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This article is an informal discussion of the grammatical category of voice in Tzutujil, a member of the Quichean branch of the Mayan language family (cf. Kaufman 1976, Campbell 1977). Tzutujil is spoken by approximately fifty thousand people in an area extending from the south end of Lake Atitlán to the southern Pacific coastal plain in the Republic of Guatemala. The Tzutujil area includes all of the towns on the south shores of the lake, namely, San Lucas Tolimán, Santiago Atitlán, San Pedro la Laguna, San Juan la Laguna, and San Pablo la Laguna, as well as Santa María Visitación to the southwest in the highlands above the lake. It is also spoken in Chicacao on the coastal plain, and on many plantations and in many small villages and hamlets scattered to the south of the lake. The Tzutujil area is bordered on the north, east, and southeast by speakers of Cakchiquel, and on the west and southwest by speakers of Quiché. In fact, Cakchiquel is also spoken in San Lucas Tolimán, which lies on the eastern edge of the Tzutujil area, and Quiché is spoken in and around Santa María Visitación, which actually lies within Quiché territory. Both Cakchiquel and Quiché are also Quichean Mayan languages. Spanish is spoken throughout the area, primarily by ‘ladinos’ (i.e., non-Indians), although most Tzutujil men know Spanish to one degree or another and use it when traveling outside of the Tzutujil area or when dealing with non-Indians in the area who don’t speak Tzutujil. Few Tzutujil women speak Spanish although some understand it to varying degrees. The ladino population, although in some cases prominent politically and economically, comprises a small minority (generally, less than 5%, and virtually non-existent in the smaller towns, villages, and hamlets). Most ladinos who were born in the area or who have lived there for a long time speak Tzutujil, at least minimally, and some with a high degree of proficiency.

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This material has been published in Grammar Inside and Outside the Clause: Some Approaches to Theory from the Field edited by Johanna Nichols and Anthony C. Woodbury. This version is free to view and download for personal use only. Not for re-distribution, re-sale or use in derivative works. © Cambridge University Press & Assessment.