27.3553, Review: Gen Ling; Hist Ling; Typology: Sonnenschein, Operstein (2015)

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LINGUIST List: Vol-27-3553. Fri Sep 09 2016. ISSN: 1069 - 4875.

Subject: 27.3553, Review: Gen Ling; Hist Ling; Typology: Sonnenschein, Operstein (2015)

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Date: Fri, 09 Sep 2016 14:13:17
From: Ryan Sullivant [jryansullivant at utexas.edu]
Subject: Valence Changes in Zapotec

Discuss this message:

Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/27/27-453.html

EDITOR: Natalie  Operstein
EDITOR: Aaron Huey  Sonnenschein
TITLE: Valence Changes in Zapotec
SUBTITLE: Synchrony, diachrony, typology
SERIES TITLE: Typological Studies in Language 110
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2015

REVIEWER: Ryan Sullivant, University of Texas

Reviews Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry


“Valence Changes in Zapotec: Synchrony, Diachrony, Typology”, edited by
Natalie Operstein and Aaron Huey Sonnenschein, is intended to highlight the
diversity of the forms and functions of valence-changing phenomena in the
Zapotec languages (a subset of the extensive Otomaguean languages family) and
to discuss the historical development of these phenomena. As such, the volume
will be of interest to researchers interested in the typology of
valence-changing devices, and researchers interested in the synchrony and
diachrony of the Zapotec languages, as well as those researchers interested in
exploring the use of family-wide studies of a particular phenomenon to develop
hypotheses about its historical development. This volume contains sixteen
chapters which can be roughly grouped into three portions, an introductory
overview followed by a number of language-specific chapters, and ending with
chapters discussing family-wide phenomena and the position of the family’s
behavior in cross-linguistic typologies.

The initial introductory chapters discuss the typological orientation of the
text and key information about earlier studies and reconstructions of Zapotec
and its verbal morphology, which are critical to the reader’s ability to
understand and contextualize the language-specific chapters which follow. Next
there are eleven chapters ordered by areal-genetic group which each focus on
one Zapotec language or pair of similar Zapotec languages. After these
chapters, the final portion of the volume discusses language-wide phenomena
and places the phenomena observed throughout the volume within a
cross-linguistic context.

In ‘Foreword: Rethinking perspectives in typology”, Leonid Kulikov presents
the volume as an example of genetic oriented typology wherein the study of a
particular grammatical category within a number of closely related languages
(here, valence-changing operations among Zapotec languages) allows for the
creation of a family profile which has an advantage over synchronic
typological studies in that “non-trivial hypotheses on the origins and
evolution” (p. 5) of the phenomenon can be proposed.

In ‘Introduction: A closer look at Zapotec’, Natalie Operstein and Aaron Huey
Sonnenschein briefly describe the language family, its internal and external
relationships, and some of the properties held in common by many of these
languages, including the fortis-lenis opposition in obstruents, which is
important for this volume as one valence-increasing process is indicated by
the fortition of a stem-initial lenis obstruent (e.g. Zaniza Zapotec zug ‘be
chopped’ vs. sug ‘chop’). They then briefly describe the chapters which will
follow and conclude with a list of prospects for future research, which
perhaps can serve as a guide for the reader to keep in mind for the rest of
the book.

In ‘Valence-altering operations in Zapotec’ Operstein discusses the
cross-family distribution of a number of valence-altering devices found in
Zapotec languages. This chapter also includes a summary of the Proto-Zapotec
verb classes reconstructed by Terrence Kaufman (1987, 1994-2007), which, as
the editors correctly note, have circulated in Zapotecanist circles as an
unpublished manuscript for some time. (The curious reader will be happy to
know that this manuscript, which is primarily a collection of Proto-Zapotec
reconstructions, has been published online as Kaufman (2016), certainly after
this volume was sent to press). She then briefly introduces the main
valence-altering phenomena in Zapotec, three causative morphemes often
identified by their Proto-Zapotec reconstructions *k, *o, and *(s)se,
incorporation, periphrastic causatives, anticausative prefixes, suppletion,
and prosodic and/or vocalic changes.

In ‘Valence alternation in the Tlacolula Valley Zapotec lexicon’ Pamela Munro
describes the alternations found in pairs of verbs differing in valence in
this Central Zapotec language and concludes that the alternations found are no
longer productive. She further notes that the arguable ancestor of this
language, appears to have similar patterns of phonological, morphological, and
semantic irregularities suggesting that the causative morphology was
unproductive even 500 years ago (Lillehaugen 2012).

In ‘Valence-changing morphology in San Dionisio Ocotepec Zapotec’ George Aaron
Broadwell outlines the valence increasing and decreasing phenomena of another
Central Zapotec language and discusses an applicative process in which a
comitative adjunct is prompted to argument status in the presence of an
applicative suffix on the verb. He further notes that this is the only truly
productive valence-changing morpheme in San Dionisio Ocotepec Zapotec, echoing
an assertion heard throughout the volume that most of the valence-altering
morphology is not synchronically productive.

In ‘Morphological valence-changing processes in Juchitán Zapotec’ Gabriela
Pérez Báez presents evidence from another Central Zapotec language which,
unlike many other Zapotec languages, has preserved many historic unstressed
vowels, thus allowing for a clearer view of many morphological forms. She
notes the presence of synchronically segmentable valence increasing and
decreasing prefixes, including the multiple marking of valence-increasing
morphemes on some verb stems (i.e. u-si-g-apa (caus-caus-caus-care_for) ‘to
make someone care for something’).

In ‘Valence-changing operations in Coatecas Altas Zapotec’, the first of two
chapters on Southern Zapotec languages, Joseph Benton lays out the verbal
morphology of this language which is distinct from many other languages in the
volume by having a class of experiencer verbs. These verbs are analyzed as
lexical anticausatives and are notable for using a direct object pronoun or
possessive pronoun rather than a subject pronoun to mark the first person
singular. Additionally, the body part term ‘face’ can be incorporated into a
verb to decrease its valence.

In ‘Valency-changing devices in two Southern Zapotec languages’ Rosemary Beam
de Azcona discusses the morphology of the Coatec and Miahuatec Zapotec
languages and shows that the reflexes of the Proto-Zapotec causative morphemes
vary in their productivity and synchronically are either inflectional
morphemes, derivational morphemes, or else an auxiliary verb. She also
discusses how the verb stem suppletion found in the replacive consonant
alternations of one class of verbs is associated, not with transitivity as in
other languages and the proto-language (Kaufman 1986, 1994-2007), but rather
with intransitivity, foreshadowing a later discussion of the historical
development of this class in Ch. 15.

In ‘Valence-changing operation in Zaniza Zapotec’ Natalie Operstein presents
data on a language of the Papabuco branch of Zapotec. In it, the language’s
valence-increasing and decreasing morphology are discussed. The two
valence-decreasing strategies of the language are object incorporation, and an
anticausative prefix. Also interesting is the marginal role of two of the
Proto-Zapotec causative markers (*o and *(s)se) which are common in most other
Zapotec languages.

In ‘Agency and verb valence in Lachixío Zapotec’, Mark A. Sicoli presents the
morphology of a Western Zapotec language, which is interesting since, among
other things, it wholly lacks a reflex of one of Kaufman’s four classes whose
verbs have migrated to other classes. Lachixío Zapotec also exhibits a set of
agentive verbs which are distinguished by the use of a special indefinite
subject pronoun not described for other Zapotec languages. Also of interest is
the rarity of reflexes of the Proto-Zapotec *o valence-increasing morpheme,
the presence of mostly fossilized anticausative prefixes on a few verbs, and
the relatively high number of verbs which undergo a prosodic alternation
between their less and more active forms, with the more active form of the
verb presenting a glottalized vowel, providing a more robust example of a
trend noted for Chichicapan Zapotec (Smith Stark, 1999).

In ‘Changes in valence in San Andrés Yaá Zapotec’, Michael Galant shows that
this language has productive valence-increasing morphology in a suffix that
licenses an instrument of patient, another that licenses a comitative
argument, and a clitic which licenses an argument indicating the standard of
comparison. This language is also noted for using reflexive and reciprocal
morphemes to reduce valence.

In ‘Causative morphology in Macuiltianguis Zapotec’, John Foreman and Sheila
Dooley focus on the valence-increasing morphology in this Northern Zapotec
language and argue that only the modern reflex of Proto-Zapotec *(s)se bears
causative semantics, whereas *o bears agentive semantics and *k is associated
with causatives only through its use as a potential mood marker with auxiliary
verbs in purposive clauses.

In ‘Indirect object ‘lowering’ in San Bartolomé Zoogocho Zapotec’ Aaron Huey
Sonnenschein discusses the valence-decreasing strategy of realizing a
recipient or benefactive argument as the possessor of the direct object. This,
along with a covert subject construction in which the subject of a verb is
indicated only by the co-referential possessor of a direct object, is said to
have analogs in Mayan languages, and on the basis of this Sonnenschein
suggests that there is an especially strong link between possession and
argument structure in Mesoamerican languages.

In ‘Zapotec reciprocals’ Pamela Munro surveys reciprocal constructions in 13
languages, noting each language’s use of free reciprocal anaphors (typically a
word which elsewhere in the languages is a noun meaning ‘relative’, ‘fellow’,
‘companion’ or ‘another like’) and/or bound or incorporated reciprocals. She
notes that some languages, especially in Zapotec’s Northern branch, use a
covert subject construction (as was outlined in Ch. 13) to express
reciprocals. She proposes that the free reciprocal is likely the historic
source of the bound reciprocal and further suggests that the free reciprocal
may be the historical source of the typologically rare covert subject
construction through its reanalysis and extension to other verbs with objects
possessed by the subject of the verb.

In ‘Verb inflection and valence in Zapotec’ Natalie Operstein examines the
connections between valence and verb inflection in Zapotec across time,
drawing examples and data from the languages covered in this volume as well as
Zenzontepec Chatino (Campbell 2011), a non-Zapotec member of the Zapotecan
language family. She proposes a pattern of historical development of Kaufman’s
four verb classes from an earlier two; one class has descended largely
unchanged whereas the other class developed into three separate classes
through differentiation and suppletion.

In ‘Valence change: General and Zapotec perspectives’ Seppo Kittilä concludes
the volume by placing the phenomena observed throughout the volume within the
spectrum of valence-changing phenomena cross-linguistically. Kittilä pays
special attention to those features of Zapotec valence-changing which are less
common among the world’s languages; in particular the predominance of
valence-increasing devices versus valence-decreasing devices, the almost
complete absence of a passive in the family, multiple marking of causatives,
and the use of incorporation as a valence-increasing strategy.


I believe the volume is successful in presenting both the variety of
valence-changing devices in Zapotec languages as well as in fully
demonstrating the great similarities which unite their grammars. I believe
that a reader will indeed come away from this volume with a good understanding
of these phenomena in the languages. One concern might be that a reader who is
less familiar with the Zapotec languages would be overwhelmed by the large
number of chapters detailing the valence changing devices of one or two
languages, but this concern is mitigated by the opening chapters which provide
a reasonably solid basis for understanding some of the features of the
languages which are less fully expanded upon in some language-specific

The volume will undoubtedly be useful for readers interested in Zapotec, who
as the authors point out have to navigate a great deal of unpublished and
poorly-circulated materials to learn about the work done on these languages.
The volume will also be of interest to those interested in the historical
development of valence-changing phenomena, as the overviews and the case
studies provide plenty of opportunities to hypothesize about the diachrony of
various devices. The volume, and especially Chapter 16, will also highlight
some of the typologically less common traits of the Zapotec languages
regarding these phenomena for readers interested in the variety of attested
linguistic structures. 

The volume does have a few shortcomings. One is the apparent limitation of the
volume to Zapotec, not including a Chatino language to make the volume cover
the entire Zapotecan branch of Otomanguean. This shortcoming is especially
notable as works on Zenzontepec Chatino are cited in six different chapters
(chs. 2, 6, 10, 12, 15 and 16), and are critical to some of the main points of
Chapter 15. Another shortcoming is the volume’s occasional unevenness
regarding the depth of analysis provided. For example, since Zapotec languages
are typically analyzed as languages with tone contrasts, and since prosodic
alternations have been found to indicate or accompany a valence change in a
number of Zapotec languages, it is disappointing that a few chapters (7, 9,
11, and 13) do not mark tone on their linguistic examples. Another shortcoming
was the presence of errors. The copy I received contained some minor
typographical errors, but also contained a few more substantive errors, such
as the mislabeling of in-line citations to linguistic examples which could
needlessly confuse the reader, and in one place Zenzontepec Chatino was
incorrectly identified as a Zapotec language. These shortcomings, however, are
relatively minor in the face of a coherent repository of a great deal of
information on Zapotec and its valence-changing.


Campbell, Eric. 2011. Zenzontepec Chatino aspect morphology and Zapotecan verb
classes. International Journal of American Linguistics. 77(2). 219—246.

Kaufman, Terrence. 1987. Otomanguean tense/aspect/mood, voice and
nominalization markers. Ms.

Kaufman, Terrence. 1994-2007. Proto-Zapotec(an) reconstructions. Ms.
Kaufman, Terrence. 2016. Proto-Sapotek(an) reconstructions. Ms.

Lillehaugen, Brook Danielle. 2012. Causative verbs in Colonial Valley Zapotec.
Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of the
Indigenous Languages of the Americas in Portland, OR, January 2012.

Smith Stark, Thomas C. 1999. Cambios de valencia en el zapoteco de
Chichicapan. Ms.


Ryan Sullivant, among other things, is a researcher of Tataltepec Chatino
phonology and morphology who lives and works in Austin, Texas.


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