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San Miguel Tilquiapan
The language spoken in San Miguel Tilquiapan is a member of the Zapotec language family. Tilquiapan is located near Ocotlán, southeast of Oaxaca City, in central Oaxaca in southern Mexico. By bus and route taxi, it’s about an hour and a half from Oaxaca City. (See map.)
There are approximately 2,700 speakers, according to the 2000 government census, though inhabitants of the town say that there are other speakers, living in surrounding rural areas not counted by the census. Again, according to the census, about 70% of speakers are bilingual to some degree in Spanish.
The townspeople recount a legend of how the archangel Michael, the town’s patron saint, killed a mythical beast on a nearby mountain slope. Also, on August 15th every year, people come from surrounding towns to commemorate a reported appearance of the Virgin in Tilquiapan.
Tilquiapan Zapotec has a number of unusual features. One is that the Tilquiapan pronoun reference system includes distinctions for babies (using the clitic pronoun -bi), which other Zapotecan pronominal systems generally do not. Tilquiapan has in its pronominal system a number of the other categories common in Zapotecan, such as: general human (-ba), divine (-nii), general (-nií), male (-ll), thing (-n), and animal (-ma). There is no differentiation in regard to formality or respect when referring to third persons. However, when a speaker refers to his hearer(s) (“you” singular or plural in English), Tilquiapan Zapotec does distinguish various levels of formality or respect.