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Purépechan Grammar

Parts of Speech



These forms take no further nominal morphology apart from the appropriate case markers, such as the objective -ni or the plural marker -cha.

wari<n><sg> (woman)

kurú<n><sg> (fish)

anátapu<n><sg> (tree)


Irrespective of their formation method, nouns are pluralised with the suffix -echa, -icha, or -cha (depending on the variety).

wari<n><pl> ↔ wariecha (women)

kurú<n><pl> ↔ kurūcha (fishes)

anátapu<n><pl> ↔ anátapuicha (trees)


In Purépecha, the nominative case (unmarked) is a coding property of subjects, while the suffix -ni is the case marker for objects, both in monotransitive and ditransitive constructions.

ganádu<n><pl><obj> ↔ ganáduni (cattle)

kurú<n><pl><obj> ↔ kurúchani (fish)

yurhíri<n><sg><obj> ↔ yurhírini (blood)


Purépechan is a very agglutinative language, meaning that the words in the language are made by stringing together morphemes. A large portion of the agglutination happens in the verbs. Adding suffixes to the words can help users express locative, directional, causative, voice/valency, desiderative, adverbial, third person plural object, aspect, tense, irrealis, mood, and person and number. A few examples we:

kw’i<v><pres><sub><p1><sg> ↔ kw’ixakani

kw’i<v><pres><ass><p1><sg> ↔ kw’ixakani

eshé<v><pprs><pres><1/2ind><p1><sg> ↔ eshéshakani

jwá<v><perf><past><3ind> ↔ jwáspti

Roots and Agents

The suffix-nominalising suffix, most frequently -kwa (-ka in some varieties) as in pire-kwa; -ri, the most common nominalising suffix, generally refers to an agent, as in pire-ri 'singer'.

pire<inf> (to sing)

pire<n><sg> ↔ pirekwa (song)

pire<n><sg> ↔ pireri (singer)


Aspect and tense markers are the same for all persons, but the indicative mood morpheme changes from -ka for the 1st and 2nd person to -ti for the 3rd person. Aspect co-occurs with tense and mood.

wanta<v><pass><hab><past><p3><ass><pl><poss>wantanaxïnanti yontki wantanaxïnanti juchari anapu

before speak language

'Before, our language was spoken.'

t’<v><prf><past><sbjv> t’iréspka ximpóka xuchá/María t’iréspka ya

because Maria<pl> eat already

‘ . . . because we have already eaten/Maria has already eaten.’

xanó<v><prf><past><sbjv>xanópka t’<p2><sgt’ú>/tumpí<pl>tumpíicha éka t’ú/tumpíicha xanó-∅-p-ka ya

when boy arrive already

‘ . . . when you had already arrived/the boys had already arrived.’


ni-a-ti go (He will go)

ni<v><irr><p3><sg> ↔ niati

ewa-a-a-ka remove ('I will remove them.')

ewa<v><3PL.O><irr><ass><p1><sg> ↔ ewaaaka


Purépecha the verbal inflection only distinguishes the person features of the subject in the indicative mood. The indicative verbal forms must be inflected in agreement with the grammatical subject: if the subject is 1st or 2nd person, the verb is marked with -ka; if it is 3rd person, then the marker is -ti. In contrast with the interrogative/clarificational inflection, marked with -∅ or -ki for all persons, and the subjunctive mood, marked with -ka regardless of the person of the subject.

Indicative nothing
Interrogative Ø or ki suffix
Subjunctive ka suffix

Atá-s-Ø-ka strike-prf-prs-1/2ind

Atá<v><prf><pres><ind><p1> ↔ Atáska

Atá<v><prf><pres><ind><p2> ↔ Atáska

Atá<v><prf><pres><ind><p3> ↔ Atásti

xupá-s-Ø-ka=ni wash-prf-prs-1/2ind=1sg.sbj

xupá<v><prf><pres><sg><sbj><p1> ↔ xupáskani

xanó-s-Ø-ka=ni arrive-prf-prs-1/2ind=1sg.sbj

xanó<v><prf><pres><sg><sbj><p1> ↔ xanóskani

The object suffix -a is considered a 3rd person plural marker, which, according to some authors, has a pronominal or agreement value.

Person and Number

Aspect and tense markers are the same for all persons, but the indicative mood morpheme changes from -ka for the 1st and 2nd person to -ti for the 3rd person.

eró+ka-sha-ka eró<prog><p1><ind>erókashaka eró<prog><p2><ind>erókashaka

‘I / you / we / you(pl) are waiting’

eró+ka-sha-ti eró<prog><p3><ind>erókashati

‘He/they are waiting’

If one wishes to be more specific about the subject number, a set of clitics can be optionally attached to the inflected verb:

eró+ka-sha-ka=ni eró<prog><p1><ind><s_sg1>erókashakani ‘I am waiting’

eró+ka-sha-ka=ri eró<prog><p2><ind><s_sg2>erókashakani ‘You are waiting’

eró+ka-sha-ti eró<prog><p3><ind>erókashati ‘He/they are waiting’

eró+ka-sha-ka=tsï eró<prog><p2><ind><s_pl2>erókashatsï ‘You (pl) are waiting’

eró+ka-sha-ka=ksï eró<prog><p1><ind><s_pl1>erókashaksï ‘We are waiting’

eró+ka-sha-ti=ksï eró<prog><p3><ind><s_pl3>erókashatiksï ‘They are waiting’


Determinants or Determiners

Purépecha does not have a definite determiner like English "the" or Spanish "el/los." Among the most common demonstratives are the singular forms í 'this', inté 'that (visible to the speaker)', and imá 'that (not visible to the speaker)', as well as the corresponding plural forms ts'ï 'these', ts'ïmí 'those', and ts'ïmá 'those'.

iámindu 'all'
máru 'some'
imá 'that' (not visible to the speaker)
í 'this'
inté 'that' (visible to the speaker)
ts'ï 'these'
ts'ïmí 'those'
ts'ïmá 'those'


í atá-s-∅-ti inté-ni

this strike<prf><prs><p3><ind> that<obj>

'This (one) struck that (one).'

ts'ïmá atá-s-∅-ti inté-ni

those strike<prf><prs><p3><ind> that<obj>

'Those struck that (one).'

ihtsï iámindu juát-icha júkska-kata jarha-h-ti

DEM.PL all hill<pl> sow<ppl> be<pfve><p3><ind>

‘All these hills are sown (with corn)’

ihtsï tanímu juát-icha júkska-kata jarha-h-ti

<dem><pl> three hill<pl> sow<ppl> be<pfve><p3><ind>

‘These three hills are sown (with corn)’


Reduplication is an available but limited morphological process. Single vowel roots and some CV roots such as pá- (carry) are not reduplicated. About 70 roots never occur unreduplicated (niní-n (to ripen)). About a dozen reduplicate only the first syllable. In general, practically any root can stand either alone or reduplicated.

Three Systems:

  • k'waní-k'waní-ta-n (to throw up repeatedly) -- an aspectual system
  • meré-meré-hku-n (to be very brilliant) -- modal system
  • p'uní-p'uní-hku-n (to blow off all over (as when dusting)) -- locative system


  • učú-učú-hku-ndi-n (to smell of fish, sex, or carrion) -- spatial suffix (oral and facial, involves smell)
  • opó-opó-k-haśi (swollen (of the entire body)) -- the roots may be followed by one of six consonants and the stativizing suffix -hási ‘class, type of’, as in opó- ‘large, round’
  • kwená-hku-n (to lick upward (as of fire)) -- roots are followed by intransitivizing -hku
  • wá-wá-kuri-n (to be missing one’s teeth, leaves, etc.) -- reflexive theme
  • arí-arí-ta-n (to give advice) -- yield a transitive theme
  • yará-yará-c-ka-pa-n (to go about urinating on oneself) -- lexical/spatial suffix value of ‘bottom’
  • šún-šún-á-pi-ti (very green) -- only first CV is reduplicated
  • tíks-tíks-á-ni-n (to beat of fright) -- cavity/thorax spatial suffix