Great Tzotzil Dictionary of San Lorenzo Zinacantán


Link to Full Text

Download Full Text

Publication Date


Publication Title

Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology

Volume Number



This dictionary of Tzotzil (Mayan) vocabulary from the town of Zinacantán, Chiapas, Mexico, was compiled by the author over a period of fourteen years. In addition to unsystematic data gathering in Zinacantán, formal interviews were conducted in San Cristóbal. Two Zinacantec men accompanied the author to the United States on two occasions for further interviewing. All hypothetically possible CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) roots were tested to discover their existence and to determine their productivity. In addition to verbal suggestions, props were helpful: objects in everyday use, dolls, sound-effect records, play-acting. Special attention was directed to ethnobotanical lexicon and data; over 3000 specimens were collected and identified both by their Tzotzil name and by their scientific name. With the aid of aerial photographs and ground surveys the township and adjoining areas were mapped. Over one thousand place names were located. A system was developed to present considerable ethnographic context for the vocabulary within each root as succinctly as possible. Wherever possible, the etymology of loan words is indicated. Each entry is furnished with grammatical analysis. The approximately 30,000 Tzotzil entries and 15,000 English entries (including scientific names) were placed on magnetic tape to permit offset printing and further scholarly investigation. The body of the text is preceded by an introduction that records the eliciting techniques, organization of material, assessment and justification of the author's ethnographic approach, together with a sample of Tzotzil oral literature. Explanatory notes provide a more technical description of the contents and organizations of the dictionary as well as observations on Tzotzil grammar.

Document Type


Digital Object Identifier (DOI)