Notes on SJQ grammar

SJQ is a primarily VSO language with an extremely rich tonal system and productive sandhi (E. Cruz 2011). Its words are largely monosyllabic and have a highly fusional, non-concatenative morphology (E. Cruz et al. 2008).

As a strongly head-marking language, the majority of the morphology occurs on the verb. Verbs are the only grammatical category to inflect for aspect, which is marked by a prefix and a tonal ablaut paradigm. Following Kaufman (1987), the aspectual categories in SJQ have been labeled CPL, PROG, HAB, and POT. A thorough semantic analysis of these aspects has not been undertaken in SJQ (or any other Chatino topolect). These morphological labels are, in a sense, traditional, and do not necessarily reflect their semantics—for example, based on its meaning, CPL might be better labeled “perfect” or “perfective”, and PROG might be closer to “continuous”. Future research on Chatino verbs may also reveal existence of the stative aspect, traces of which are found in forms such as sni4-ton42 ‘CPL:hold-stand.’

In SJQ word forms, some segments can be analyzed as belonging to aspect and mood prefixes and not to stems. Table 1 shows a complete verbal paradigm for the intransitive verb -lu3 ‘to grow’.
TABLE 1: Person-aspect paradigm for the verb -lu3 ‘to grow’

1SG y-lon42=onq32 nd-lon42=on32 ndlyon42=onq32 k-lon42=onq32
2SG y-lu1 nd-lu1 ndlyu20 k-lu20
3SG y-lu3 nd-lu3 ndlyu24 k-lu24
1INCL y-lon3=on1 nd-lon3=on1 ndlyon14+0 k-lon14+0
1EXCL y-lu3=wa42 nd-lu3=wa42 ndlyu14+0=wa42 k-lu14+0=wa42
2PL y-lu3=wan42 nd-lu3=wan24 ndlyu14=wan0 k-lu14=wan0
3PL y-lu3=renq14 nd-lu3=renq14 ndlyu14=renq0 k-lu14=renq0

This table shows that sometimes the prefixes are easily segmentable as in k-lu24POT:grow:(3SG)’ and y-lu3CPL:grow:(3SG)’, whereas in other cases the prefixes have fused with the stem and cannot be easily separated, as with ndlyu24HAB:grow:(3SG)’.

In still other cases, such as that shown in table 2, an aspect can be indicated by a null prefix, as with s-qwa14+0CPL:place.inside:(3SG)’ and -qwa14+0POT:place.inside:(3SG)’.

TABLE 2: Person-aspect paradigm for the verb -qwa14+0 ‘to place inside’

1SG s-qwan40 nts-qwan40 nts-qwan40 s-qwan40
2SG s-qwa20 nts-qwa20 nts-qwa20 s-qwa20
3SG s-qwa14+0 nts-qwa10 nts-qwa14+0 s-qwa14+0
1INCL s-qwan14+0 nts-qwan10 nts-qwan14+0 s-qwan14+0
1EXCL s-qwa14+0=wa42 nts-qwa10=wa42 nts-qwa14+0=wa42 s-qwa14+0=wa42
2PL s-qwa14=wan0 nts-qwa1=wan0 nts-qwa14=wan0 s-qwa14=wan0
3PL s-qwa14=renq0 nts-qwa1=renq0 nts-qwa14=renq0 s-qwa14=renq0

Often, different aspectual forms are distinguished only by tone. Table 3 shows that kwa3CPL:sweep:(3SG)’ and the form kwa14+0POT:sweep:(3SG)’ have the same segmental form but different tones. The CPL is marked by tone /3/ and the POT carries tone /14+0/. This same verbal paradigm also shows that nt-kwa3PROG:sweep:(3SG)’ and nt-kwa14+0HAB:sweep:(3SG)’ have a similar prefix nt-, but the aspects are differentiated by tone marking.

TABLE 3: Person-aspect paradigm for the verb -kwa3 ‘to sweep’

1SG kwan40 nt-kwan40 nt-kwan40=anq32 kwan40
2SG kwa1 nt-kwa1 nt-kwa20 kwa20
3SG kwa3 nt-kwa3 nt-kwa14+0 kwa14+0
1INCL kwan3=an1 nt-kwan3=an1 nt-kwan14+0 kwan14+0
1EXCL kwa3=wa42 nt-kwa3=wa42 nt-kwa14+0=wa42 kwa14+0=wa42
2PL kwa3=wan24 nt-kwa3=wan3 nt-kwa14=wan0 kwa14=wan0
3PL kwa3=renq24 nt-kwa3=renq24 nt-kwa14=renq0 kwa14=renq0


Due to the loss of non-final vowels via syncope, SJQ has undergone significant non-final syllable reduction (E. Cruz 2011). Nearly all words have been reduced to one syllable. Table 4 illustrates the monosyllabification process by comparing SJQ with the Eastern Chatino variety of San Marcos Zacatepec (ZAC).

TABLE 4: Monosyllabification in SJQ

ZAC SJQ English
kwana kna4 ‘mirror’
waʔā´ qa3 ‘tamarind’
yaka yka4 ‘tree, wood’
nka-y-ata y-ta4 ‘bathed’
nka-y-ūjwī y-jwi42 ‘hit’

Many segmental aspect prefixes in SJQ verbs have been lost as a result of monosyllabification, although there are some SJQ verbs that still preserve traces of the aspectual prefixes visible in ZAC. Table 5 shows a paradigm of the verb ‘to sweep’ in ZAC. These can be compared to the SJQ forms in Table 3.

TABLE 5: Person-aspect paradigm for the verb u-lukwǎ

1SG nka-lùkwa̋n ntā-lùkwa̋n nt-u-lùkwa̋n k-u-lùwa̋n
2SG nka-lūkwá ntā-lūkwá nt-u-lùkwā k-u-lùkwā
3SG nka-lukwǎ ntā-lūkwá nt-u-lukwȁ k-u-lukwȁ
1INCL nka-lukwǎ=nan ntā-lūkwá=nan nt-u-lukwȁ=nan k-u-lukwȁ=nan
1EXCL nka-lukwǎ=wa ntā-lūkwá=wa nt-u-lukwȁ=wa k-u-lukwȁ=wa
2PL nka-lukwǎ=wan ntā-lūkwá=wan nt-u-lukwȁ=wan k-u-lukwȁ=wan
3PL nka-lukwǎ=neʔ ntā-lūkwá=neʔ nt-u-lukwȁ=neʔ k-u-lukwȁ=neʔ

The table is taken from Villard (2015: 418, table 5.17) who uses the following diacritics to represent tones: the grave accent [ ` ] marks a low tone, the macron [ ¯ ] marks a mid tone, the acute accent [´ ] marks a high tone, the inverted caret [ ˇ] marks a rising contour tone, and the double acute accent [ ˝ ] marks a rising super-high tone. Diacritics over blanks represent floating tones whose realization is dependent on its phonological environment.

Tone and aspect

E. Cruz (2011) states that the stem of the CPL can partially predict the tone for the HAB, POT, and PROG aspects in SJQ, based on the following rules of thumb:

  1. Stems with low tone /4/ surface as tone /4/ in the HAB and POT aspects and as /32/ in the PROG aspect. For example: y-ku4CPL:eat:(3SG), nty-ku4HAB:eat:(3SG)’, ku4POT:eat:(3SG)’, and nty-ku32PROG:eat:(3SG)’.
  2. Frequently, stems with tone /14+0/ have the same tone in all four aspects. For example: s-qwa14+0CPL: place.inside:(3SG)’, ns-qwa14+0HAB:place.inside:(3SG)’, and POT s-qwa14+0POT:place.inside:(3SG)’. The PROG aspect is the only aspect in this verbal paradigm that has a different tone: ns-qwa1+0PROG:place.inside:(3SG)’.
  3. Stem with tone /2/ take tone /14+0/ in the POT and HAB aspect, and tone /2/ in PROG aspect. For example: y-qo2CPL drink:(3SG)’, k-qo14+0POT:drink:(3SG)’, nty-qo14+0HAB:drink:(3SG)’, nty-qo2PROG:drink:(3SG)’.
  4. Stems with tone /1/ take tone /20/ in POT and HAB aspect, and /1/ in the PROG. For example: s-qyu1CPL:cut:(3SG)’, nts-qyu20HAB:cut:(3SG)’, s-qyu20POT:cut:(3SG)’, nts-qyu1PROG:cut:(3SG)’.

These findings are summarized in table 6 (adapted from E. Cruz 2011: 215, table 5.17).

TABLE 6: Aspectual tone marking

/4/ /4/ /32/
/14+0/ /14+0/ /1+0/
/2/ /14+0/ /2/
/1/ /20/ /1/
/3/ /14+0/ /3/

Person and number marking of subjects

The person and number of subjects is marked on the verb by a number of means, including vowel nasalization, a glottal coda, vowel ablaut, enclitics, and tonal ablaut changes (E. Cruz 2011 and E. Cruz and Woodbury 2014). Verbs can inflect for 1SG, 2SG, 3SG, 1EXCL, 1INCL, 2PL, and 3PL. The 3SG is identical to the aspect-inflected stem with no further marking.

First-person SG and plural INCL subjects nasalize the stem vowel, as in s-qyon4CPL:cut:1SG’, nty-qon20PROG:drink:1SG’, nt-kwan40PROG:sweep:1SG’, n-s-qyon20on32HAB:cut:1INCL’, nty-qon14+0 HAB:drink:1INCL’, kwan14+0POT:sweep:1INCL’. Some 1SG subjects also result in glottal codas such as nt-kwan40anq32HAB:sweep:1SG4.

The 1SG and 1INCL subjects also exhibit vowel quality alternation. There is a /ũ/ → /õ/ alternation in 1SG and 1INCL. For instance, s-qyu1CPL:cut:(3)’ is s-qyon4CPL:cut:1SG’ and s-qyon1on1CPL:cut:1INCL’. This is because SJQ has two non-low, back, oral vowels, /o u/, and only one back nasal vowel, /õ/. When the /u/ in the 3SG stem nasalizes in the first person, it surfaces as /õ/. There is also a more sporadic /i/ → /ẽ/ alternation in the context of 1SG: ytiq4CPL:nurse:(3SG) → ytenq20CPL:nurse:1SG’ and sti4CPL:lay:(3SG)’ → sten20CPL:lay:1SG.

For a given aspect, the 3SG stem tone determines the tonal ablaut for the 2SG very consistently (E. Cruz 2011). However, the 1SG cannot be predicted from the 3SG stem. The 3SG stem tone frequently narrows, but does not strictly determine the tonal ablaut for the 1SG (E. Cruz 2011: 234).

Table 7 (based on E. Cruz and Woodbury 2013) offers a summary of subject tone marking for 2SG and 1SG in SJQ.

TABLE 7: Tonal ablaut marking person

3SG stem tone for given aspect 2SG (of that same aspect) 1SG (of that same aspect)
1 /4/ /42/ /4/, /1/, /20/
2 /2/ /1/ /4+0/, /2/
3 /1/ /42/ /4/, /20/
4 /1+0/ /20/ /4+0/
5 /32/ /42/ /32/, /1/, /20/

The first row in this table shows that the first class of stems with tone /4/ in the 3SG in the CPL aspect will take tone /42/ in the 2SG in the CPL aspect—for example, sti4‘he lay’ and y-ta4 ‘he bathed’ → sti42 ‘you lay’ and y-ta42 ‘you bathed’. However, the tone of the 3SG cannot predict the tone of the 1SG. Consider, for example, three verbs with tone /4/ in 3SG:CPL: yta4 ‘bathed’, ntykwa4 ‘met’, and sti4 ‘lied’. Each have different tones in their 1SG forms: ytan1 ‘I bathed’, ntykwan4 ‘I met’, and sten20 ‘I lied’. See E. Cruz and Woodbury (2014) for further discussion.

Plural clitics

Plurality of the subject is marked by appending a clitic to the verb. The clitic for the 1INCL is =Vn, 1EXCL is =wa42, =wan4 is the clitic for the 2PL, and =renq4 the clitic for the 3PL. Frequently, the verb stem and the clitic have different tones. Table 8 shows that the verb n-sqyu1PROG:cut:(3)’ and the plural stems in the same paradigm are marked with a high tone (/1/)—nts-qyon1=on1PROG:cut:1INCL’, nts-qyu1=wa42PROG:cut=1EXCL’, n-sqyu1=wan24PROG:cut=2PL’, and n-sqyu1=renq24PROG-cut=3PL’.

TABLE 8: Person-aspect paradigm for the verb s-qyu1 ‘cut’

1SG s-qyon4 nts-qyon32 nts-qyon4 s-qyon4
2SG s-qyu42 nts-qyu42 nts-qyu42 s-qyu42
3SG s-qyu1 nts-qyu1 nts-qyu20 s-qyu20
1INCL s-qyon1=on1 nts-qyon1=on1 nts-qyon20=on32 s-qyon20=on32
1EXCL s-qyu1=wa42 nts-qyu1=wa42 nts-qyu20=wa42 s-qyu20=wa24
2PL s-qyu1=wan24 nts-qyu1=wan24 nts-qyu20=wan24 s-qyu20=wan24
3PL s-qyu1=renq24 nts-qyu1=renq24 nts-qyu20=renq24 s-qyu20=renq24

The plural subjects of the verb -qo2 ‘drink’ (table 9) in CPL aspect shows a similar pattern: y-qon2=on1CPL:drink=1INCL’, y-qo2=wa42CPL:drink=1EXCL’, y-qo2=wan1CPL:drink=2PL’, y-qo2=renq1CPL-drink=3PL’.

TABLE 9: Person-aspect paradigm for the verb -qo2 ‘drink’

1SG y-qon1 nty-qon1 nty-qon20 k-qon20
2SG y-qo1 nty-qo1 nty-qo20 k-qo20
3SG y-qo2 nty-qo2 nty-qo14+0 k-qo14+0
1INCL y-qon2=on1 nty-qon2=on1 nty-qon14+0 k-qon14+0
1EXCL y-qo2=wa42 nty-qo2=wa42 nty-qo14+0=wa42 k-qo14=wa42
2PL y-qo2=wan1 nty-qo2=wan1 nty-qo14=wan0 k-qo14=wan0
3PL y-qo2=renq1 nty-qo2=renq1 nty-qo14=renq0 k-qo14=renq0

Additionally, =wan4 and =renq4 are sensitive to tone sandhi, whereas =wa42 is not. The tones of =wan4 and =renq4 change according to the stem that precedes it—for example, y-ku4=wan4CPL:eat=2PL’ and y-ku4=renq4 CPL:eat=3PL’, and y-ku4=wa42CPL:eat=1EXCL’. Here =wan4 and =renq4 take the same tone as the stem. In other words, =wan and =renq are phonologically toneless and always copy the preceding tone, but not =wa42, which kept its tone /42/. When adding clitics to a verb with a stem /14+0/ such as naq14+0CPL:wash(3SG)’, the floating tone associated with the verb stem appears on =wan4 and =renq4, as with naq14=wan0 CPL:wash=2PL’ and naq14=renq0 CPL:wash=3PL’, while =wa42 does not receive the floating tone, which surfaces on the verb stem itself, as in naq14+0=wa42CPL:wash=1EXCL’. For more information on sandhi processes in SJQ, see E. Cruz (2011) and E. Cruz and Woodbury (2006).

Segmentation of morphological markers in the text

As shown above, aspect and subject are marked on the verb by prefixes, enclitics, and tonal and vowel ablaut; however, not all the verbs in SJQ take the same set of prefixes or tone alternations. Even though the majority of the aspectual prefixes have disappeared with the loss of non-final syllables in SJQ, some verbs still preserve consonants that mark aspect, as in y-lu3CPL:grow:(3SG), nd-lu3PROG:grow: (3SG), ndlyu24HAB:grow:(3SG), and k-lu24POT-grow:(3SG)’.

Some of the aspectual categories are indicated by the same initial consonants and some of them no longer display segmental prefixes for aspect. Table 2 above shows that the CPL and POT aspects of the verb s-qwa24CPL:place.inside (3SG)’ and s-qwa24POT:place.inside (3SG)’ share the initial consonant s-. The PROG and HAB aspects in this same verb are marked by the prefix nts-. The verb s-qyu1CPL:cut:(3)’ shows a similar pattern. The CPL and POT aspect are marked by a consonant s- and the PROG and HAB aspects are indicated by an nts- as initial segment. Similarly, the CPL aspect of -qo2 ‘drink’ uses a y- and the POT aspect is marked by a k-, while the PROG and HAB of -qo2 have nty- as initial consonants. These examples confirm that aspectual markers are too divergent to warrant further segmentation of the verbs.

Frequently, the tonal alternations are essential to identifying a verb’s aspect. The CPL of kwa3CPL:sweep:(3SG)’ and the POT of kwa14+0POT:sweep:(3SG)’ are examples of a verb with two aspects distinguished only by tone. This shows that there is an obligatory and unsegmentable aspectual exponent in the verb’s tone, and this is why I choose to treat the verb forms as a gestalt. Rather than attempt to fully indicate all morphological exponents and segmentation, I have chosen to represent all verbal aspectual inflection and all subject inflection indicated by tone (and/or ablaut) as fusional morphology (ASP:verb:SUBJ) to simplify the presentation in the text; however, the aspect is indicated to the left of the root and the subject agreement to the right in recognition that these inflections affect, respectively, the left and right edges of word forms. For other works that have explicitly handled prefix segmentation in more polysyllabic varieties of Chatino, see Campbell (2011) for Zenzontepec Chatino, Sullivant (2015) for Tataltepec Chatino, and Villard (2015) for ZAC.