Glottocodes: toto 1305, ISO 639-3 mto, ISO 639-3 mxp; tlah 1239; tlah 1239, ISO 639-3 neq

The Mixe are an indigenous people of Mexico and live in the Sierra Norte, the eastern highlands of the state of Oaxaca. They speak the Mixe languages, which belong to the Mixe–Zoquean (alternative spelling: Mije-Sokean) family. The Mixe are rather culturally conservative and maintain their language to the present day. Their endonym is ayuujk jä'äy, which means ‘the people ayuujk’. They are called ‘Mixe’ in Spanish.

The Mixe languages have not been thoroughly researched and there are still varieties spoken in remote areas that haven’t yet been documented and described in detail. According to Wichmann (1995), there are 17 varieties of the Mixe language. The majority of the Mixe varieties are spoken in the state of Oaxaca; the Mixean languages Oluta Popoluca and Sayula Popoluca are spoken in southern Veracruz. The following varieties have been subjected to documentation within VLACH.

  1. Mixe of Ocotepec (Totontepec), North Highland Mixe ISO 639-3 mto, Glottolog: toto 1305. The Mixe of Ocotepec is spoken in the village of Ocotepec, in the municipality of Totontepec, in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. There are about 5500 Totontepec Mixe speakers of this variety (INALI 2000). The Ethnologue identifies 870 monolinguals.
  2. Mixe of Tlahuitoltepec, South Highland Mixe ISO 639-3 mxp, Glottolog: tlah 1239. The Mixe of Tlahuitoltepec is spoken in several villages within the municipality of Tlahuitoltepec, state of Oaxaca, Mexico. It has about 16 800 speakers (INALI 2000).
  3. Mixe of Cotzocon, North Midland Mixe ISO 639-3 neq, Glottolog: north 2939. The Mixe of Cotzocón is spoken in several villages within the municipality of Cotzocón, state of Oaxaca, Mexico. It has about 13 000 speakers (INALI 2000).

The majority of Mixe live in the Sierra Norte, a mountain range in the northern part of the state of Oaxaca, southern Mexico. Some other Mixe varieties are spoken further into the lowlands, like Guichicovi Mixe, for example. The Mixe languages have been recognized by the Mexican government and taught in schools in some communities. Additionally, there are some activities and works which utilize the Mixe language, for example some authors publish stories or songs in Mixe. There is also a radio station in Tlahuitoltepec that broadcasts in Mixe, which can be received only in surrounding communities. For several years now, the ‘cultural promotors’ (Sp. promotores), members of the local Mixe communities, have made a lot of effort to contribute to the language maintenance in their area.

The Mixe languages are famous for their morpho-phonological and syntactic complexity. Different works on Mixe languages are available at present, although this linguistic family has not yet been documented in detail. One of the first works on Mixe languages is Bernal (1902), and the most thorough description of a Mixe language available so far is an excellent grammar book about the Ayutla Mixe variety, written by Rodrigo Romero Méndez (2008). This grammar publication was followed by a book of Mixe stories in the Ayutla variety (Romero Mendez 2013). An earlier book of Mixe stories in Spanish was published in 1956 by Miller.

Apart from older works on the Mixe language system (Lyon 1980, Martínez González 1986, Martínez Pérez 1986, to name some of them), several studies on a particular aspect of a Mixe language have appeared in the recent years, the majority of them coming from MA or PhD studies within CIESAS Mexico (Godofredo 2008, 2010, 2015 on the Mixe variety of Tamazulápam; Gutierrez Díaz 2014 on Mixe of Tlahuitoltepec; Guzmán Guzmán 2012 on Mixe of Tototontepec).

The works of Kaufman (1995) and Wichmann (1995, 1999, 2014) are extremely important for the historical and typological approach to the Mixe-Zoquean family. Different topics in the area of relationships between the Mixe-Zoquean family with other Mesoamerican linguistic families have also been explored: for example, Wichmann (1999) discusses the relationship between the Mixe-Zoquean and the Uto-Aztecan, and Mora-Marín (2016) contributes to the hypothesis about the relationship between the Mixe-Zoquean and the Mayan families.

The Mixe culture, religion, worldview and customs have attracted many researchers, and detailed descriptions of the mentioned topics can be found in different works: for example, Lipp (1991) on Mixe religion, rituals and healing practices; the volume edited by Salomon Nahmad (1994), containing several articles on Mixe ethnography (some of them re-published there for convenience); Martínez-Pérez (1987) on Mixe religion in Tamazulápam; Hoogshagen (1994a) on the supernatural in Mixe religion, Hoogshagen (1994b) on acculturation in indigenous societies, Hoogshagen (1994c) on sacred mushrooms and other narcotics in Mixe culture; Díaz Ortíz (2013) on the history and lifestyle of Tlahuitoltepec; Clarck (1982) on the particularly interesting Mixe numeral system; Weitlaner et al. (1961) on the Mixe calendar, among others.

Yasnaya Elena Aguilar Gil, a writer, poet, linguist, political activist and a native speaker of Ayutla Mixe, also publishes her works in her native language. Aguilar Gil’s view on the Mixe identity can be found in the article Ëëts, Aton. Algunos apuntes sobre la identidad indígena (‘Some notes about the indigenous identity’, in English), UAM Journal, September 2017.

The book on Mixe narratives by Anna Kondic in the mentioned three varieties is the first of its kind and is unique so far. The texts are presented in Mixe, followed by translations into Spanish and English, and accompanied by audio and video recordings. The book contains a thematic dictionary in all three varieties, which can be very useful for comparison.

© Anna Kondic 2019