Date of Award

January 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Linda Humnick


Many works have been published about the grammar and phonology of Mixtecan

languages, but relatively little has been written about the discourse features of these languages.

One of these areas of discourse where relatively little research has been done is

that of participant reference.

This thesis explores the features of participant reference in one Mixtec language,

Xochapa Mixtec, by examining the use of nouns, pronouns, and deictic phrases in eight

Xochapa Mixtec texts. The texts used in this research were transcribed from audio recordings

and then analyzed with respect to the participant reference forms they employed.

The thesis begins with a description of several relevant aspects of Xochapa Mixtec grammar

before describing in detail the different categories of participant reference and how

they are used. The analysis of participant reference forms employs ideas and terminology

from several different discourse methodologies, especially Givón (1983), Levinsohn

(1994), and Gundel, Hedberg, & Zacharski (1993).

This research reveals that Xochapa Mixtec uses noun phrases for activation and reactivation

of discourse participants, for disambiguation, and for highlighting. Determiners

and deictic phrases are used in continuing reference to activated participants, though use

of both the indefinite article and the definite particle is optional. Pronouns are also used

in further reference to activated participants, and some pronouns can be used outside their

usual noun class category in certain discourse contexts. There is sometimes alternation

between the use of animal and human pronouns for the same participant in a text. Finally,

Xochapa Mixtec has a special pronoun that is used for third person direct objects that play

the role of local VIP.