Proto-Panatecan is the hypothetical common ancestor of the 11 (10 living, one extinct) Panatecan languages native to the Mexican states Oaxaca, Chiapas and Panatán as well as parts of Guatemala. The Panatecan family is today considered to be divided into three main subgroups each with three living languages, Mahuentecan, Qongalan and Bawa-Pochean. The 10th language is Ng'K'opa which has been distinct from the other groups for around 3000 years.

Type Synthetic
Alignment Split Ergative
Head direction Mixed
Tonal No
Declensions Yes
Conjugations Yes
Genders No
Nouns decline according to...
Case Number
Definiteness Gender
Verbs conjugate according to...
Voice Mood
Person Number
Tense Aspect
Progress 0%
Nouns 0%
Verbs 0%
Adjectives 0%
Syntax 0%
Words of 1500
Creator chaleroge


Ng'K'opa branched off from Panatec Proper in around 1000 BCE. The remaining proto-language, Late Proto-Panatec, split into the Mahuentecan and Qongalan subgroups 500 years later; long after the other Mesoamerican proto-languages split into their major groups. In around 200 CE, Mahuentecan split into Chehuentec and the Mawantan languages which are found today in Guatemala and Chiapas. The last speaker of Chehuentec died in the year 1727 making it the only known extinct Panatecan language. The Qongalan languages split into Inner Qongalan (Bawa-Pochean) and Outer Qongalan (Inguo-Qongalan) in around 100 BCE. The Outer Qongalan languages are native to Isla de Panatéca and include modern Panatec (Qongāl) which is spoken by around 400,000 people. There are three known Bawa-Pochean languages which are spoken in some rural towns in Oaxaca state.

Polynesian Coincidence[]

Researches have suggested that there is significant evidence to suggest that an early form of Proto-Panatec may have in fact been related or even descended from the Malayo-Polynesian language group. The main two pieces of evidence cited are the fact that all Panatec mythologies agree that their people originated from a volcanic island across the ocean, similar to Isla de Panatéca, as well as a number of lexical coincidences between Panatecan languages and Malayo-Polynesian languages.


Additionally, there are grammatical features which, in Mesoamerica, are unique to the Panatecan languages but which also appear in Polynesian languages such as Hawaiian, Māori and Tongan as well as a few Micronesian languages, most notably Gilbertese. The modern Panatecan languages, however, have not retained enough evidence to confirm this hypothesis due to the substantial changes the earlier proto-language underwent once it came in contact with the Mesoamerican language area.


The reconstructed consonant inventory is relatively simple, using a basic five-vowel system and exclusively unvoiced obstruents.


Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal *m *n
Plosive *p *t *k
Affricate *ts
Fricative *s *h
Approximant *w *l *j
Trill *r


Front Central Back
Close *i *u
Mid *e *o
Open *a


Proto-Panatecan adhered to a strict CV syllable structure, vowel-initial words were always aspirated. All words had either two or three syllables that had strong vowel harmony. A small number of three and four syllable words had one unharmonic vowel. Some words joined to make four or five syllable words towards the end of the evolution of Proto-Panatec, leading to the existence of completely unharmonic words. Words were stressed on the penultimate syllable. Word-final consonants were restricted to obstruents and nasals.

Sound Changes[]

Below are the major sound changes associated with the transitions from Proto-Panatecan to Late Proto-Panatecan, which took place for around 1000 years until 1000 BCE followed by the split into Proto-Qongalan and Proto-Mahuentecan in around 500 BCE. The vowel receiving stress in each word is underlined and long vowels are indicated with an overbar.

Early to Late Proto-Panatecan[]

  1. The approximants [w], [l], [j], all lost preceding vowels (including [h]) (i), or swapped with preceding vowels where necessary (unless they were stressed) (ii). This also lead to vowel lengthening where non-nasal consonant clusters were formed (iii).
    • i) hawaka → waka
    • ii) nujutu → hunjutu
    • iii) hatala → hātla
  2. [rl] and [lr] became [r] before a vowel and [l] word-finally.
  3. ([t], [ts] and [k]) became [tʃ] (i, ii) and [s] became [ʃ] when preceding [j] (iii).
    • i) putjum → putʃum
    • ii) hotsjos → hotʃos
    • iii) misji → miʃi
  4. ([p], [t], [ts], and [k]) became aspirated by absorbing [h] from the following syllable and losing their vowels.
    • kaha → kha
    • pohono → phono
    • tsahoho → tshoho


  1. The trill [r] was reduced to a tap [ɾ] in all environments.
  2. Word-final vowels were lost completely (i), single open syllable words had a glottal stop appended after ([o] and [u]) (ii) and [n] elsewhere (iii). Consonant clusters ([VCw] and [VCl]) became [VCV] (iv) and [VCj] became [VCi] (v).
    • i) monokhu → monokh
    • ii) phu → ph
    • iii) ta → tan
    • iv) hekwi → heke
    • v) mapyo → mapi
  3. Nasals dropped their vowels in unstressed syllables followed by obstruents (i), switched places with their vowel in word-initial position (ii) and triggered the following syllable to invert if it was word-final (iii).
    • i) panutun → pantun
    • ii) moton → homton
    • iii) homep → hompe
  4. [n] became [m] before [p] (i), [m] became [n] before ([s], [t] and [ts]) (ii) and ([m] and [n]) became [ŋ] before [k] (iii).
    • i) wanpal → wampal
    • ii) timtsin → tintsin
    • iii) homkots → hkots



Word Order[]

A basic SOV word order has been reconstructed by comparison of the grammars of the Panatecan languages. Proto-Panatec is mostly head-final, with the exception of adjectives which follow nouns as they are derived from verbs.

Object - Verb

Noun - Adjective

Preposition - Noun

Posessor - Object


Proto-Panatec is assumed to have been Ergative-Absolutive in its agreement as this is how the modern languages align, however it may have undergone a transition from Nominative-Accusative or an Austronesian alignment. Every living Panatecan language includes some kind of Nominative-Accusative alignment, mostly on common verbs and simple grammatical structures suggesting that this alignment may be fundamental to the family and been predominant in the proto-language.


Nouns were thought to have been inflected for the nominative, genitive and dative cases. Definiteness and number were specified with pre-nominal markers. Panatecan languages have no noun genders, but Proto-Panatecan may have been sensitive to noun animacy, as most Panatecan languages are today.


Verbs were conjugated using prefixes for person and number and suffixes for tense. It is thought that there also existed voice affixes which are still found in the Bochean languages. Verb moods and aspects did not exist explicitly and were most likely inferred by context or constructed with particles as moods are in the modern Qongalan languages.