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Native toGuatemala,
Native speakers<15,000 (2010)

Cuoxeh (pronounced /kʷoˈʃeʔ/, literally "the speech" or "the talk") is a small native American language spoken in Belize and Guatemala. There are between 10,000 and 15,000 native speakers spread out within a fairly large area of land and though the language is not officially recognised in Guatemala, it is in Belize.

Cuoxeh has phonemic aspiration on both plosives and affricates as well as phonemic vowel length. Unlike some other native American languages, for example Blackfoot, it does not have phonemic consonant gemination. Cuoxeh is also highly agglutinative and as a result is very regular (cf. other agglutinative languages, such as Turkish).

Phonology and orthography


Bilabial Alveolar Post-alveolar Palatal Velar Labio-velar Uvular1 Glottal
Nasal m /m/ n /n/ ñ /ɲ/
Plosive Central p /p/ t /t/ c2, 3 /k/ cu2 /kʷ/ q /q/
Aspirated ph /pʰ/ th /tʰ/ ch /kʰ/ qh /qʰ/
Fricative Central s /s/ x /ʃ/ h4, 5 /h~ʔ/
Lateral l /ɬ/
Affricate Central ts /t͡s/ tx /t͡ʃ/
Aspirated tsh /t͡sʰ/ txh /t͡ʃʰ/
Lateral tl /t͡ɬ/
Approximant Central y /j/ hu /w/
Lateral ł /l/ ll /ʎ/
  1. When the close vowels "i" and "ī" neighbour uvular consonants they are realised as [ɪ] and [ɪː] respectively (and even as [e] and [eː] by some speakers).
  2. The graphemes "c" and "cu" become "cu" and "" respectively before "e" and "i".
    Approximate linguistic area of Cuoxeh shown on Google Maps.
  3. In loan words, especially proper nouns, "c" may represent /s/ before "e" and "i", e.g. "cesałxi", meaning "tyrant", from the Spanish "césar".
  4. When "h" is syllable initial it is usually realised as [h] and when syllable final it is always realised as [ʔ]
  5. Long vowels are shortened before coda "h".


Front Back
Close i /i/ ī /iː/
Mid e /e/ ē /eː/ o /o/ ō /oː/
Open a /a/ ā /aː/


Syllable shape

Cuoxeh syllables have the structure (C)V(F) where:

  • C is any consonant: m/n/ñ/p/t/c/cu/q/ph/th/ch/qh/s/x/h/l/ts/tx/tsh/txh/tl/y/hu/ł/ll
  • V is any vowel: i/ī/e/ē/o/ō/a/ā
  • F is any final consonant: m/n/ñ/p/t/c/q/s/x/h/l/ts/tx/tl/ł/ll


The syllables of morphemes may be altered when followed or proceeded by certain other morphemes. A list of such assimilations is shown below:

Coda Onset Result
m + y ñ
n + y ñ
ñ + y ñ
t + ł tl
t + ll tl
c + cu cu
s + y x
x + y x
h + h ch
h + hu cu
l + y ll
l + tl tl
ts + y stx
ts + ts sts
tx + y xtx
tx + tx tx
ł + y ll
ł + tl łt
ll + y ll
ll + tl łt
Vshort + Vshort Vlong
Vshort + Vlong Vlong
Vlong + Vshort Vlong

E.g.: "Castilla" + "ałtah" = Castillāłtah


Primary stress in Cuoxeh falls on the penultimate syllable if a word ends in a vowel and if a word ends in a consonant then the final syllable is stressed. Glottal stops shift the stress of a word to the vowel preceding them. Otherwise, certain affixes (chiefly of negation) that may not bear stress can cause words to appear to violate the above rules.

  • "ōmsi", /ˈoːmsi/, "heart"
  • "ematl", /eˈmat͡ɬ/, "maize"
  • "lehcuansi", /ˈleʔkʷansi/, "giant yucca"
  • "txicuatemcüēll", /t͡ʃikʷaˈtemkʷeːʎ/, "It will not rain"


Pronominal verbal prefixes

1ps 2ps 3ps 1pp 2pp 3pp
Subject ī- l(o)- txi- eme- ña- ch(a)-
Direct object -tī- -(y)ō- -som- -ēm- -ni- -c-
Indirect object -tī- -(y)ō- -xo- -ēm- -ni- -qo-
Reflexive -(i)ll(i)-



The present tense is, loosely speaking, used to indicate that an event or action is occurring at the time of speaking. It is also used to describe a current state of affairs or to refer to the nature of something, e.g. an action. In Cuoxeh, it is not possible to use the present tense to refer to events that occur entirely outside of the present (with the exception of the habitual), cf. the use of the present tense of "to go" in English and other languages to indicate the future: "I am going home tomorrow", "Завтра я еду домой".

  • The horse is running.
  • It's raining today.
  • Guatemala is a republic.
  • They are European.
  • I visit my parents every week.

Past imperfect

Past perfect


Future imperfect

Future perfect



yō (to be, to exist)
1ps 2ps 3ps 1pp 2pp 3pp
Present īyo loyo txiyo emeyo ñayo chayo
Past imperfect ītl lōtl txitl emetl ñatl chatl
Past perfect yoh loh txih emeh ñah chah
Pluperfect yohna lohna txihna emehna ñahna chahna
Future imperfect yocüe locüe txicüe emecüe ñacüe chacüe
Future perfect yocüeh locüeh txicüeh emecüeh ñacüeh chacüeh
Irrealis yōyo lōlo txītxi emēme ñāña chācha
Imperative - caloyo - cuemeyo cañayo -

The verbal form of copula is less common than verbifying nouns or adjectives:

  • "Spain is large"
    • "Lophicuo Castillāłtah." ("It-larges Spain")
    • /kastiʎaːltaʔ ɬopʰikʷo/
  • "I am Spanish", "I am a Spaniard"
    • "Īcastillahētl" ("I Spanish")
    • /iːkastiʎaheːt͡ɬ/
  • "He speaks Spanish"
    • "Locuoxe macastilla(cuoxe)" ("He speaks ADV-Spain(-speech)")
    • /ɬokʷoʃe makastiʎa(kʷoʃe)/
  • "He speaks Spanish well"
    • "Locuoxe ñocastilla(cuoxe)" ("He speaks well-Spain(-speech)")
    • /ɬokʷoʃe ɲokastiʎa(kʷoʃe)/
  • "He speaks Spanish badly"
    • "Locuoxe tamcastilla(cuoxe)" ("He speaks badly-Spain(-speech)")
    • /ɬokʷoʃe tamkastiʎa(kʷoʃe)/

Regular verbs


huaxa (to give)
1ps 2ps 3ps 1pp 2pp 3pp
Present īhuaxa lohuaxa txihuaxa emehuaxa ñahuaxa chahuaxa
Past imperfect īhuaxatl lohuaxatl txihuaxatl emehuaxatl ñahuaxatl chahuaxatl
Past perfect īhuaxah lohuaxah txihuaxah emehuaxah ñahuaxah chahuaxah
Pluperfect īhuaxanah lohuaxanah txihuaxanah emehuaxanah ñahuaxanah chahuaxanah
Future imperfect īhuaxacüe lohuaxacüe txihuaxacüe emehuaxacüe ñahuaxacüe chahuaxacüe
Future perfect īhuaxacüeh lohuaxacüeh txihuaxacüeh emehuaxacüeh ñahuaxacüeh chahuaxacüeh
Irrealis īhuaxāxa lohuaxāxa txihuaxāxa emehuaxāxa ñahuaxāxa chahuaxāxa
Imperative - calohuaxa - cuemehuaxa cañahuaxa -
  • "I will give you the mango"
    • "Īyōhuaxacüe txīloh"
    • /iːjoːwaʃakʷe t͡ʃiːloʔ/
  • "He has [already] given it to me"
    • "Txisomtīhuaxah."
    • /t͡ʃisitiːwaʃaʔ/


ec (to hear)
1ps 2ps 3ps 1pp 2pp 3pp
Present īec lec txiec emēc ñaec chec
Past imperfect īectli lectli txiectli emēctli ñaectli chectli
Past perfect īecoh lecoh txiecoh emēcoh ñaecoh checoh
Pluperfect īecnah lecnah txiecnah emēcnah ñaecnah checnah
Future imperfect īecüe lecüe txiecüe emēcüe ñaecüe checüe
Future perfect īecüeh lecüeh txiecüeh emēcüeh ñaecüeh checüeh
Irrealis īēcuec lēcuec txiēcuec emēcuec ñaēcuec chēcuec
Imperative - calec - cuemēc cañaec -

Relational verbs

The function of adpositions is fulfilled by relational verbs which are in effect conjugated prepositions. They are conjugated verbs which then take an adpositional suffix. Relational verbs also alter word order, placing the referee to after the relational verb whereas the subject would normally follow the verb.

  • "The book is on the table"
    • "Txiyoni tacteh xāmsi" ("Txi-yō-ni tacte-h xām-si", "It-be-on table-the book-the")
    • /t͡ʃijoni takteʔ ʃaːmsi/
  • "The books are on the table"
    • "Chayoni tacteh xāmamsi" ("Txi-yō-ni tacte-h xam-am-si", "They-be-on table-the book-s-the"
    • /kʰajoni takteʔ ʃaːmamsi/


Nouns are somewhat of a loose category in Cuoxeh. They are formed by affixing a suffix to a root word, normally a verb. For example, "tsha" means "to eat" and adding the absolutive (or nominalisation) suffix "-h" gives "tshah" which means "food". If the root ends in a vowel "-h" is added, otherwise one of "-si", "-xi" or "-atl" is added. The suffix "-si" is added unless the word contains an "s" (including "ts" and "tsh") in which case "-xi" is added: "semxi" meaning "cloud". The suffix "-atl" is added if the word end in a consonant and contains an "x" (including "tx" and "txh"): "xocatl" meaning "[Baird's] tapir".

Plurals are formed by reduplicating the final syllable of the root (less the onset unless the root ends in a vowel) and lengthening the vowel in the reduplicated syllable whilst keeping the second vowel short. If the vowel which is reduplicated is already long the second vowel becomes shortened.

  • "txhoh" ("chayote") > "txho-h" > "txhōtxho-h" > "txhōtxho-h" ("chayotes")
  • "xocatl" ("tapir") > "xoc-atl" > "xōcoc-atl" > "xōcocatl" ("tapirs")
  • "thōnsi" ("wheel") > "thōn-si" > "thōnon-si" > "thōnonsi" ("wheels")

Relative clauses

Relative clauses are indicated by the use of the circumposition "mi... mi".

Example sentences

Glossing abbreviations used below
Abbreviation Meaning
1 first person
2 second person
3 third person
~ reduplication (followed by its significance)
ABS absolutive
ADV adverbial
CAUS causative
FI future imperfect
FP future perfect
IM imperative
IR irrealis
NG negative
PI past imperfect
PF past perfect
PL plural
POSS possessive
PP pluperfect
PR present
RC relative clause circumposition
SG singular
TRANS translative
Graded Sentences for Analysis from
English Cuoxeh
Part 1
Birds sing. Chahānā tsīmimxi.
3PL-sing-PR bird~PL-ABS
Children play. Chaxāne ayēlelsi.
3PL-play-PR child~PL-ABS
Dogs bark. Chehatlo alatsēseh.
3PL-bark-PR dog~PL-ABS
Bees hum. Chatxīxa etsīnānah.
3PL-hum-PR bee~PL-ABS
The baby laughed. Lachatl hehueh.
3SG-laugh-PI baby-ABS
The sun shines. Lotlełe mēneh.
3SG-shine-PR sun-ABS
The wind blows. Lophilā ēmitl.
3SG-blow-PR wind-ABS
I may decide to leave in a hurry. Tahīlōso īācue maxīcüi.
EP-1SG-decide 1SG-leave ADV-hurry.
Having stayed underwater in the channel, the wooden plank had expanded. Txithōcohiq monītl etahsi, txicahphicuonah ocnoh mi txitloh mi.
3SG-stay-PF-in 3SG.POSS-water stream-ABS 3SG-TRANS-big-PP board-ABS RC 3SG-wood-PR RC
The candles caused the frozen cake, which had proven inedible, to thaw. Chalacahtonīlatl ciłyōyoh txinīlah phānsi mi txitīmanah txitotshanah mi.
3PL-CAUS-TRANS-NG-freeze-PI candle~PL-ABS 3SG-freeze-PF cake-ABS RC 3SG-prove-PP 3SG-NG-food-PP RC