Tzapalian (IPA: /ˈtsapali/) also known as Tzapali, forms the Tzapalic branch of the Uto-Aztecan language family, spoken in Tzapalia, a conminimunicipality in León, Mexico by about 261,700 people, with 144,000 2L speakers worldwide. Tzapalian has its own language family and is not related to other languages.

Over the years, it has been considered a language isolate, though current consensus and research now confirms that it has been related to Nahuatl.

History Edit


Historical flag of Tzapali and the Tzapalian folk.

Speakers used to live in Oklahoma, North America, but when the Mexicans had invaded the Apache, most of them moved to Mexico instead.
Type Fusional
Alignment None
Head direction Head-final
Tonal Yes
Declensions No
Conjugations Yes
Genders None
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 5000
Creator [[User:|]]

Geographic distribution

Official status Edit

Tzapalian is one of the de facto languages of Mexico, along with Spanish and other indigenous languages. Some speakers still live

Dialects Edit

Tzapalian is classified into 2 dialects:

  • northern; which is the most spoken by about 172,700 people
  • southern; which is spoken by 89,000 people.

Creole Edit

Spanish-Algonquian Tzapalian Pidgin, also known as Pichingw or SATP, is a pidgin spoken by the Spanish Tzapalians of Spain. The Spanish Tzapalians were founded when the Tzapalians invaded Spain, making the use of the creole.

Sample words Edit

Pichingw Borrowing English translation
normandi Spanish Normandía French
matagi Ojibwe ᒥᑎᒃ mitig tree
mitzo Tzapalian metziu cat
supersonili Spanish calque of Tzapalian achqua relī captain
ijau Spanish hijo nephew
pesi pes (Romance) fish



Bilabial Dental Alveolar Post-alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
plain laminal palatalized


plain lateral
Nasal m n ng [ŋ] ngu [ŋʷ]
Plosive p t [t̪] ti [tʲ] c [k] qu [kʷ] h [ʔ]
Fricative b [β] d [ð] (z [s̻]) s, ce, ci [s] lh [ɬ] g [ɣ] j [h]
Affricate tz [ts] tl [tɬ]
Approximant y [j] hu [w]
Trill r
Lateral app. l

Notes Edit

  • [β] mostly appears in Spanish loanwords, but can be also found as an allophone of [w] in native words such as huatietl /ˈβɐtʲetɬ/.
  • [ð] is often closer an approximant [ð̞] than a fricative.
  • [s̻] (z) is only used in loanwords from Basque.


Front Near-front Central Near-back Back
High ī [iː] ū [uː]
Near-high i [ɪ] u [ʊ]
High-mid ē [eː] ō [oː]
Mid ë [ə]
Low-mid e [ɛ] o [ɔ]
Near-low a [ɐ]
Low ā [aː]

Notes Edit

  • [aː] is phonemically central [äː].


The default syllable structure is simple; it is (C)V(V)(C), where C stands for a consonant and V stands for a vowel.

Stress pattern Edit

Stress is usually drops from the first to the third syllables. Recent loanwords often retain their original stress.


The words of Tzapalian can be divided into three basic functional cases: verbs, nouns and particles. Adjectives exist, but they generally behave like nouns and there are very few adjectives that are not derived from either verbal or nominal roots. The very few adverbs that can be said to exist fall into the class of particles.


Plurals Edit

Tzapalian has a complex singular / dual / paucal / plural number system (as in Fijian). A paucal number of things is a very small amount of them (e.g. a few nuts, fruit, e.g.) while the dual number is two things of them (e.g. two birds, cats, e.g.). This table below shows the number types of the noun metziu 'cat'.

Singular Paucal Dual Plural
metziu metziu metziume metziuhuō
the cat those few cats the two cats the cats

Possessedness Edit

Tzapalian's possessedness can be formed with suffixes. This table below shows how affixes affect the possessedness of the noun metziu 'cat'.

Possessive metziuōtl
Pl. possessive metziuxōtl


Tenses Edit

Tzapalian has 9 tenses, far more in any Uto-Aztecan language. It features 3 basic tenses (present, past, future), and their progressive and conditional forms. This table below shows the verb conjugation of the phrasal verb niquō 'I eat'.

Simple Progressive Conditional
Present niquō niquōpi niquōdāē
I eat I am eating If I eat
Past niquō niquōlhē niquoni
I ate I was eating If I ate
Future niquōtzū niquōxi niquōt
I will eat I will be eating If I would eat


Morphological derivation Edit


Word order Edit

As Tzapalian is highly fusional, word order is completely free. To say 'The dog catches the cat' in Tzapalian, one speaker may use any of the following orders, with slight pragmatic differences:

  • SOV: Chechu metziu challe.
  • SVO: Chechu challe metziu.
  • VSO: Challe chechu metziu.
  • VOS: Challe metziu chechu.
  • OVS: Metziu challe chechu.
  • OSV: Metziu chechu challe.

But the most common and default word order is SOV.

Adjective and preposition position Edit

In Tzapalian, the adjective can either go before or after the noun. To say 'the big cat' in Tzapalian, one speaker may use any of the following phrases:

  • AN: huai metziu
  • NA: metziu huai

However, the adjective mostly comes before the noun.

Preposition order is also free too:

  • prepositions: pikē apūchēti
  • postpositions: apūchēti pikē

Possession order Edit

The phrase 'Benny's coat' can be translated into Tzapalian into 2 different ways:

  • Possessor-possessee: Beni capaōtl
  • Possessee-possessor: Capaōtl Beni


Historical phonology and grammar

Phonology Edit

Unlike Modern Tzapalian, Old Tzapalian did not contain the palatalized stop [tʲ]. Also, Old Tzapalian had a series of ejective consonants /pʼ tʼ kʼ, tsʼ/, orthographically ph, th, c·h and tzh respectively that only appeared at the end of syllables before the latter had been merged into separate phonemes /p.ʔ, t.ʔ, k.ʔ, ts.ʔ/. Thus, cutōc·hayec 'woods' /ˈkʊtoːkʼɐjɛk/ became /ˈkʊtoːk.ʔɐjɛk/.

Example textEdit

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