Trique language

Trique language
Spoken in Mexico; USA
Region Oaxaca; California
Native speakers 25,900[1]  (date missing)
Language family
Writing system Latin script
Official status
Regulated by No official regulation
Language codes
ISO 639-3 variously:
trc – Copala
trq – San Martín Itunyoso
trs – Chicahuaxtla

The Trique (or Triqui, pronounced /ˈtriːkiː/) language is an Oto-Manguean language of Mexico spoken by the Trique indigenous group of the state of Oaxaca and elsewhere (due to recent population movements). It belongs to the Mixtecan branch together with the Mixtec languages and Cuicatec.[2]



Ethnologue lists three major variants:

  • Triqui de Copala spoken by 15,000 people (1990 census) in San Juan Copala, Oaxaca (and recently due to migrations in the San Quintín valley, Baja California).
  • Triqui de San Andrés Chicahuaxtla spoken by 6,000 people in San Andrés Chicahuaxtla, Oaxaca.
  • Triqui de San Martín Itunyoso spoken by 2,000 people (1983 survey) in San Martín Itunyoso, Oaxaca.

Mexico's federal agency for its indigenous languages, Instituto Nacional de Lenguas Indígenas (INALI), identifies four variants of Trique in its Catálogo de las lenguas indígenas nacionales published in early 2008.[3] The variants listed by INALI are:

Trique (triqui) language variants, per INALI[4]
Variant (name in Spanish) Autonym Localities
Triqui de San Juan Copala xnánj nu’ a Oaxaca: Santiago Juxtlahuaca
Triqui de La Media sná'ánj ni’ Oaxaca: San Martín Itunyoso
Triqui de La Alta rnu'a'n Oaxaca: Putla Villa de Guerrero
Triqui de La Baja tnanj ni’inj Oaxaca: Constancia del Rosario, Putla Villa de Guerrero

Phonology and orthography

All varieties of Trique are tonal and have complex phonologies. The tone system of Copala Trique is the best described, having eight tones.[5]

Tones in Trique languages are typically written with superscript numbers,[5] so that chraa5 'river' indicates the syllable chraa with the highest (5) tone, while cha3na1 'woman' has the middle (3) tone on the first syllable and the lowest (1) tone on the second syllable.

Of the Trique dialects, the Copala dialect has undergone the most vowel loss, with many non-final syllables losing their vowels. The result of this, as in many other Oto-Manguean languages, is a complex set of consonant clusters. So, for instance, the word si5kuj5 'cow' in Itunyoso Trique corresponds to skuj5 in Copala Trique.

Trique has been written in a number of different orthographies, depending on the intended audience. Linguists typically write the language with all tones fully marked and all phonemes represented. However, in works intended for native speakers of Trique, a practical orthography is often used with a somewhat simpler representation.

The following Copala Trique example is written in both the linguistic and the practical orthographies [6]:

Practical orthography Me síí rihaan a'mii so' ga
Linguistic Me3 zii5 riaan32 a'mii32 zo'1 ga2
Gloss wh 3rd person to speak 2nd person interrogative

'Who are you speaking to?' (¿Con quién estas hablando?)

The tonal phonology of other Trique languages is more complex than Copala Trique. The tone system of Itunyoso Trique has nine tones.[7] The tone system of Chicahuaxtla Trique has at least 10 tones [8] but may have as many as 16.[9]

Morphology and syntax

Trique morphology is fairly limited. Verbs take a /k-/ prefix (spelled c- or qu-) to show completive aspect:

A'mii32 zo'1. 'You are speaking'.

C-a'mii32 zo'1. 'You spoke'.

The same /k-/ prefix plus a tonal change shows the potential aspect:

C-a'mii2 zo'1. 'You will speak.'

The tonal changes associated with the potential aspect are complex, but always involve lowering the tone of the root. (Hollenbach 1984.)

There are also complex phonological processes that are triggered by the presence of root-final clitic pronouns. These pronouns (especially the 1st and 2nd person singular) may change the shape of the stem or alter its tone.

Copala Trique is a has Verb-Subject-Object (VSO) word order, as in the following example:

A’nii5 Mariia4 chraa3 raa4 yoo4 a32.
put Maria tortilla in tenate declarative

'Maria put the tortilla in the tenate.'

Copala Triqui has an accusative marker maa3 or man3 which is obligatory for animate pronominal objects, but is optional in other circumstances, as in the following example:

Quene'e3 Mariia4 (maa3) chraa4 a32.
saw Maria acc tortilla declarative

'Maria saw the tortilla.'

Quene'e3 Mariia4 *(maa3) zo'1 a32.
saw Maria acc you declarative

'Maria saw you.'

This use of the accusative before some objects and not others is what is called differential object marking.

The following example (repeated from above) shows a Copala Trique question:

Me3 zii5 riaan32 a'mii32 zo'1 ga2
wh 3rd person to speak 2nd person interrogative

'Who are you speaking to?' (¿Con quién estas hablando?)

As this example shows, Copala Trique has wh-movement and pied-piping with inversion.

Copala Trique syntax is described in Hollenbach (1992).

Trique is also interesting for having toggle processes. Under the scope of negation, a completive aspect prefix signifies the negative potential. A potential aspect prefix in the same context signifies the negative completive.

As a language sub-family, Trique is interesting for having a large tonal inventory, complex morphophonology, and interesting syntactic phenomena (much of which has yet to be described).


Trique-language programming is carried by the CDI's radio stations XEQIN-AM, based in San Quintín, Baja California, and XETLA, based in Tlaxiaco, Oaxaca.


  1. ^ INEGI: Lenguas indígenas y hablantes de 5 años y más al 2010
  2. ^ The proposal to group Mixtec, Trique and Cuicatec into a single family (none more closely related to one than to the other) was made by Longacre (1957) with convincing evidence.
  3. ^ The catalogue is the result of a project completed by INALI in 2007 in fulfillment of its obligations under Mexican federal law to document and enumerate the indigenous languages of Mexico. The catalogue was published in the federal government's official gazette, the Diario Oficial de la Federación (DOF).
  4. ^ Table data source: see "triqui" , online extract reproduced from Instituto Nacional de Lenguas Indígenas (2008), p.5 [third section/Tercera Sección].
  5. ^ a b Hollenbach, Barbara. The Phonology and Morphology of Tone and Laryngeals in Copala Trique. Ph.D Thesis, University of Arizona. 1984
  6. ^ Hollenbach, Barbara. Vocabulario breve del triqui de San Juan Copala. 2005
  7. ^ DiCanio, Christian. The Phonetics and Phonology of San Martín Itunyoso Trique. Ph.D Thesis, University of California, Berkeley. 2008. Available here
  8. ^ Good, Claude. Diccionario Triqui, volume 20 of Serie de Vocabularios Indigenas. Summer Institute of Linguistics, Mexico. 1979.
  9. ^ Longacre, Robert E. Proto-Mixtecan. In Indiana University Research Center in Anthropology, Folklore, and Linguistics, volume 5. Indiana University Research Center in Anthropology, Folklore, and Linguistics, Bloomington. 1957


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