Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

A reference grammar of Ayutla Mixe (Tukyo'm ayuujk)
by Romero-Mendez, Rodrigo, Ph.D., State University of New York at Buffalo, 2009, 711; 3356113
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation is a reference grammar of Ayutla Mixe, a Mixe-Zoque language spoken in Southern Mexico. More particularly this dissertation describes the language spoken in San Pedro y San Pablo Ayutla Mixes, an indigenous community located in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. This dissertation covers different topics in the phonology, morphology and syntax of the language.

In the introductory chapters, I offer a brief description of the Mixe culture and the location of Ayutla, and discuss the classification of Ayutla Mixe within the Mixe-Zoque family. I also situate the present grammar in terms of its relevance to the descriptions of other Mixe-Zoque languages: within the whole family, this is the fourth grammar that is available to the general public and the first grammar of any of the Mixe languages of Oaxaca.

Ayutla Mixe is a polysynthetic language with head marking and an inverse system. Ayutla Mixe has a fairly rich morphology, although most of the morphology has its locus on the verb. The language allows serial verb constructions, and, in addition to incorporation of arguments, it also allows the incorporation of non-arguments, including adjectives and obliques.

In terms of its phonology, Ayutla Mixe has seven vowels: /a, e, i, γ, u, [barred i], Λ/. In addition, it has seven types of complex nuclei: V, VV, Vh, VVh, V?, V?V, V?Vh. All the vowels also undergo metaphony due to a palatal glide at the end of the syllable. The language does not contrast between voiced and voiceless consonants, although voicing occurs as the result of phonological processes. All consonants have a fortis and a lenis realization, and this phenomenon interacts with the length of the nucleus.

The verb morphology is rather complex in Ayutla Mixe, and a good description and understanding of the morphology is necessary to comprehend several syntactic phenomena that have morphological correlates. In the verb, there is only one slot for person markers. The agreement, however, is not in terms of grammatical relations but in terms of an animacy hierarchy. In other words, Ayutla Mixe has an inverse system that interacts with the person markers.

In this language, all verbs are treated as either independent or dependent. The marking of a verb as independent or as dependent is triggered by the presence of certain words (such as aspectual or temporal particles, locative adverbials, and conjunctions, among others) in the clause. This difference in marking has nothing to do with subordination, as a matrix verb can be marked as dependent and a verb in a subordinate clause can be marked as independent. The language has two sets of inflectional morphemes (person prefixes and aspect-mood suffixes): one when the verb is conjugated as independent and one when the verb is conjugated as dependent.

Ayutla Mixe allows more than one root in the verb stem. There are two cases of this: core serial verb constructions and noun incorporation. In core serialization, there are two or more verb roots, some of them with clear lexical content, some of them with more grammatical function (such as phase verbs). In incorporation, a noun appears as part of the verb stem. Usually, the noun could be considered as a semantic argument of the verb, but in some other cases it does not seem to act as a semantic argument. Finally, in other cases Ayutla Mixe allows a non-nominal element, such as an adjective, to be part of the verbal morphology.

Ayutla Mixe has a rich morphology for coding spatial relations. Most of its spatial morphemes appear as part of the verbal morphology. Interestingly, there is a special class of bound morphemes that can either appear in the verb as prefixes or can be the head of locative phrases. These morphemes are historically related to nouns that denote body parts but synchronically must be considered an independent class of morphemes.

In the noun phrase, the plural marker is restricted to a very small group of nouns, all of which refer to humans. Also, the absence of plural marking does not entail singularity with respect to nominal number.

Ayutla Mixe has several mechanisms for changing the valence of the verb: two causative morphemes (one of them is also used in passive constructions) and different types of applicatives. Most of the morphemes that behave like applicatives are better described as modifying the semantic structure of the verb and very often, though not always, the syntactic structure as well. Interestingly, the true applicative is not formally marked by affixation but by apophony, i.e. by changes in the verb stem. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Dryer, Mattew S.
Commitee: Bohnemeyer, Jurgen, Michelson, Karin
School: State University of New York at Buffalo
Department: Linguistics
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 70/05, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Linguistics
Keywords: Ayutla Mixe, Descriptive linguistics, Field linguistics, Grammar, Mesoamerican linguistics, Mexico, Mixe, Mixe-Zoque, Oaxaca
Publication Number: 3356113
ISBN: 9781109159233
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