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Unfortunately, materials on Zapotec languages vary widely in the quality of their tonal description and analysis.
One innovation shared by many varieties of Zapotec is the loss (or partial loss) of the vowel of the second syllable. In conservative varieties, the vowel of the second syllable is retained: .
Quantifiers, including numbers and the word for 'one' used as an indefinite article, precede the noun.
Demonstratives, including one that means Aforementioned (in some varieties) and is sometimes translated as a definite article, occur phrase-finally (although they are sometimes written as if they were suffixes). When they occur they also typically receive the primary stress of the phrase, causing the noun to lose some phonation features.
Northern Zapotec languages are spoken in the mountainous region of Oaxaca, in the Northern Sierra Madre mountain ranges; Southern Zapotec languages and are spoken in the mountainous region of Oaxaca, in the Southern Sierra Madre mountain ranges; Valley Zapotec languages are spoken in the Valley of Oaxaca, and Isthmus Zapotec languages are spoken in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.
However, Valley Zapotec and Isthmus Zapotec group together (as Central Zapotec), and this ignores the Papabuco and Western Zapotec varieties.
Zapotec and the related Chatino languages together form the Zapotecan subgroup of the Oto-Manguean language family.