Typological profile

Upper Necaxa is a highly polysynthetic, largely head-marking language with nominative/accusative clausal alignment.

(1) wa:ho:tán i’ki:la’hama:’hs’onchi’panánli’
wa:ho:tán i’k–ki:–la’ha–ma:–a’h–s’o–n–chi’pá–nan–li’
yesterday 1sg.sub–rt–face–cs–head–fire–vbl–hold–dtrn–pfv
‘I went out fishing at night with a light again yesterday.’
(2) pus chuwá: tataxtúlh tza’má misín
pus chuwá: ta–taxtú–lh tza’má misín
intj now 3pl.sub–dcs–out–pfv that jaguar
‘Well, now the jaguars came out.’
(3) kit i’ka:li:la’has’owili:ni’má:lh sé:raj tza’má lakstín
kit i’kka:–li:–la’ha–s’o–wilí:–ní’–ma:lh sé:raj tza’má lakstín
I 1sg.subpl.obj–inst–face–fire–put–ben–prog wax that children
‘I am lighting up the children’s faces with a candle.’

Constituent-order is flexible and governed primarily by information structure, although the unmarked order seems to be V-initial (VS/VO).

Grammatical relations are marked exclusively on the verb, verbs agreeing with their subjects and up to two objects in ditransitive constructions.

(4) kinta:tá nakimaxki:yá:n
kin–ta:tá na–kin–maxkí:–ya:–n
1po–father fut–1obj–give–impf–2obj
‘My father is going to give me to you.’

There is no nominal case in the language, nor are there adpositions. In place of adpositions, the language makes use of a range of causative, applicatives, and body-part prefixes which can be added to the verb to allow for the expression of added event-participants or circumstantial/locative expressions corresponding to adverbial prepositional phrases in Indo-European languages.

(5) na’kta:’li:tanka:yá:n kí’wi’ hentín kimachi:tká’n
na–i’k–ta:’li:–tanká:–ya:–n kí’wi’ hen–tin kin–machit–ka’n
fut–1sg.subj–cmtinst–fell–impf–2obj tree cls–one 1po–machete–pl.pos
‘I am going to fell the tree together with you with our machete.’
(6) kina’hapi:wilí:ka’ kina’hasliwít
kin–a’hapi:–wilí:–ka’ kin–a’ha–sliwí–t
1obj–earlobe–put–idf 1po–ear–swing–nm
‘They put earrings on my ears.’

Further reading

  • Grammatical notes. Extracted and modified from the Upper Necaxa Totonac Dictionary.
  • Beck, David. (2004). Upper Necaxa Totonac. Berlin: LINCOM.