Known to speakers themselves as Me’phaa, Tlapanec is an Indigenous Oto-Manguean language, with at least four distinct varieties, spoken in western central Mexico. The Malinaltepec variety spoken in the state of Guererro is estimated to have 37,500 speakers. Me’phaa is spoken in western central Mexico as a language of the home, the community, and to some extent of the local government. There are multiple lexical resources available, including a basic vocabulary. Like other Oto-Manguean languages, Tlapanec is tonal.
Like other indigenous Mexican languages, Tlapanec is struggling to survive in the face of Spanish, Mexico’s dominant language.
SIL Mexico has collected a useful series of papers on the grammar of Tlapanec.
Rensch, Calvin R. 1977. Classification of the Otomanguean languages and the position of Tlapanec. In David Oltrogge and Calvin R. Rensch (eds.), Two studies in Middle American and comparative linguistics, 53-108. Arlington: Summer Institute of Linguistics and the University of Texas at Arlington.
Suárez, Jorge A. 1988. Tlapaneco de Malinaltepec. (Archivo de Lenguas Indígenas de México, 12.) México: El Colégio de México. 155pp.
Wichmann, Søren. 1995. Description and typology of some grammatical categories in Azoyú Tlapanec. Ph.D. dissertation, Department of American Indian Languages and Cultures, University of Copenhagen.
ELA has been working for over a decade with Tlapanec activist and writer Zenaida Cantú. Over a dozen of Zinaida’s narratives and poems have been recorded with the assistance of linguist Philip Duncan, and a number of them are now available on ELA’s YouTube channel. These narratives and poems speak about the discrimination indigenous people face, as well as certain aspects of Me’phaa culture. Going forward, ELA plans to collaborate with Zenaida to create learning materials in Tlapanec.
Whether you are a speaker yourself, a partial speaker, or know someone who might be, we are always looking for more resources on Meso-American languages. Please get in touch!
Tlapanec activist and writer Zenaida Cantú is aware of at least 50 speakers of her language now living across New York, with some 30 or so from Malinaltepec alone, and the largest concentration living in upper Manhattan and the Bronx.