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Documentation of Zenzontepec Chatino Language and Culture

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Language Zenzontepec Chatino
Depositor Eric Campbell
Affiliation University of Texas at Austin
Location Mexico
Collection ID 0185
Grant ID IGS0080
Funding Body ELDP
Collection Status Collection online
Landing Page Handle


Summary of the collection

This project produced transcribed and analyzed texts from Zenzontepec Chatino (CZN), the most divergent Chatino language (Otomanguean), spoken in the southern Sierra Madre of Oaxaca, Mexico (16°32″N, 97°30″W). There are about 8,000 speakers, but communities are shifting to Spanish. The corpus will document naturally occurring narrative, dialogue, ritual speech, traditional medicine, ethnobiological information, and geographic knowledge. The texts are the basis of a descriptive grammar, augment a tri-lingual dictionary in progress, and are to be shared with the community in printed booklets, CDs, and through archival. Native speakers will be trained in documentation methods and transcription.


Group represented

The Chatino people of Santa Cruz Zenzontepec, an indigenous community in the Southern Sierra Madre mountains of Oaxaca State, Mexico.


Language information

Zenzontepec Chatino (ISO 639-3 czn), is referred to as tsá’ jnyá in the language itself. Chatino is a group of languages of the Zapotecan language family of the Otomanguean stock.


Special characteristics

As Chatino is a tonal language, the following characters have been used to indicate phonetic qualities:

  • High tone is marked by (!) after a vowel
  • Mid tone is (_) after a vowel
  • Vowels with no following special character bear no lexical tone
  • Vowel nasalization is written as & after a vowel
  • Compound boundaries are (=)
  • Prefixes are xxx- (hyphen, with no space)
  • Enclitics are ” -xxx” (space then hyphen)

The deposit materials were created by a team made up of a non-native speaker linguist and native speaker community members.


Collection contents

The primary content of the corpus is a collection of audio recordings of naturalistic speech of a wide range of genres, including but not limited to: folk tales; traditional beliefs; dialogue; advice giving; personal narrative; history; and description of local geography, agricultural practices, religion, traditional medicine, the indigenous political system, norms of social interaction, family values, crafts, and music. Many texts contain social commentary and reflections on how the language, culture, and biodiversity of the region are threatened and changing. Many recordings also contain metadocumentary recountings of the trajectory of the language documentation project from a native speaker documenter’s perspective. Aside from naturalistic texts, the deposit includes some recordings of elicitation sessions geared toward particular grammatical topics or example sentences that illustrate the meaning and usage of vocabulary, most of which were not elicited but spontaneously offered by a native speaker. The majority of the audio resources are accompanied by transcriptions with free translations in Spanish, and some of the resources are accompanied by photographs of the events and the participants in them.


Collection history

This project was carried out alongside Anthony Woodbury’s Documentation of Chatino. As a result, there is some overlap with materials deposited in Anthony Woodbury’s deposit ( This deposit contains consistent and rich metadata, as well as detailed transcription files which were not available in previous versions.

As is also the case with some materials in Woodbury’s Documentation of Chatino corpus, some of the recordings are already in AILLA – The Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America, University of Texas at Austin, TX, USA. The time span covered by the materials is June 2007-April 2012.


Other information

Translations in annotation files are in Spanish. Some notes in annotation files are in English.


Acknowledgement and citation

To refer to any data from the collection, please cite as follows:

Campbell, Eric. 2012. Documentation of Zenzontepec Chatino Language and Culture. Endangered Languages Archive. Handle: Accessed on [insert date here].

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