Huehuetla Tepehua (HT) is spoken in the Eastern Sierra Madre Mountains in the Central Gulf Coast region of Mexico in the state of Hidalgo. The town of Huehuetla is the seat of the municipality of the same name. HT is part of the Totonac-Tepehua language family that has been described as an isolate family in Mesoamerica (although there is debate as to whether these languages are related to the Mixe-Zoquean languages genetically or if they have similarities due to contact). There are three varieties of Tepehua: Huehuetla Tepehua, Pisaflores Tepehua and Tlachichilco Tepehua; the latter two varieties are spoken in the state of Veracruz and the first in the states of Hidalgo and Puebla. There are less than 1,500 speakers of HT, which has been described as a moribund language no longer actively transmitted to children, with almost no monolingual speakers left. Spanish, the dominant language of Mexico, is slowly taking over in the town of Huehuetla.

HT is a polysynthetic language with head-marking and complex verbal morphology (Smythe 2007: 23). Inflection is marked by both prefixes and suffixes on verbs. In addition to verbs and nouns, HT also has adjectives and adverbs, some of which manifest themselves as full words and others as particles (Smythe 2007: 24). The constituent order is pragmatically determined but there is a tendency toward VSO when there are no contextual clues and SVO when there are (Smythe 2007: ix).

Selected publications

  • Herzog, Dorothy L. 1974. Person, number and tense in the Tepehua verb. SIL Mexico Workpapers 1. 45-52.
  • Kung, Susan Smythe. 2007. A Descriptive Grammar of Huehuetla Tepehua. PhD thesis, University of Texas at Austin.

Link to Glottolog