SIL Mexico

Ozumacín Chinantec
(ISO code chz)

Progreso bridge


The variety of Chinantec spoken in San Pedro Ozumacín is also spoken in the towns of Ayotzintepec and Santiago Progreso, located in the northern part of the state of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico.

The speakers of this language refer to it as juuˈ jmiiꜘ, which means ‘plain (i.e., straightforward) speech’.

Map: Chinantec region
Map of the language area

These towns have approximately 3100 speakers, including some monolinguals (INALI 2008). The largest town, Ayotzintepec, has a population of more than 8,000 inhabitants; many do not speak Chinantec. It is a relatively new town, established in the decade of the 1950's. A flood buried the town with no loss of life in 1974 but with government aid it was rebuilt on a nearby hill. Due to the fact that there are more than a thousand hectares of arable bottom land, and aided by the fact that a road was built in the area in 1984, Ayotzintepec has prospered. Corn is exported and tractors are in common use.

Santiago Progreso is the newest town, established in the 1960's, and it is also the smallest, with a population of less than a thousand. Like Ayotzintepec, Santiago Progreso is located near a river and has some land where tractors can be used but it has less arable land than Ayotzintepec. Ozumacín was the original town; it has about 2000 inhabitants. The inhabitants of Santiago Progreso and San Pedro Ozumacín are almost exclusively Chinantec speakers, whereas approximately half of the Ayotzintepec community speak Chinantec due to an influx of non-Chinantec speakers from the nearby area.

The men in Ayotzintepec have an interesting way to harvest their corn. This method can only be used in flatlands. When it is time for harvest, the owner hires 6 to 10 men to do the work. Each man takes a 20 meter by 20 meter section of the field and stands a long stick in the ground at the center of the plot. The stick is about 15 feet long with a rag tied to the tip. Then each man breaks off the ears of corn from the stalks within the plot and tosses them toward the flagged stick. This process continues until the entire field is harvested. Later, a tractor pulls up to each pile of corn and workers use baskets to transfer the ears to the bin of the corn sheller that is powered by the power take-off of the tractor.

The speakers of this variety of Chinantec do not use whistle speech, unlike those of other varieties.

This variety is also unusual in having ten vowels, whereas the other varieties of Chinantec have only six or seven. The new vowels have evolved from monophthongization of what are diphthongs in other varieties.

—James and Nadine Rupp


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