The Morphosyntax of Yaitepec Chatino


Jeffrey Rasch




The main goal of this project is to complete an in-depth morpho-syntactic description of Yaitepec Chatino, a Zapotecan language spoken in Oaxaca, Mexico. In order to accomplish this, the secondary investigator will spend a total of 12 weeks during the coming year in Yaitepec, collecting data in the form of word lists, transcribed oral texts, and utterances of native speakers in response to questions asked in an interview setting designed to elicit specific kinds of grammatical structures. Two native speakers of Chatino are already transcribing texts, and will continue to do so. To some extent, they will also be involved in the analysis of grammatical patterns. The organization and analytical investigation of the data will be carried out both in the field and at Rice University, between field trips. Texts will be entered into computer databases to facilitate the analysis of the functions of particular morphemes and constructions.

Yaitepec Chatino has received some attention by linguists during the past three decades, resulting in the publication of several articles, two word lists, and a book-length taxonomic syntactic description. The kind of in-depth functionalist description that will result from this project, however, does not yet exist for Chatino. As part of the data-gathering phase of the project, the secondary investigator, in collusion with native speaker consultants, will transcribe a number of narrations of folk stories and oral histories. This will result in a significant increase in the quantity and variety of literature in Chatino. In addition to collecting data for a work on the morpho-syntax of the language, the secondary investigator will continue to gather lexical items for inclusion in the dictionary of Yaitepec Chatino on which he worked for three summers as a project linguist with the Project for the Documentation of Meso-American Languages headed by Terrence Kaufman and John Justeson (NSF grant # SBR-9511713). The three works which will ultimately result from this project-a morpho-syntactic description, a collection of texts, and a dictionary-will be of immense value to the field of linguistics, and especially for the further study and documentation of Zapotecan languages, Chatino in particular.