Oaxaca has the first “Zapotec Language Dictionary”

Researcher Óscar Méndez Espinosa presented the first “Dictionary of the Zapotec Language”, a work in five volumes that contains 60 thousand words and integrates the basic word of all Zapotec speaking communities in Oaxaca, in its 62 variants.

Although the author, originally from the municipality of San Pedro Mixtepec and currently a professor at the Universidad del Istmo de Tehuantepec, began studying this language for almost two decades, the development of this dictionary began in 2013 and was published with the support of the Sistema de State Universities of Oaxaca (Suneo).

“For the past 19 years I have been working formally on Zapotec and I wanted to know how it as a whole, not only in the variant that I speak. This dictionary is a contribution, it is the first step, there is still much to be done, the Zapotec language is not known as a whole, it’s neglected,” he explained.

For the researcher, this work will also be useful to teach Zapotec to new generations, with the purpose of preventing it from becoming extinct.

This dictionary contains 60 thousand words in five volumes and more than five thousand pages; the first volume begins with a piece by the renowned juchiteco artist, Francisco Toledo, entitled “The language teacher”.

Óscar Méndez Espinosa, besides being a professor, is a doctorate in linguistics from the Pompeu Fabra University, in Barcelona.

The edition was presented Friday night at the Institute of Graphic Arts of Oaxaca (IAGO), in the state capital, by the author Méndez Espinosa and writer Víctor Cata.

In his speech, Víctor Cata highlighted this work as a contribution to the culture of Oaxaca.

“It is a monumental work, this is great, a huge job, because it documents the variants of the Zapotec language not only of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, but of the Valley, the Sierra Norte and the Sierra Sur,” he says.

The Zapotec languages are a group of closely related indigenous Mesoamerican languages that constitute a main branch of the Oto-Manguean language family and which is spoken by the Zapotec people from the southwestern-central highlands of Mexico. The 2010 Mexican census reports 425,000 speakers, with the majority inhabiting the state of Oaxaca.

About the author

This article was written by Ian Hayden Parker, Oaxaca Life staff writer, the leading source for English news in Oaxaca, Mexico.

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