Kevin Cline

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Stephen A. Marlett


The tone system of Me'phaa, an Otomanguean language (or group of languages) spoken in the eastern part of the state of Guerrero, Mexico, is quite complex, largely due to the complex agreement systems used with nouns and verbs. Aspects of the tone system have been described to some degree for the Malinaltepec and Azoyú varieties, but little has been documented about tone in other varieties. This thesis focuses on the tone system of a less-documented variety, Acatepec, with the goal of broadening the understanding of the tone systems of other Me'phaa varieties.

The thesis follows the methodology set forth in Snider (2013) by presenting the underlying tone melodies found among different categories and classes of morphemes, focusing on nouns and verbs, and how those melodies are realized in different phonological and grammatical environments.

All nine possible melodies consisting of sequences of up to two tones from the three-height system are found among disyllabic nouns. The /HL/ melody is realized differently on nouns having glottal stop or /h/ foot-medially than it is on other nouns. The melodies /MH/, /ML/, /LH/, and /LM/ are not found among monosyllabic nouns with long vowels. Comparison with some other varieties of Me'phaa suggests these may have been neutralized with the /L/ melody in these syllable profiles in Acatepec. Only the melodies /H/, /M/, and /L/ are found among monosyllabic nouns with short vowels.

In most classes of verbs in the corpus, verbs having disyllabic stems have examples of all underlying melodies except /LH/. Only the melodies /H/, /M/, and /L/ are found among verbs that have monosyllabic stems. There is no difference in the realization of the /HL/ melody between verbs having glottal stop or /h/ foot-medially and those that do not.

Comparing differences in the realizations of tone melodies of some nouns in the Acatepec variety with corresponding nouns in the Malinaltepec and Huehuetepec varieties has proven helpful.

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