Mazahua language

The Mazahua language (Central Mazahua: Jñatrjo) is an Oto-Pamean language spoken in the central states of Mexico by the ethnic group that is widely known as the Mazahua but calls itself the Hñatho. It is a Mesoamerican language and has many of the traits of the Mesoamerican Linguistic Area. In 2003, along with some 62 other indigenous languages, it was recognised by a statutory law of Mexico (General Law of Linguistic Rights of the Indigenous Peoples)[2] as an official language in the Federal District and the other administrative divisions in which it is spoken, and on an equal footing with Spanish. The largest concentration of Mazahua is found in the municipality of San Felipe del Progreso, State of México, near Toluca.

Jñatjo (mmc)
Jñatrjo (maz)
RegionMexico: State of Mexico, Toluca
Native speakers
150,000 (2020 census)[1]
Official status
Regulated bySecretaría de Educación Pública
Language codes
ISO 639-3Either:
mmc – Toluca Mazahua
maz – Central Mazahua
Mazahua language.png
Extent of the Mazahua language in Mexico
Otomanguean Languages.png
The Mazahua language, number 4 (darker blue), northwest
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The closest relatives of the Mazahua language are Otomi, Matlatzinca, and Ocuilteco/Tlahuica languages, which together with Mazahua form the Otomian subgroup of the Oto-Pamean branch of the Oto-Manguean language family.

Mazahua is a tonal language and distinguishes high, low, and falling tones on all syllables except the final syllable of a word whose stress is predictable.

Mazahua's most distinctive feature is its abnormally-large phoneme inventory, around sixty phonemes, or twice the number in English. There are eight vowel phonemes, seven contrastive nasal vowels, and as many as forty-five consonants.

Amongst them are ejectives, implosives and contrastive voiceless sonorants. Along with Sindhi and Tukang Besi, Mazahua is a rare case of a language with true implosives that is far from regions where implosives are commonly encountered. It is also one of the few languages with ejective fricatives.[3]

Mazahua-language programming is carried by the CDI's radio station XETUMI-AM, broadcasting from Tuxpan, Michoacán.



Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
plain lab.
Nasal glott. ɲ̰
voiceless ɲ̥
plain m n ɲ
Plosive implosive ɓ ɗ
ejective kʼʷ
aspirated kʷʰ
tenuis p t k ʔ
voiced ɡ ɡʷ
Affricate ejective tsʼ tʃʼ
aspirated tsʰ tʃʰ
tenuis ts
Fricative ejective
tenuis s ʃ h
voiced z ʒ ɣ
Approximant glott.
plain   l j w
Trill r

Oral vowelsEdit

Front Back
Close i u
Close-mid e o
Mid ə
Open-mid ɛ ɔ
Open a

Nasal vowelsEdit

Front Back
Close ĩ ũ
Close-mid õ
Open-mid ɛ̃ ɔ̃
Open ã


The orthography is based on the Spanish alphabet, with additional rules to account for the large phonetic inventory of Mazahua:

Grapheme Phoneme
a [a]
b [ɓ]
c [k]
c' []
cj []
cu []
c'u [kʼʷ]
cju [kʷʰ]
ch []
ch' [tʃʼ]
chj [tʃʰ]
d [ɗ]
dy [dz]
e [e]
ɇ [ɛ]
g [ɡ]
gu [ɡʷ]
hu [w]
'hu []
i [i]
ɨ [ĩ]
j [j]/[h]
j' []
jm []
jn []
ju []
jy []
l [l]
m [m]
m' []
n [n]
n' []
ñ [ɲ]
ñ' [ɲ̰]
o [o]
ø [ɔ]
p [p]
pj []
r [r]
s [s]
s' []
sj []
t [t]
t' []
tj []
ts [ts]
ts' [tsʼ]
tsj [tsʰ]
u [u]
x [ʃ]
z [z]
zh [ʒ]
' [ʔ]

Sample text: Texe yo nte̱'e̱ chjetrjoji, angezeji ximi xo'oji ñeje k'inchiji, nesta ra ngara na jo'o k'o dyaja e nte̱'e̱. (All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.)


  1. ^ INALI (2012) México: Lenguas indígenas nacionales
  2. ^ The Ley General de Derechos Lingüísticos de los Pueblos Indígenas Archived 2007-02-08 at the Wayback Machine ("General Law of the Linguistic Rights of Indigenous peoples"), decree published 13 March 2003
  3. ^ Ian Maddieson (with a chapter contributed by Sandra Ferrari Disner); Patterns of sounds; Cambridge University Press, 1984. ISBN 0-521-26536-3
  4. ^
  5. ^ Ferguson, Carol (February 19, 2005). God's Mimic: The Biography of Hazel Page. Trafford Publishing. ISBN 9781412044288 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ "Mazahua language, alphabet and pronunciation".


  • Knapp Ring, Michael Herbert, Fonología del mazahua, Tesis de licenciatura, ENAH, México, 1996
  • Michael Knapp, 2002 “Elementos de dialectología Mazahua" In Del Cora Al Maya Yucateco: Estudios Linguisticos Sobre Algunas Lenguas Indigenas Mexicanas Paulette Levy (Ed.), Universidad Nacional Autonoma De Mexico