Date of Award

Fall 2022

Document Type


Terms of Use

© 2022 Jasper E. Nash. This work is freely available courtesy of the author. It may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) license. For all other uses, please contact the copyright holder.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License.

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Linguistics Department

First Advisor

Brook Danielle Lillehaugen


Toponyms are place names which have certain common linguistic properties across languages. Toponyms are typically formed by the combination of descriptive morphemes and noun classifiers (Ursini 2017). Southern Zapotec (SZ) languages are primarily spoken in the Southern Sierra Madre region of Oaxaca, Mexico. Southern Zapotec toponyms appear to have similar structures compared to those in the four languages analyzed by Ursini (2017), with spatial classifiers and descriptive morphemes merging to create a phrase which carries spatial features. Beam de Azcona (2012) categorizes Southern Zapotec toponyms according to whether there are no classifiers, one classifier, or multiple classifiers, as well as whether they contain relational nouns.

This paper assesses a corpus of Colonial Valley Zapotec (CVZ) toponyms to determine whether the analysis in Beam de Azcona (2012) of toponyms with multiple classifiers in Southern Zapotec languages can be extended to describe the CVZ data as well. The corpus was created through the keyword searching of contemporary Spanish translations of Zapotec manuscripts on the digital text explorer Ticha. Then, the corpus was analyzed by standardizing spelling and sorting alphabetically to identify any pairs of toponyms that differ only by a singular morpheme.

Through the identification of these toponym pairs, evidence was found to support both types of toponyms with multiple classifiers as described in Beam de Azcona (2012). Many examples demonstrate optionality with the initial classifier in a toponym with multiple classifiers, while a couple of examples suggest possible optionality with an internal classifier. The results are consistent with the categories provided by Beam de Azcona (2012), although a few data points raise questions for further inquiry.

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