Academic journal article Southwest Journal of Linguistics

Hierarchical Pronouns in Discourse: Third-Person Pronouns in San Lucas Quiavini Zapotec Narratives. (2001 Keynote Address)

Academic journal article Southwest Journal of Linguistics

Hierarchical Pronouns in Discourse: Third-Person Pronouns in San Lucas Quiavini Zapotec Narratives. (2001 Keynote Address)

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT. Languages of the Zapotec language family of southern Mexico have extremely complex third-person pronoun systems whose use in extended discourse may be sensitive to speaker attitude and point of view as well as to social hierarchy. In addition to second-person formality distinctions, the languages typically have three to six third persons, usually discriminated by the status (in broad terms) of the referent. In this paper, I outline some of the factors governing third-person usage in a large narrative corpus from San Lucas Quiavini Zapotec, a language spoken in the Tlacolula District in the Valley of Oaxaca and by many immigrants in Los Angeles. Speakers of this language use the pronouns to indicate changes in their respect and affection for referents, as well as for several other grammaticized functions. The origins of the system are somewhat obscure. *


1. BACKGROUND. The Zapotecan language family (part of the Otomanguean stock) includes more than 50--the Ethnologue reports 57 (Grimes 2002)--languages of Oaxaca and Veracruz. (1) This article focuses on languages of the Valley branch of the family, spoken in central Oaxaca state, especially in the areas immediately south and east of Oaxaca City. The map in Figure 1 shows the location of the town whose language I will describe, San Lucas Quiavini (or San Lucas, as its inhabitants typically refer to the pueblo) relative to the market town and district capital, Tlacolula, which is just southeast of Oaxaca City (which itself is just off the top right of the map in Figure 1). The municipio of San Lucas Quiavini is south and slightly east of Tlacolula. San Lucas is a small farming community, a large percentage of whose men have been coming to the Los Angeles area for more than 25 years to work, primarily in restaurants (Lopez & Munro 1999). Smith Stark (1995) reports that San Lucas (population 1,888 in 1990 (2)) has the largest percentage of Zapotec speakers of communities in its linguistic area (98.1% in 1990). (3) The other pueblos mentioned in Section 6, San Pablo Guila, San Juan Guelavia, and San Pablo Villa de Mitla, form a triangle around San Lucas, respectively south of San Lucas (slightly off the map), west of Tlacolula, and east of Tlacolula.


I begin with a very brief overview of the syntax of San Lucas Quiavini Zapotec (SLQZ, Munro & Lopez 1999 (4)), to introduce the contexts in which pronouns can occur.

As do other Zapotec languages, SLQZ has a basic VSO word order (1), with frequent preposing of subjects and other arguments to show focus, as in 2, in which the noun subject is focused (cf. the analysis in Lee 1999). (5)

(1) B-too'     Li'eb   ca'rr
    PERF-sell  Felipe  car
    `Felipe sold the car'

(2) Li'eb   b-too'     ca'rr
    Felipe  PERF-sell  car
    `FELIPE sold the car'

A pronominal subject, like the proximate clitic =(e)ng in 3, 4, and 5, can appear only in basic subject position following the verb, even when focus is shown with an initial independent pronoun, as in 4. Note that affixed pronouns in SLQZ are clitics rather than simply agreement markers, just as argued, for example, by Black (2000) for the Southern Zapotec language Quiegolani and by Foreman (1999) for the Sierra Juarez Zapotec language Macuiltianguis. (6) (Throughout this article I will use typographic style to indicate the coreferentiality of pronouns in data and translations, as I do with boldface here.)

(3) B-too'=ng          ca'rr
    PERF-sell=3S.PROX  car
    `He sold the car'

(4) La'anng       b-too'=ng          ca'rr
    PRON.3S.PROX  PERF-sell=3S.PROX  car
    `He sold the car'

Focus must be distinguished from topicalization, in which a complete sentence including a resumptive pronoun (again here, the proximate clitic = ng) follows an initial topicalized subject, as in 5.

(5) Li'eb   b-too'=ng          ca'rr
    Felipe  PERF-sell=3S. … 
Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.