ali Xun e, ismaj sba. John hit himself.
K'elo l avajnil e yu`un `ip. Look after your wife, because she's sick.
K'elo aba, yu`un `ipot. Look after yourself, because you're sick.
Jutuk mu jmil ta pox li jbol e. [Por poco] I didn't kill my brother-in-law for [darle] the sugarcane liquor.
Jutuk mu jmil jba ta pox. [Por poco] I didn't kill myself with [el trago].

If the subject and the object of a transitive verb are identical-that is to say, if the action of the verb is reflexive (someone does something to himself)-the position of the object is occupied by the appropriate possessed form of -ba. (The literal meaning of the word -ba is "face".) The use of -ba corresponds to the use of the English word self.

Ismaj sba. He hit himself.

The possessed form of -ba directly follows the verb, unless a particle intervenes.

K'elo me aba. Please look after yourself.
Isnak' xa stak'in, isnak' xa sba. He already hid his money and he already hid himself.

Sentences with a plural form of -ba as their object often have a reciprocal meaning.

Ta xch'ak sba li be e. The road divides.
-ch'ak, "separate, divide"
Ta xch'ak sbaik. They separated, they divorced one another.
Istzak sba li bak e. The bone mended.
Istzak sbaik li jyakubeletik e. The drunks [se agarraron] each other.

In these sentences the subject do something reciprocally, to each other, to one another.

Tol xut sbaik. They argue amonst themselves to much.
-ut, "to say, scold"
Ta nan xchuk sbaik. Perhaps they are going to jail each other.
-chuk, "to jail"
Tzjel sbaik ta `abtel. They are going to take turns doing the work.
-jel, "to change, vary"

Sometimes, only context distinguishes between the reciprocal and the reflexive meaning, [or as a question of emphasis.]

Te sk'el sbaik. They are going to look after each other. Or: They are going to look after themselves. (In conversation, the implication here is, "Let them take care of themselves. It's no business of ours.")
Ta jtzob jbatik ta jun `ora. We are going to meet at one.
-tzob, "to gather"
Avak' abaik ta k'exlal. [Se expusieron (ustedes) a la vergøenza.] (In other words: [se expusieron] yourself, [o unos a otros].)
-ak, "give"
k'exlal, "shame"

In the last example, the reflexive verb with -ba as its object combines with other nouns introduced by ta. It is evident that a reflexive verb is essentially intransitive, because the position of the object is occupied by the appropriate form of -ba. Some other logical or underlying object should be expressed by means of a relational phrase with ta or -chi`uk.

Isten sba ta yakubel. He took to drinking.
-ten, "to throw"
yakubel, "drunkenness"
Mu xavikta aba ta xanbal. Don't leave the road.
-ikta, "abandon, renounce"
xanbal, "journey, trip"

R. M. Laughlin (1975: 255, 264) gives other illustrative examples.

Yech isnochan sba ta jun tzeb. He wanted to have had sexual relations with a girl.
-nochan, "to follow closely"
Ispak'an sba ta mulil xchi`uk jun tzeb, `ak'o mi mu xk'an e. He denounced himself with respect to his guilt with the girl, although she didn't want it. (In other words, he falsely confessed his guilt for the girl's pregnancy, although she didn't want it/him.)
-pak'an, "to denounce falsely"
mul-il, "crime, guilt"

Many expressions, which have the literal form of a reflexive verb whose subject is a possessed noun, function as intransitive verbs, whose logical subject is indicated by means of "possessive" affixes joined to the grammatical subject

Ismak sba ko`on. I was [sofocado]. (Literally: My heart [se tapŪ].)
Ixchuk sba yok. He stumbled. (Literally: His foot [se amarrŪ].)
Stzob sba jch'ich'eltik ya`el. It seems that our blood (in other words: our pulse) [se junta] (in other words: [disminuya]). (In other words: We are very weak.) (Laughlin 1975:94)

Here Tzotzil sentences of the form:

Reflexive Verb + Body Part (+ Possessor)

is translated by Spanish sentences of the form:

Intransitive Verb + Subject

The subject of the translation corresponds to the possessor of the Tzotzil sentences. There are also expressions that are reflexive in form but lack a reflexive meaning. In many cases, these reflexive forms provide intransitive uses of transitive verb stems.

Ta jkolta jba. I am going to help.
-kolta, "to liberate, help (someone)"
Iyikta sba. He renounced (something), [se desanimŪ], [se retirŪ].
Te chamala aba. Wait there. (In other words: Wait!)

In other cases, sentences with reflexive verbs can contain explicit objects, although the reflexive prnoun -ba appears to occupy the position of grammatical object.

Ben tz'i` cha`i sba. He feels good about himself, he feels very ferocious. (Literally: He feels like a dog.)
-a`i, "to feel, to hear"
Chkal jba vokol. I will have a curing ceremony for myself. (Literally: I will say something difficult to myself.)
Lek vinik xcha`le sba, pero pukuj. He pretends to be good, but he is very bad.
-cha`le, "to be able to do, to act as if, to pretend to be"

The explicit object can be an entire sentence.

Isjam sba ti `oy smul. He admitted that he was guilty.
-jam, "to open"
Mu svaxan sba xch'un mantal. [No consiste en obedecer.]
-vaxan, "[calmar]"
-ch'un mantal, "to obey"
Mu sk'an xal sba ti ja` yak'oj stak'in.
He doesn't want to admit that he has given the money.
This type of reflexive verb also accepts objects in a passive form, with a subjunctive suffix.
Iyak' sba `iluk. He showed himself. (Literally: He gave (in order) to be seen.)
Iyal sba `a`yuk komel ti chbat ta nom. He left message that he was going far away. (Literally: He said, so as to be understood, that he was going far away.)

In these sentences, as in the previous example, mu svaxan sba xch'un mantal, there is a relationship of consequence between the two constituent clauses.

We will find more examples of this structure later in section 9.5.

Both transitive and intransitive verb stems are formed from different types of roots. For example, from the positional root chot "seated," the transitive stem -chotan "to seat" and the intransitive stem choti- "to be seated" are formed.

Ta jchotan jun lona ta jna. I am going to put a large burlap bag (say, of corn) in my house.
Chichoti ta jna. I am seated in my house.

Also, there is a reflexive form, based on -chotan, that has a somewhat more active meaning than the intransitive form.

Ta jchotan jba ta jna. I am going to seat myself in my house (and not move an inch from there).

Similarly, it is possible to say:

Chvaxi li ka` e. The horse is calming down.
Tzvaxan sba li ka` e. The horse is obeying / is becoming docile.

The root vax means "calm, gentle, tame, docile." The intransitive verb with the suffix -i denotes the state of calmness. The reflexive verb with -an denotes the result of the action of calming oneself: an action that presupposes the animacy and active participation of the subject.

There are also some transitive roots, such as ch'ay "to lose," that produce intransitive and reflexive forms. For example,

Ixch'ay stak'in. He gave pardon.
Ich'ay. [Se extraviŪ, se malogrŪ].
Ixch'ay sba. [Se fugŪ], he hid himself; he failed; he lost hope.

Similarly, the root -suj "to hurry" exhibits transitive, intransitive, and reflexive forms, each of which has the simple root as its verb stem.

Isuj (= i-s-suj) ska`. He hurried his horse. (Transitive)
Isuj tal.
Sujem tal. It returned in a hurry. (Intransitive)
Isuj sba tal. He made haste in returning. (Reflexive = Active)

A common imperative form uses the reflexive (and not the intransitive).

Suj(o) aba! Hurry up!

Compare the following forms:

-chap (transitive) to prepare
chap- (intransitive) to be prepared
-chab -ba (reflexive) to prepare oneself
Ijchap li kikatze e. I prepared my load.
Ichap li `ikatzil e. The load is prepared.
Ijchap jba. I prepared myself.
Ichap li ch'ojon e. The rope is rolled up.
Ixchap sba li chon e. The viper coiled up.

The transitive form of a root is often used to express an intransitive idea when there is no intransitive verb stem derived from that root. For example, the transitive verb -kap "to mix" is homophonyous with the intransitive verb root kap- "to get angry." The reflexive form, -kap -ba expresses the intransitive meaning of "to get mixed up, to be mixed" and not just the strictly reflexive meaning.

Iskap sba li `ixim e. The corn is mixed up.
Ta skap sba ta chobtik li te` `une. The tree is mixed up with the cornfield. (In other words: It can't be seen through the cornfield.)

Finally, with verb roots that have both transitive and intransitive forms, the reflexive form often has an extended or specialized meaning, and not simply a literal reflexive meaning.

Ta jk'opon li Xun e. I talking to John.
Chik'opoj jchi`uk li Xun e. I'm chatting with John.
Ta jk'opon jba jchi`uk li Xun e. John and I, we're talking.
Or: I agree with John.
Or: I'm going to discuss something with John.
Ta jtoy li `ixim e. I lifted the corn. Or: I raised the price of corn.
Itoy li `ixim e. The corn raised. Or: The price of corn went up.
Istoy sba. He grew rebellious, proud, disobedient.
Istik' stak'in ta banko. He deposited his money in the bank.
Istik' sba ta k'op. He stuck his nose in the argument.
-tik', "to insert, to put in"

There is a limited number of expressions with a quasi-reflexive or reciprocal form that come from adjectives or possessed nouns. These expressions serve as the predicates of sentences with the following form:


but the subject is marked not with an absolutive affix on the predicate, but rather with a possessive prefix on the word -ba, which forms part of the complex predicate.

Tol `abol aba. You suffer so much.
Solel `abol jba, mu k'usi xive` `o. I'm suffering terribly, because I have nothing to eat.
Leklek sba li tzeb e. The girl is pretty.
Yu`van leklek aba xana`? Do you think you're pretty?-because you're not. (scold)
Yan sba ko`on yu`un `ip li jch'amal e. I am upset (literally: my heart is bad) because my daughter is sick.
Yan sba chka`i ti tol chislaban krixchano. I feel bad because they make fun of me a lot.

(The expression yan sba appears to be fixed, with the general meaning "bad.") Plural possessors, like adjectives, can modify the word -ba.

`Abol sbaik. They are suffering.
Leklek avunen ba, `utz`utz avunen ba. You are pretty. (Literally: Your little person is pretty, good).

With relational nouns, such as kinship terms, a construction with -ba expresses a reciprocal relationship between the subjects of the sentences.

`Ali Xun e, ja` yitz'in li Petul e. John is Peter's younger brother.
`Ali Petul e, ja` sbankil li Xun e. Peter is John's older brother.
`Ali Xun e, li Petul e, sbankil yitz'in sbaik.
John and Peter are brothers.
Batz'i lek yamiko sbaik. They are good friends.
Lek yamiko sba xchi`uk taj e. He's very friendly with that one.

This construction shows the intimate relationship between possessive prefixes and ergative prefixes of transitive verbs: possessed nouns and transitive verbs occur with -ba in structures with a reflexive/reciprocal meaning.

Reflexive verbs give rise to reflexive nouns, of the following form:

Verb (+ Suffix) + bail

For example, one says:

Iyut sbaik. They fought.
Mu jk'an naka `ut-bail. I don't want a dispute.
Tzmaj sbaik li jyakubeletik. The drunks are going to fight.
`Oy maj-bail. There is a fight.

Also, compound nounds are formed with the suffix -ob, with the meaning: "place, time, or instrument forä". For example,

`iktaob-bail the end of the fight
-ikta, "to give up, to renounce"
bojob-bail weapon for stabbing
-boj, "to stab"
tzobob-bail meeting place
-tzob, "to gather, to meet"

These nouns are obviously related to the reflexive or reciprocal verbs from which they derive.

There are also agentive nouns, of the following form:

j-koltaob-ba(il) helper
j-toy-bail arrogant or rebellious person

The reciprocal construction also occurs with objects or dative constituents. In other words, reflexive sentences are formed from verbs which contains the dative suffix -be.

`Ali Xun e, iyak'be matanal li Petu` e. John gave a gift to [Petrona].
`Ali Xun e, li Petu` e, iyak'be sbaik matanal. John and [Petrona] gave gifts to each other.
`Ali jkaxlan e, ixchik'be sna li jchabajom e. The ladino burned the [milpero]'s house.
Skronta sbaik, yech'o ixchik'be sbaik snaik. They are enemies, and for that reasons they burned each other's houses.
Istz'otbe sbaik sk'obik. [El uno al otro se torcieron los brazos.]

Note that the order of the constituents alters in the reciprocal construction: the possessed form of -ba directly follows the verb, although in the non-reciprocal sentences, the indirect object (the dative constituent) follows the direct object.

Unlike the recirprocal construction, the use of the reflexive constructions appears to be impossible with an indirect object. For example, one cannot say:

***Isbojbe sba yok.

but instead should say:

Isboj sba ta yok. Or: Isboj yok stuk. He stabbed himself in the foot.2

9.4 The Imperative and the Subjunctive

Lok'an tz'i`! Beat it, dog!
Muyan ta jol-na! Climb up on the roof!
Ve`anik me! Please, eat!
`Ochan talel! Come in!
`Abtejan vo`ot! You, work!

The imperative for intransitive verbs, in the second person ("You, do something!, You guys, do something!") is formed by means of the suffix -an, with a verb stem, plus the suffix -ik in the case of a plural imperative. The particle me sometimes combines with the imperative in order to give a more informal meaning: "pleaseä" etc. The particle me also functions in the formation of negative imperative (which use the negative particle mu and neutral aspect of the second person).

Mu me xabat! Don't go, please!
Mu xa`abtej! Don't work!

The imperative form of an intransitive verb is derived from an underlying sentence of the following form:

Verb Object Subject (vo`ot, "you")

For example, from the sentence:

Chaman li `ixim e. You are going to buy corn.

the imperative is formed:

Man-o li `ixim e! Buy the corn!

The imperative of a transitive verb has an object, that is to say, the thing that receive or undergoes the action designated by the verb. If the object of the imperative is in the third person (as, for example, an inanimate thing), the imperative is formed with the suffix -o on the verb.

Mano li `ixim e! Buy the corn!
Milo li vakax e! Kill the cow!
K'opono li Xun e! Talk to John!

In general, the plurality of a subject or object is indicated by plural affixes on other constituents, and not on the verb.

Meltzano achobtik! [Hagan] your cornfields!
K'elo l ach'amaltak e! Take care of your kids!

If the object of the imperative is in the first person ("Do something to me, to us.") the imperative is formed with the verb plural an absolutive suffix that corresponds to the object:

-on; -otikŪtik
Milon, timi chamilon e. Kill me, if you're going to kill me.

Negative imperatives of transitive verbs also are formed by means of neutral aspect (often with the particle me).

Mu me xak'elon! Don't look at me!
Mu xavat avo`on! Don't worry! (Literally: Don't count your heart!)
-at, "to count, to calculate"
Mu xavak'! Don't give it!

There are also imperative forms of ditransitive sentences:

`Ak'bo stak'in! Give him his money!
Manbon me tal jun kilo bek'et! Do me the favor of buying me (and bringing back) a kilo of meat!

Here the imperative is of the form: Verb + b + o. The e of the dative suffix -be is ommitted before the imperative suffix -o. Imperative forms also occur with auxiliary verbs.

Ba ve`anik che`e! Go eat!
Ba k'elo l ana e! Go see your house!
Lok' k'oponol! Leave and talk with him!
`Och nupbo sk'ob! (Literally: Enter and give him your hand!) Enter and greet him (in other words, bow before an elder)!

Also, there are reflexive and reciprocal imperatives.

K'elo me aba! Take care of yourself!
`Ak'bo abaik matanal! Give each other gifts!
K'opono abaik! Talk to yourselves!

To form an imperative to express a reflexive action requires a construction that is not reflexive. For example, one says:

Milbon kuch'! Kill me my [piojo]!

But one cannot say:

***Milbot avuch'! ***Milbo aba avuch'!

Instead, one says:

Milo atuk l avuch' e! Kill your [piojo] yourself!

The following expressions also have a negative form:

Mu me xak'opon abaik! Don't talk to yourselves!
Mu me xasokbon kora! Don't ruin my watch!
-sok, "to ruin, break"
`ora, "watch, hour, luck"

In order to summarize the general form of imperatives, consider first an intransitive sentence.

Verb Subject (= vo`ot, "you")

From this sentence, one forms an imperative of the form:

Verb + -an

where the suffix -an cannot be consdered a modified form of the second person absolutive suffix. With a transitive sentnece of the following form:

Verb [ + -be] Object [Dative] Subject (= vo`ot, "you")

the object (or the dative constituent) engenders an absolutive affix in the imperative. On the other hand, the subject is signalled with the suffix -o only if there is no absolutive suffix. the negative imperative, whether the verb is transitive or intransitive, is formed without any change in the form of the verb, using the negative particle mu and neutral tense/aspect.

There are also imperative in other person categories: first person plural ("Let's do something!") and the third person ("Would that he do something!"). These forms in Tzotzil follow a similar pattern. Imperative of intransitive verbs are formed with a special affix, that we can call "subjunctive," plus an ordinary absolutive affix. And imperative of transitive verbs are formed by omitting the aspectual markers, while maintaning the ergative and absolutive affixes.

Lok'-(i)k-otik che`e. Let's go, then.
Ve`-(i)k-otik che`e. Let's go eat already.
Kich'tik `ech'el aj. Let's bring the tortillas.
Jmajtik xa li `ixim e. [Trillemos] the corn.

Here the word ve`ikotik can be analyzed as:

Stem + Subjunctive Infix + Absolutive Suffix
ve`, " to eat" -ik- -otik, "us"

Often the i of the infix -ik- is ommitted: ve`kotik, lek'kotik, etc. There is an irregular imeprative with the verb bat- "to go": batik "let's go!"

Batik xa ta ch'ivit, ba ve`kotik! Let's go to the market, let's go eat!
`Och `abtejkotik che`e. Let's get to work, then.

It is possible to combine the imperative form of an intransitive verb with an auxiliary verb, without a tense/aspect affix, as in the previous examples. (As we will see shortly, an intransitive verb with an auxiliary always has subjuncitive inflection.)

Ba `abtejan! Go work!
Kom vayikotik che`e! Let's stay and sleep!

The imperative of the first person plural, with transitive verbs, has an ergative prefix and an absolutive affix, but omits the aspectual prefix.

Ta jmantik `ixim. We're going to buy corn. (declarative)
Jmantik `ixim. Let's buy corn! (imperative, subjunctive)
Ta jsa`betik yav xchob. We're going to look for a place for his cornfield.
Jsa`betik yav xchob. Let's look for a place for his cornfield.

The so-called imperative of the third person follows the same pattern. These forms occur with or without the word `ak'o (literally: "(you) give thatä") in a construction that is similar to the construction in English that goes: "let is happen thatä, let him/herä"

(`Ak'o) ve`uk. Let him/her eat.
Lok'uk ta `ora. Let him go.
`Ak'o smaj. Let him hit it.
`Ak'o yak'be `arsyal. Let him whip him.
`arsyal, "whip"

This construction is also possible with passive forms:

`Ak'o majeuk. Let him be hit.
`Ak'o `ak'batuk. Let him be given it.

The suffix -uk in these words represents the form of the subjuncitve marker that occurs in final position, in other words, when there is no absolutive suffix. Thus, the last example can be analyzed as follows:

Chavak'be tak'in li Xun e. You give money to John.
`Ak'bo tak'in li Xun e. Give money to John.
Ch`ak'bat tak'in li Xun e. The money is given to John. (In other words: John has received the money.)
`Ak'o `ak'batuk tak'in li Xun e. Let's John receive the money.

This construction engenders the ommission of the aspectual prefix in transitive verbs. In other words, the verb combines only with the ergative prefix, which represents the subject, and an absolutive suffix, which represents the object. (In that context, the absolutive prefixes are not used.)

`Ak'o smajon, mu xixi` `o. Let him hit me; I'm not afraid of him.
`Ak'o yut sbaik, k'u jkwenta `o. Let them scold him. What business of mine is it?
`Ak'o yalbot. Let him tell you.

The same form can express an "imperative" of the first person singular.

`Ak'o jch'ay ta jmoj. Better that I lose it once. (Laughlin, 1975:40)

These forms of the verb are called "subjunctive" because they signify action or states that the speaker desires, proposes, or doubts. The imperative forms are, in reality, subjunctive forms (as in Spanish), indicators that the speakers desires the action of another person (typically the listener). Even adjectives can occur with subjunctive inflection.

Chotolot ta xila. You are seated in the chair.
Chotlan ta xila. Take a seat.
`Ak'o chotluk ta xila. Let him take a seat.
Va`lan. Stand up.
Va`likotik xa. We are standing up already.

From the poisition root chot "seated" the adjective chotol is formed; the second vowel is lost before the subjunctive formative -ik- or -uk. The same process motivates the subjunctive forms of va`al (from the root va` "standing, bipedal").

The desiderative meaning is clearly notable in the construction `ak'o + Sentence. We have already seen a few construction in which the subjunctive forms appear.

Chak batikon tana. I want to go.
Chak jatavan ya`el. You want to flee.
jatav- "to flee"
Chak sti` bek'et. He wants to eat meat.
Chak kak'be poraso. I would like to give you a blow.
poraso, "[golpde, porrazo]"

The particle chak expresses a desire or positive sentiment, and requries, in this construction, a verbal complement with subjunctive inflection. With intransitive verbs the subjunctive has the following form:

Intransitive Verb + Subjunctive Infix + Absolutive Suffix

With transitive verbs, the subjunctive form has the form:

Ergative Prefix + Transitive Verb + Absolutive Suffix

(This form does not include tense/aspect prefixes.)

One can distinguish between two different meanings of a sentence with chak.

Chak yuluk. He wants to arrive (here).


Chak yuluk (e), lek. If he arrives, it will be good.
Chak yuluk e, xu` xibatik. Let him arrive, so that we can go.

The verbal complement carries the subjunctive affix (-ik- or -uk) if it is intransitive, or occurs without an aspectual or tense prefix if it is transitive. Often, a form of the transitive verb -a`iy "to feel" occurs as an additional object.

Chak jti` ka`i bek'et. I feel the desire to eat meat.
Chak batan ava`i. You feel the desire to go.

The desire to do something can be expressed with chak, with the appropriate form of -a`iy, or with both constructions.

Chak batikon ta Jobel. I want to go to San CristŪbal.
Chibat ka`i ta Jobel.
Chak batikon ka`i ta Jobel.
Chak jlo` lo`bol.
Ta jlo` ka`i lo`bol.
Chak jlo` ka`i lo`bol. I want to eat fruit.

There are other expressions that also require subjunctive complements. In general, these signify some type of desire or positive anticipation.

Kiluk ko`on `abtejkon ta be. I would like to work in the road. (Literally: My heart sees that I work in the road.)
Kiluk ko`on jsa` kaj`ilol. I would like to look for a curer (for me).
Yiluk avo`on k'otan ta xmal k'ak'al. You would like to arrive in the evening (literally: when [se pone] the sun).
Ta jmala yuluk.
Ta jmala chul. I await his arrival.

The last sentence denotes a more neutral sense of waiting: "I await his arrival." The use of the subjunctive suggests the following meaning: "I await his arrive, and I hope that he arrives (soon), (but I don't know if he's going to arrive)." Also note that the expression kiluk ko`on contains the subjunctive suffix -uk with the verb k-il "I see," which gives the expression the meaning "I [viera] my heartä" this use is related to the use of the subjunctive inflection in conditional sentences that we will see later. There are also expressions of the following form:

Yo`onuk chbat. He wants to go. (Literally: Would that his heart had the desire to go.)

The better known context in which these subjunctive forms occur we have already described in Chapter 8, when speaking of the "quasi-subjunctive" and of its use in constructions with auxiliary verbs. We have already seen that the prefix of aspect/tense combines directly with the auxiliary, thereby leaving in evidence the transitive verb without an aspectual prefix.

Chaman kantela. You are buying candles.
Chba aman kantela. You are going to buy candles.

But intransitive verbs also occur with auxiliaries; and in that context, the aspectual prefix combines with the auxiliary, and the intransitive stem requires a subjunctive affix, followed by the absolutive suffix.

Cha`abtej. You work.
Chba `abtejan. You are going to work.
Chive`. I eat.
Ch`och ve`ikon. He goes in to eat.
Ivay. He went to sleep.
Iyul vayuk. He arrived to sleep.

The meaning of this construction is understood as "quasi-subjunctive," expressing the end of object of the movement denoted by the auxiliary verb: "enter to do something, go with the [fin] ofä" etc. Again, this demonstrates the functional correlation between transitive verbs without aspectual marking and intransitive verbs with a subjunctive formative together with the absolutive affix.

Note that the suffix -an, which appears in imperatives and auxiliary verbs etc., can be thought of as an alternative form (suppletive) of the sequence -ik-ot (subjunctive + second person absolutive).

Chba vayan. You are going to sleep.
Chba vayikot.

(The second form is possible, but uncommon in the speech of Zinacantecos.)

Below, I will present the forms of an intransitive verb in combination with an auxiliary verb.

Kom vayikon. I staed to sleep.
Kom vayan / kom vayikot. You stayed to sleep.
Kom vayuk. He stayed to sleep.
Kom vayikotik. We stayed to sleep (inclusive).
Kom vayanik / kom vayikoxuk. You guys stayed to sleep.
Kom vayikuk. They stayed to sleep.

It is also possible to combine an auxiliary verb with the passive form of a transitive verb. The sequence of affixes and stem is the following:

Aspect + Aux. Trans. Verb + Passive + Subject + Absolutive

Consider, for example, the following sentences:

`Ali Xun e, ismaj li Petul e. John hit Peter.
`Ali Xun e, kom smaj li Petul e. John stayed to hit Peter.
`Ali Petul e, imaje. Peter was hit.
`Ali Petul e, kom majeuk (=maj-e-uk-0). Peter stayed to be hit.

(Compare the following sentence, which has a form we have alreay discussed:

Ikom smajel li Petul e. (Someone) stayed to hit Peter.

Sentence of this type are more common used to describe situations where the agent or subject of the action is indefinite or unknown.)

In other contexts, which we have already seen, the subjunctive inflection occurs with verbs of perception: -il "to see," and -a`iy "to feel, hear." These verbs function as the complements of other verbs, meaning the end or the intentional result of an action.

K'elo avil li chon e. Look (in order to see) the snake.
`A`iyo ava`i k'u xal. Listen (in order to hear) what he's saying.

In its reduced form, these constructions function as conventional commands: k'elavi "Look!" and `a`iyava`i, "Listen!" The first verb of the compound can be imperative or declarative.

Pukuj le`e, k'opono ava`iy. He is very bad; talk to him and see.
Chkak' avil li jchob e. I am going to show you (literally: give that you see) my cornfield.
Chkak'be yil k'u x`elan li `abtel e. I am going to show him what work is like.

Also, the roots -il and -a`iy can function as intransitives; in that construction, with subjunctive suffixes, these vergs have a "passive" meaning.

Chkak' `iluk li ton e. I am going to show the rock. (Literally: I am going to give the rock to be seen.)
Ba yal `a`yuk k'u smul. He went to reveal his crime. (Literally: He went to speak in order that his crime be understood.)

These sentences have the following structure:


In other words, the subordinate sentence, if it is in isolated position, will produce the following passive sentence:

Ch`ile li ton e. The road is seen.

The present form is produced by omitting the aspectual prefix, by adding the subjunctive suffix -uk.

(Chkak') iluk li ton e.

Similarly, the following sentences represent alternate possiblities for expressing a single situation.

Ta jk'an `ak'o p'olikuk li kalak' e.
Ta jk'an ta xp'olik li kalak' e. I want my chickens to multiply.
p'ol-, "to multiply"
Ta jk'an `ak'o `abtejan. I want you to work.
Ta jk'an (ti) cha`abtej.

In the first sentence of each pair, the object of the verb -k'an "to want" is formed from `ak'o whose literal translation would be "that", adding the subjunctive to express the speaker's desire. In the second sentence of each pair, the complement is the ordinary form of the verb (with or without the conjunction ti "that").

Tzk'an `ak'o yich' balamil li yitz'in e. He wants his little brother to receive the land.

Note that construction with the word `ak'o is necessary when the subject of the verb -k'an and the subject of the complement are non-coreferential third person nouns. Contrast, for example, the last sentences with those below:

Tzk'an chich' li balamil e. He wants to receive the land (himself).
Tzk'an chich' balamil li yitz'in e. His little brother wants to receive the land.

(We will consider the details in the following section.)

Below, I will give a review of the "quasi-subjunctive" forms of transitive and intransitive verbs.

IV TV Subject
`abtej-k-on j-maj+ABS 1a pers.
`abtej-an a-maj+ABS 2a pers.
`abtej-uk s-maj+ABS 3a pers.
`abtej-k-otik j-maj-tik+ABS vo`otik
`abtej-?-otikŪtik j-maj-tikŪtik+ABS vo`otikŪtik
`abtej-k-oxuk a-maj-ik+ABS vo`oxuk
`abtej-ik-uk s-maj-ik+ABS they, etc.

Note that in the speach of Zinacantecos the exclusive form does not include the subjunctive infix. Verbs like the following are formed in the following way:

Ch`och `abtejikuk. They entered work.
Ch`och smajikon. They entered to hit me.
Ilok' sk'elot. He left to see you.
Ilok' `abtejuk. He left to work.
Laj xa `abtejotikŪtik. We (exclusive) will finish working.

We have seen that Tzotzil imperatives are, in reality, subjunctive forms of the second person (or the first person plural, etc.). There are two irregular imperatives.

Batik! Let's go!
La` me. Come here!

The regular imperative of tal- "to come" would be ***talan. This imperative form is non-existent and has been supplanted by the word la`. In imperative contexts, la` also appears in place of the auxiliary tal.

Chtal ak'el li ch'ivit e. You are coming to see the market.
La` k'elo li ch'ivit e. Come see the market.

But la` only functions as an imperative; in other subjunctive contexts, the form talan is used.

Chak talan ta `anil. Come soon!

There are also imperatives with a very formal tone (possibly archaic), which are formed with the intransitive root laj- "to finish."

Bat-laj-an che`e. Go, then.
Lok'lajan. Leave.
Meltzajuk-lajan. Let it be fixed.
`Ich'-lajan. Receive it.

I do not know if this pattern is productive.

Note that the courteous way to make the toast is:

Kich'ban. I receive it for you.

with the response:

`Ich'o. Receive it.

(In the speech of Chamulans, the formula is:

Ta me xkich'. I receive it.

with the desiderative particle me.)

The word kich'ban may be analyzable as a subjunctive form of the following construction:

Chakich'be. I take it from/for you.

Earlier (in Chapter 5), we saw that the particle mu occurs with the suffix -uk or an infix -ik- that we know recognize.

Mu `antikon. I am not a woman.
Mu tzebikot. You are not a girl.
Mu lekuk le`e. That is not good.

The form of negative predicates obviously is related to that of the subjunctive. The negative formative is identical to the subjunctive formative: -ik-/-uk. Note that it is possible to negate a stative verb with the particle mu (and it is not necessary to use muk' bu) if the negative affix [se ha juntado].

Muk' bu jmajojot. I haven't hit you (and I know it).
Mu la bu jmajojot. I haven't hit you (they tell me).
Mu jmajojikot. If someone has hit you, it wasn't me.
Or: If I hit someone, it wasn't you.
Mu vo`onikon jmajojot. I wasn't the one who hit you.
Muk' bu batemon. I have gone (in other words: I'm still here).
Mu batemikon. I'm not the one who went (it was someone else).

Also note the relationship between imperatives and verbs with mu + neutral aspect.

Batan me. Go.
Mu me xabat. Don't go.
(`Ak'o) batuk. Let him go.
Mu me xbat. Don't let him go.
Chibat/chak batikon. I'm going. I want to go.
Mu xibat. I'm not going. I don't want to go.

The relationship between the subjunctive and the negative, which [se expone] in the coincidence of forms, can be seen more clearly in conditional sentences, that is, in sentences of the form:

(a) If something happens, another things happens.


(b) If something had happened, something else would have happened.

Sentences of the first type are formed, in Tzotzil, with the conjunction timi "if". (Note that the particle mi signals, at once, [interrogaciŪn y alternaciŪn].)

Timi `ipot to e, xu` xakom. If you are still sick, you can stay.
Timi cha`ipaj ta be e, chacham. If you get sick on the road, you will die.
Timi avich' li tak'in e, mas lek chanak'. If you receive money, it's best to hide it.

(The clause introduced by timi ends with the enclitic -e.) In these sentences, one imagines a possible or probable situation: you're probably still sick; its possible that you'll get sick on the road; one hopes that you'll receive money, etc. The second clause in each sentence designates the consequence of the situation denoted by the first conditional clause.

There is another construction [ligada] with this one, formed with `ak'o miä "although."

`Ak'o mi chajatav e, chasmaj (`onox) li Xun e. Although you're fleeing, John will hit you.
`Ak'o mi yal sk'op li `ajvalil e, chaslo`lo. Although the owner gave you his word, he will deceive you.
-lo`lo, "to deceive, defraud"

On the other hand, sentences of type (b), which are formed with the conjunction `ati "if such-and-such had happenedä" express the result of a hypothetical situation that, in actuality, did not occur or has not occured.

`Ati `ipikot / `ipan to e, teyot ta ana. If you were still sick, you would still be in your house.
`Ati `ipajikot / `ipajan ta be e, lacham xa. If you had gotten sick on the road, you would have died.
`Ati avich'uk li tak'in e, anak' xa. If you had received the money, you would have hidden it already.

In these sentences the hypothetical, but not realized, situation requires a subjuncitve/negative formative that expresses its irreality. There is considerable variation among Zinacantecos with respect to the appropriate forms, but in general they follow the following pattern:

`ati ä Intransitive Verb + Subjunctive + Absolutive ä e,


`atiä Ergative Prefix + Transitive Verb + Subject + Absolutive ä e,

Consider the following examples:


Libat volje. I went yesterday.
`Ati batikon volje, chik'ot xa lavi e. If I had gone yesterday, I would have arrived today.
Lamile. He has died. (passive form)
`Ati milean e, ch'abalot. If you had died, today you would not exist.

(Note: mil-e-an-e = kill + passive + subjunctive second person + enclitic.)

Ch`akbat jun tzeb. A girl was given to him.
`Ati `ak'batuk jun tzeb e, ta xik'. If he had been given a girl, he would have married her.


Chajmil. I will kill you.
`Ati jmilikot e, ch'abalot xa. If I had killed you, you would not exist.
Ijmil li Xun e. I killed John.
`Ati jmiluk li Xun e, ch'abal xa. If I had killed John, he would not exist.
Alajes avabtel volje. You finished your work yesterday.
`Ati alajesuk avabtel volje e, chabat xa lavi e. If you had finished your work yesterday, you would go today.
Lislaban li Xun e. John made fun of me.
`Ati slabanikon li Xun e, ijchuk xa. If John had mocked me, I would have put him in jail.

The variation between the possible forms is illustrated by the following pair:

`Ati kilikot / lakiluk volje e, lajk'opon `ox. If I had seen you yesterday, I would have spoken with you.

In review: these forms require a subjunctive formative after the verbal stem: before the absolutive suffix, or in the final position if there is no absolutive suffix.

The word yechuk, formed from yech "thus, in this way," plus the subjunctive suffix, can substitute for a conditional clause (with `ati). In this usage, yechuk means: "if it were the case that, if things were as they should beä"

(`Ati) yechuk e, vo`ot chabat. You should go (but you're not going to).
Mu sk'anbe slok' yosil ti yechuk e. If it were as it should be, I would not ask rent for his land.
-lok' "rent" (noun)

Other nouns and adjectives combine with -uk with simlar meanings.

`Oyuk no`ox atak'in sk'an. All you lack is money. (Literally: It wants your money to exist, nothing more.)
Mas lek ti ch'abaluk ye. It would be better if he would hush up. (Literally: ä if he didn't have a mouth.)
`Oyuk `onox xavalbon e, lital mas vo`ne. If you had told me, I would have come a while ago.

The subjunctive suffix -uk also combines with interrogative and demonstrative words in order to give an indefinite meaning.

Bu ta jchepan li `ixim e? Where should I put the corn?
Buyuk. Wherever.
K'usi chalajes? What do you want to eat?
K'usuk no`ox. Whatever.
Lavi `ipot e, much'u chtal xchabiot? Since you're sick,who should come to care for you?
Much'uk. Whoever.
Mi chibatik `ok'ob? Are we going tomorrow?
Teyuk. Whenever.

These indefinite words provide another context for the use of subjunctive verbs, [a fin de] expressing possibility or indefinite desire.

Mi `oy atak'in, buyuk batan. If you have money, you can go wherever you want.
`Oyuk atak'in, buyuk batan. If you had money, you could go wherever you want.
Much'uk taluk/much'uk xu` xtal. Any person can come.
`Ipuk no`ox luban/`ak'o mi xalub-lajeso l avabtel e. Although you're tired, finish your work!
`ip, "grave, hard"
Much'u junukal ta jk'opon? Mi ja` li Xun e? Who should I talk to? John?
Ja`uk. Let it be him.
`Ak'o mi junuk no`ox `ora, mu xu` yu`un abtel. Although it's only an hour, he can't work.

Finally, there is a word manchuk which appears to contain the subjunctive suffix -uk, although its origin remains obscure. The meaning of manchuk appears to be related to that of other subjunctive/negative constructions.

Manchuk li vo` e, lek. It would be good if it weren't raining.
Manchjuk mi chavuton e, manchuk mi chalabanon e, chibat. If it weren't for your teasing me, your mocking me, I would go. Or: Although you scold me, although you mock me, I am going to go.
Manchuk lubemon, chibat. It doesn't matter that I'm tired, I always go. Or: I would go if I weren't tired. (Laughlin, 1975:229)

The complexity of the use of the -ik-/-uk affix includes the imperatives, the "quasi-subjunc6tive" idefinites, negatives, and unreal conditions. The meaning common among these uses appears to implicate an uncertain, unknown, unreal, or indefinite character: what the linguist A. Wierzbicka calls the "ignorative." [Reference?

9.5 Complex Structures

Ika`i ti labat e. I heard that you left.
Ika`i ti chabat e. I heard that you were going to go.
Mu jna` mi tzk'an. I don't know if he wants to.
Jamal iyal ti `oy smul. He said frankly that he was to blame.
Mi muk' avil mi tey? You didn't see if he was there?
Isnop ta sjol ti xu` xbat. He decided that he could go.
Chixi` `o ti chibat ta nom. I am afraid of going far away.

Some Tzotzil verbs, which express actions such as saying, hearing, understanding, knowing, asking, etc., accept entire clauses as complements. In general, these complements begin with the particle ti, which corresponds to the English complementizer that.

Mi ava`i ti ijatav li `antz e? Did you hear that the woman ran away?

We can represent this sentence in the following way:


This complex structure also occurs with the particle mi (which we recognize as the interrogative particle) in place of ti.

Mi ava`i mi ijatav li `antz e? Did you hear whether the woman fled?
Muk' ika`i mi ijatav e. I never heard whether she fled.

The use of ti in these constructions implies certainty about what is denoted by the subordinate clause, while the use of mi indicates uncertainty.

(a) Jamal chal ti `oy smul. He will say honestly that he is guilty.
(b) Jamal chal mi `oy smul. He will say honestly whether he is guilty.

In sentence (a), the subject will admit that he has committed a crime. In sentence (b), we do not assume that he is guilty, but we do expect the subject to admit whether or not he has committed the crime.

Note that certain verbs, due to their meaning, require mi or ti to introduce a complement clause, and the two particles cannot be freely substituted. For example, the verb -ch'un "to believe" (which can also mean "to obey") requires complements with ti, while the verb -jak' "to ask" requires complements with mi.

Mu jch'un ti chabat e. I don't believe that you'll go.
Ba sjak' mi `oy `ixim. He went to ask whether there was corn.

Here we see the particle ti introducing an assertion (although the sentence negates it) and the particle mi introducing a question: a proposition which can be questioned.

Mu sna` ti ilaj ta vakax li xchob e. He doesn't know that some cows damaged his cornfield. (But the cornfield really was damaged, although he doesn't know it.)
Mu sna mi ilaj ta vakax li xchob e. He doesn't know ifä

In the second sentence, there are two possible interpretations, illustrated by the following examples: (a) We have heard that a cow destroyed various cornfields near his, but he does not know if his has also been damaged. (b) We know that a cow has damaged his cornfield, but he doesn't know. In reality, he does not have any idea [whether] his cornfield has been ruined.

In these sentences, the transitive verb requires a direct object that can be a subordinate clause, introduced by ti or mi. Complements of these verbs can be ordinary nouns.

Ika`i lo`il. I heard a rumor.
Mu jna` kastiya. He doesn't know Spanish.
Chal mantal. He gave the orders.

Also, the object of a verb such as -al or -a`i can be a complex combination of noun and subordinate clause.

Ika`i lo`il ti icham li `ajvalil e. I heard a rumor that the owner had died.
Chal mantal ti bu xu` xi`abtejotik. He tells us where we can work.

There are also verbs or constructions that do not accept ordinary object (nouns), but nevertheless take complement clauses.

Iya`i sba ti xcham xa e. He felt that he would soon die. (Literally: He felt himself that he would die.)
Ijam ye ta vokol ti ja` stamoj li tak'in e. He confessed under duress that he was the one who had taken the money. (Literally: He opened his mouth with difficulty, he who had taken the money.)

There are also many occasions when the particle ti or mi does not appear, or seems to be optional.

Chkal vo`on e, mu xtal. I say (in other words: it seems to me) (that) he isn't coming.
(X)ka`uk labat xa e. I thought (wrongly) that you had already heard.
-a`uk, "to think wrongly

The use here of -al "to say" plus a complement without the introducing particle differs slightly from the use of the very same verb with ti complements.

Iyal ti chbat e. He said that you were going.
Chal li stuk e, chbat. According to what he says, he is going.
Chkal vo`on e, mu xbat. But I think that he won't to go.

The use of the word chkal "I say" constitutes a "performative" act of speech, with the effect of announing an opinion: "What I say isä

Entire clauses, introduced by ti or without any such particle, can also serve as the grammatical subject of some verbs.

Mu xatun. You're no good.
Mu xtun ti chabat e. It's no good that you're going.
Tztak' chalok'be yosil. It's good/possible that you're renting him the land.
Mu stak' (ti) chajatav (e). It's not good that you're fleeing.

In these cases, there is apparently a structure of the following form:

The subordinate clause in this construction can be transitive.

Mu stak' chajk'opon. It's not possible for me to talk to you.

If the clause that functions as grammatical subject is in the passive form, however, the structure changes as a result.

Mu xatak' k'oponel. It isn't possible to talk to you.

We can represent these two sentences by means of a diagram. The first appears to have the following structure:


The verb -tak' is formally transitiv, and means "to answer." A sentence like the one above thus means something like "[No sirve (contesta)] that X," where X represents the subordinate clause. In the second example, the grammatical subject is a passive sentence of the following sort:

Chak'oponat. You are being spoken to.

A hypothetical structure of the form:


produces another structure of the following form:


where the logical object of the subordinate clause produces the ergative prefix of the verb -tak' (in other words, it acts as the verb's grammatical subject).

Clauses introduced by ti also express the cause of or the motive for an action. We have seen the word yu`un "because" used to express the cause of something.

Chopol yo`on yu`un chabat. He is sad (literally: his heart is bad) because you're going.

The causal relation also can be expressed in the following manner (with ti or li):

Chopol yo`on, ja ti/li chabat e. He is sad; it's that (in other words: because) you're going.

Or, with the relational particle `o, one can say:

Chopol `l yo`on ti chabat e. He is sad as a result of your leaving.

One can see the contrast between these two construction-that is, the one using an explanation and the other expressing a cause-in the following context:

Ta xi` ta be, ja` ti/li bik'it to e. In the road he was afraid, because he's still young.
Ta xi` `o ti ch'abal xchi`il e. He was afraid that he he didn't have a companion.
[Find translation that better captures contrast!]

It would be strange to say:

***Ta xi` `o ti bik'it to e. He was afraid that he was still young.

One can see that the following sentences are directly related:

Mi chtal vo`? Will it rain? (Literally: Is water coming?)
Ta sjak' mi chtal vo`. He is asking whether it will rain.

In a similar way, other types of questions seem to serve as the objects of certain verbs.

Much'u chbat ta Jobel? Who is going to San CristŪbal?
Mu jna` much'u chbat. I don't know who is going.
K'usi iyal li preserente e? What did the president say?
Mi ava`i k'usi iyal? Did you hear what he said?
Bu ta jtzob jbatik? Where will we meet.
Ta jnoptik bu ta jtzob jbatik. Let's think about where we'll meet.

Complements of this sort, introduced by the particle ti, mean something definite, as in the following examples:

Ispas mantal ti much'u xu` xbat. He gave the order saying who can go.
Isnop ta sjol ti bu ta spas xchob. He decided (literally: he thought in his head) where he was going to make his cornfield.
Mu xch'un ti k'u yepal chk'anbat multa.
He doesn't believe how much of a fine they want.
[Structures that often appear to be interrogative sentences also appear in relative clauses.]
Ital li vinik e. The man came.
Much'u vinik? Which (literally: who) man?
Ital li much'u i`ipaj ta be e. The man who got sick on the road came.
Mi ja` li `oy ska` e? Is he the one who has a horse?3

In relative clauses, the article li (or ti) precedes an entire clause, optionally using the interrogative (= relative) pronoun to form a complex noun that denotes: "the person whoä" The same possibility exists with k'usi "what, whichä":

K'elo k'usi ijta. See what I found.
K'usi ata? What did you find?
Ijta li k'usi ach'ay volje e. I found what you lost yesterday.
Mi ja` li ijch'ay ta ch'ivit e? Was it what I lost in the market?

With the particle bu "where" it is necessary to add the special particle yo` to a relative clause.

Bu la`ay? Where were you?
Te li`ay yo` (bu) ta xchon lo`bol. I was there where they sell fruits.
Mi ja` li yo` (bu) (`oy) ch'ivit e? Was it where there's the market?

A similar structure with relative clauses expresses the tense of an action or the period during which an action occurs. In the speech of Zinacantecos, there are two particles that introduce such temporal clauses: k'al(al) and yok'al.

K'usi `ora icham li Xun e? When did John die?
Ja` `o icham k'alal / yok'al i`ayan xch'amal. He died when his child was born.
Mi ja` `o k'alal i`ayan li k'ox Petul e? Was it when little Peter was born?

This kind of relative clauses can also combine directly with the nouns that they modify, sometimes without any kind of pronoun or conjunction.

`Oy jun vinik, ibat ta Jteklum. There's a man; he went to Zinacant·n. (In other words: There was a man who went to Zinacant·n.)
Mu xkojtikin li vinik (ti much'u) ibat ta Jteklum. I don't know the man who went to Zinacant·n.
`Oy jun `ulo`, batem ta pinka, ja` imilvan. There was a Chamulan who went to the farm; he was the one who killed someone.
Ja` imilvan li `ulo` (ti) batem ta pinka. It was the Chamulan who went to the farm that killed someone.
`Ali `ulo` (ti) batem ta pinka e, ja` ismil li `ajvalil e. The Chamulan who went to the farm, he killed the mason.

But, in general, the relative clause begins with ti or with a relative pronoun.

Ijch'ay tak'in volje. I lost money yesterday.
Bu ikom li tak'in ti ijch'ay volje e? Where is the money that I lost yesterday?
`Ali Xun e, ista li tak'in ti ijch'ay volje e. John found the money that I lost yesterday.
Isnak' sba ta na li j`elek' e. The thief hid in a house.
Bu junukal? Which?
Te isnak' sba ta na yo` (bu) avak' avixim e. He hid there in the house where you put the corn.
Ichuk li mol Xap e. Old man Sebastian has been jailed.
Much'u mol Xap? Which old man Sebastian?
Ja` ichuk li mol Xap ti (much'u) ichik'bat sna e. The old man Sebastian whose house burned down.

A complex noun that has a relative clause has the form


where the subordinate clause contains the noun X. It is also necessary for the constituent X in the relative clause to occupy a position from which it can be fronted.

Isman `ixim li krem e. The boy bought corn.
`Ali krem e, isman li `ixim e. As for the boy, he bought corn.
Ikil li krem ti isman li `ixim e. I saw the boy who bought corn.
Amaj li krem e. You hit the boy.
`Ali krem e, amaj. The boy, you hit him.
Ikil li krem ti amaj e. I saw the boy you hit.
Ijatav skrem li mol e. The son of the old man fled.
`Ali mol e, ijatav skrem. The old man-his son fled.
Ikil li mol ti ijatav skrem e. I saw the old man whose son fled.

But it is not possible to say:

***Ikil li `izim ti isman li krem e.

to express the idea that: "I saw the corn that the boy bought." From the sentence

Isman `ixim li krem e. The boy bought corn.

only the constituent li krem e can be fronted. The object, `ixim, can be fronted only if the sentence has a passive form.

Imane (yu`un krem) li `ixim e. The corn was bought (by the boy).
`Ali `ixim e, imane (yu`un li krem e).
Ijlajes li `ixim ti imane yu`un li krem e. I finished off the corn (that was) bought by the boy.

Here one sees the strict relationship between the formulation of a relative clause and the position in the clause of the noun that forms the base of the complex noun phrase.

The information transmitted by a relative clause can also be expressed by a sequence of sentences or clauses.

`Ataj Xap e, ichik'bat sna e, ja` ichuk. [A ese viejito Sebasti·n le quemŪ su casa; fue Čl quien se encarcelŪ.]
`Ali na yo` avak' avixim e, te isnak' sba li j`elek' e. The house where you put your corn-the thief hid himself there.

In the last section we saw constructions that used `ak'o plus a subjunctive verb to express a desire or intention. We will now consider this type of complement in more detail.

Ta jk'an vo`. I want water.
Ta jk'an chkuch' vo`. I want to drink water.
Ta jk'an (ti) chavuch' vo`.
Ta jk'an `ak'o avuch' vo`. I want you to drink water.

Complex sentences of this type reduce ambiguity, using verbal affixes that clarify who wants someone else to do something.

Ta jk'an (ti) chap'olik.
Ta jk'an `ak'o p'olan. I want you guys to multiply.
Ta jk'an (ti) p'ijon / chip'ijub. I want to be ready.
p'ij, "ready, intelligent"
p'ijub-, "get ready"
Ta jk'an (ti) chbat li krem e.
Ta jk'an `ak'o batuk li krem e. I want the boy to go.

Note that, if the subject of the verb -k'an "to want" is identical to the subject of the complement clause's verb (that is, if the two nouns are co-referential), then the construction with `ak'o is impossible.

Chak'an chachan li kastiya e. You want to learn Spanish.
Chak'an (ti) ta jchan li kastiya e.
Chak'an `ak'o jchan li kastiya e. You want me to learn Spanish.

When the protagonists of the two clauses of a complex sentence are nouns, the difference between the two constructions becomes very important.

`Ali Xun e, tzk'an chchan li kastiya e. John wants to learn Spanish. (b)
`Ali Xun e, tzk'an `ak'o xchan kastiya (li Petul e). John wants Pedro to learn Spanish. (c)
`Ali Xun e, tzk'an ti ja` chchan kastiya (li Petul e). John wants it to be Pedro who learns Spanish.

In example (a), John wants to learn Spanish himself, while in examples (b) and (c), John wants someone else (for example, Pedro) to learn Spanish.

The same structural restriction applies to sentences with intransitive complements.

Tznop yo`on ch`abtej. He wants to work (literally: his heart thinks that it works).
Isnopilan chpaj. He wanted to remain. (Laughlin 1975: 257)

In these sentences, the subject of the first verb (transitive) is identical to the subject of the second verb (intransitive). Here the complement clause directly follows the first verb, without the particle ti, and without the construction with `ak'o + subjunctive.

On the other hand, if the two subjects are different, a more complex structure is used. The difference presents itself in the following examples, in negative forms:

Mu jk'an jman chenek'. I don't want to buy beans.
Mu jk'an ti chaman chenek'. I don't want you to buy beans.
Mu sk'an xbat. I don't want to go.
Mu sk'an ti chbat. He doesn't want him to go.

The construction with -ak' + complement clause does not permit the identification of the subject of -ak' and the complement subject.

Mu xak' lok'ikon. He won't let me leave.
Mu xak' lok'uk. He won't let him leave.
Mu xlok'. He won't leave, he doesn't want to leave, he won't let himself leave.

We can conclude this section with a few final notes on those structures that express the motive or intention of something, as well as the result or consequence of an action. We have already seen the particle `o, through which two related sentences are connected.


Isman `asaluna li Xun e, chak'inta `o xchob. John bought a hoe, with which he is going to clean his cornfield.


`Ali Pavlu e, i`atin ta `uk'um ta `olon `osil, ja` i`ipaj `o ta sik-k'ok. Pablo bathed in the river in Hot Country, and that's why he got sick with malaria.

The particle yo` plus `o introduces clauses that represent explicit motive or intention.

`Ali me`el e, iyak'be te` li yalib e, yo` ch`batej `o mas. The old woman hit her daughter-in-law with a stick, so that the daughter-in-law would work more.
`Ali Xun e, isa` yajnil yo` `o tzmeltzanbat yot.

The word tzmeltzanbat can be analyzed in the following manner:


The subject of this verb, John, is identical to the subject of the verb isa` of the first clause.


The meaning of the sentence is best expressed through the following translation: "John looks for a wife, in order that she'll make his tortillas." In this sentence, John is the topic of two clauses, and it is inferred that his wife is the one who is going to make the tortillas.

The particle yo` combines with to in order to introduce clauses with the meaning "now that" or "while."

Ta jchon kixim yo` to toyol stojol. I am going to sell my corn while the price is high.
Ba sk'opon stojbalal yo` to mu xbat ta pinka. Now that he still hasn't gone to the farm, he went to talk with his worker. [bad!]

Note the sequence of clauses in the last example:


The object of the higher clause is identical to the subject (or the principal theme) of the lower clause. In Tzotzil, as in Spanish, a chain of sentences often takes a single theme or a single person as its topic.

`Ali Xun e, isut ta `olon `osil, i`och ta sna , mi laj ve`uk e, ivay to `ora. John returned to Hot Country, entered his house, and, after he had eaten, slept.

Since Tzotzil permits the omission or ellipsis of implicit nouns (and of "pronouns" of the first and second person), it is necessary to know the structural implications of these chains of clauses.

K'usi spas li Xun e? What is John doing?
Chvay. He's sleeping.

In general, when there is a pronoun of the first or second person, marked by affixes adjoined to the verb of the sentence, there is no ambiguity as to who does what to whom. However, the order of constituents and the form of the verb can vary somewhat.

`Ali Xun e, ilok' ta sna. Ja` `o ijmaj. As for John, he left his house, and (at that moment) I hit him.
Ilok' ta sna li Xun e, ja` `o ijmaj. John left his house, and (at that moment) I hit him.
Ilok' ta sna li Xun e, ja` `o lismaj. John left his house and hit me.
Lismaj li Xun e, ja` `o li`anilaj `ech'el. John hit me and I ran.
Ijmaj li Xun e, ja` `o li`anilaj `ech'el. I hit John and (I) ran.
Ijmaj li Xun e, ja` `o i`anilaj `ech'el. I hit John and he ran.
Lismaj li Xun e, ja` `o i`anilaj `ech'el. John hit me and (he) ran.

On the other hand, if the protagonists are all in the third person (if they are nouns) the verbal affixes cannot definitively clarify the grammatical relations. In such cases, Tzotzil uses various devices to indentify the principal theme of a sentence.

Ismaj ska` li Xun e. John hit his horse.
Ismaj Petul li Xun e. John hit Peter.

One device brings the theme, which should be the agent of the action, to the initial position of the sentence.

`Ali Xun e, ismaj li Petul e. As for John, he hit Peter.

Once indentified, a noun remains as the theme until another theme is established.

`Ali Xun e, ismaj li Petul e, ja` `o ijatav. As for John, he hit Peter and later ran off.

To say that Peter fled after being hit by John, one must change the focus of the sentence.

`Ali Petule, imaje yu`un li Xune, ja` `o ijatav. As for Peter, he was hit by John, and later fled.

It is not necessary to front the theme of the sequence of sentences in every case. For example, one must interpret the following sentence as a description of John's death, and not his horse's.

Ismaj ska` li Xun e, ja` `o icham. John hit his horse, and later (he, John) died.

In order to say that the horse died, there are various alternatives.

Ismaj ska` li Xun e, ja` `o icham li ka` `une.
`Ataj ska` li Xun e, imaje yu`un yajval, ja` `o icham.
ajval-il, "owner"

Similarly, note the contrast between the following sentences:

Ilok' ta sna, ja` `o isk'opon li Xun e. He left his house, and later spoke to John (speaking of another person).
Ilok' ta sna, ja` `o ik'oponat li Xun e. John left his house, and later someone spoke to him.

It is also possible to say:

`Ali Xun e, ilok' ta sna, ja` `o lisk'opon. John left his house, and later spoke to me.
`Ali Xun e, ilok' ta sna, ja` `o ijk'opon. John left his house, and later I spoke to him.

However, it appears impossible, or at least strange, to say:

***`Ali Xun e, ilok' ta sna, ja` `o isk'opon.

because the object of -k'opon does not appear, and the sentence remains incomplete. We can provide the theme of the thematic chain, Xun "John," as the subject of -k'opon. But the object, the person John spoke to, is unknown.


The theme of a sentence is introduced in those positions which are available, although it is not a basic constituent. For example, in the following examples, the theme is understood as the possessor of a possessed noun that functions as the subject of the principal verb, or as the object of a locative phrase with ta.

`Ali Xun e, ichik'bat sna, icham ska`. As for John, they burned his house and his horse died.
`Ali Xun e, i`och vakax ta xchob. As for John, a cow entered his cornfield.

But if the other constituents of a sentence are possible candidates for being the sentence's theme, the situation becomes complicated.

`Ali Xun e, i`och vakax ta xchob, ja` i`ilin `o. As for John, a cow entered his cornfield, and as a result John got mad.
`Ali Petul e, i`och ta sna. Peter entered his (own) house.
`Ali Petul e, i`och ta sna li Xun e. As for Peter, he entered John's house.
`Ali Petul e, i`och ta sna li Xun e, ja` i`ilin `o. As for Peter, he entered John's house, and as a result, Peter (and not John) got mad.

Once introduced into a sequence of clauses, the theme remains the focus until another theme is explicitly introduced.

`Ali Petul e, i`och ta sna li Xun e, ja` i`ilin `o li Xun e. As for Peter, he entered John's house, and as a result John got angry.

The same change of focus can be created by a more radical transformation of the sentence structure.

`Ali Xun e, te ta sna i`och li Petul e, ja` i`ilin `o. [???]

The pragmatic structure of Tzotzil discourse deserves more in-depth discussion.


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