A distinction must be made between the historical Mayan language, which is known, for example, from the inscriptions of the Mayan ruins (see Mayan script ), and the current Mayan languages that still exist today, which are from the descendants of the former Mayan civilization in Guatemala , Southeast Mexico , Belize, and West Honduras are spoken.
The Maya do not speak a homogeneous language, but different Maya languages (for example the Mayathan on the Yucatán peninsula or the Kekchí in Guatemala) that belong to a common language family . All of these individual languages can be traced back to an original form of the Maya language, the Proto-Maya , which was the basis for the later development of the individual branches and subgroups around 4,000 years ago. Similar to, for example, European languages, regional “Maya dialects” developed here, some of which are very similar to one another, but can also be very different in some respects. The language family was split into the two main branches of the lowland Maya (e.g. Mayathan) and the highland Maya (e.g. Quiché , Cakchiquel and Kekchí in Guatemala ) a long time ago. Even before the Conquista , there were many different Mayan languages from which today's variants developed. An early form of Chol and Mayathan was spoken at the height of the Mayan civilization .
The Maya languages are ergative languages and follow the ergative-absolute pattern, in contrast to the accusative languages (such as German), which follow the nominative-accusative pattern. Since the Maya languages do not have a morphological case on the noun, the respective case of subject and object must necessarily be identified on the verb. Both prefixes and suffixes are used to indicate grammatical function . In some of the Maya languages there is also (similar to Quechua ) a distinction between the word we , depending on whether the person addressed is included in the group or not (e.g. I + he + she + you versus I + he + her without you).
Exact local names must e.g. B. in the Tzeltal language with the directions "upwards", "downwards" and "across to it" as well as with a variety of descriptive expressions. For example, if you want to say that one object is on top of another, you have to say: one object is behind the other . In Kaqchikel, the word “inside” must be expressed with “chi rupam” (= “mouth-to-be-belly”). Or “ti'na” means “door” in Tzotzil and is expressed literally as “house-mouth”.
Basically, there are the same vowels in the Maya languages as in German: aeiou. In some of the languages, the long vowels (similar to aa-ee-ii-oo-uu) are also added. Some of the Maya languages also have hissing and popping sounds. The consonants look like this:
|Plosives||p [p]||b ' [' b]||t [t]||t ' [t']||k [k]||k ' [k']||q [q]||q ' [q']||' [ʔ]|
|Affricates||ts [ʦ]||ts ' [ʦ']||ch [ʧ]||ch ' [ʧ']|
|Fricatives||s [s]||x [ʃ]||j [x]||h [h]|
|Nasals||m [m]||n [n]||nh [ŋ]|
|Liquids||l [l] / r [r]|
|Half vowel||y [j]||w [w]|
The uvular plosive [q] or [q '] has become a velar [k] or [k'] in the Maya languages of Yucatán and Chiapas (e.g. Mayathan and Chol ) while it was in the highlands -Maya languages such as B. Quiché, Cakchiquel and Kekchí is preserved. In Mayathan it coincides with [k] or [k '] , while in Chol the original [k] is shifted to [ʧ] ("ch").
Classification of the current Mayan languages
The division of the individual Maya languages still spoken today into certain language groups and language families does not take place uniformly in the literature and is made differently by different linguists.
Classification according to Terrence Kaufman and Lyle Campbell
- Huastecan (Téenek)
- Huastekisch : about 173,000 speakers (2000) in Veracruz and San Luis Potosí (Mexico)
- Kanjobalan (Kanjobal-Jacaltec)
- Kanjobal (Q'anjob'al): around 100,000 speakers in Huehuetenango (Guatemala)
- Jacalteco (Popti ', Abxubal): around 40,000 speakers around Jacaltenango (Guatemala), 584 (2000) in Chiapas (Mexico)
- Acateco : around 48,000 speakers (1998) around San Miguel Acatán (Guatemala), around 10,000 in Chiapas (Mexico)
- Mocho : 168 speakers (1990) in Chiapas (Mexico)
- Quichean mamean
- Mamean (Mam, Tacaneco, Tectiteco): around Huehuetenango (Guatemala)
- Mam : around 520,000 speakers in Huehuetenango (Guatemala), around 8,700 ( Qyool , 2000) in Chiapas (Mexico)
- Tacaneco : around 20,000 speakers around Tacaná in San Marcos (Guatemala), around 1,200 (?) In Eastern Chiapas (Mexico)
- Tectiteco : around 1,200 speakers around Tectitán (Guatemala), around 1,000 (?) In Eastern Chiapas (Mexico)
- Greater Quichean
- Kekchí (Q'eqchi ') : about 363,000 speakers (1995) from Alta Verapaz to Lago Izabal (Guatemala), also Belize and El Salvador.
- Cakchiquel (Kaqchikel): about 480,000 speakers (1995) at Lago de Atitlán and in Sololá (Guatemala).
- Tzutuhil (Tz'utujil): about 80,000 speakers (1995) around Santiago Atitlán (Guatemala)
- Sacapulteco : around 37,000 speakers in El Quiché (Guatemala)
- Sipacapeno : around 6,000 speakers in San Marcos (Guatemala)
- Uspanteco : around 3,000 speakers in El Quiché (Guatemala)
- Yucatec Lakandon
Classification according to SIL International
The list below is based on the classification of SIL International and follows its language classification. As with other language families, SIL International counts even closely related Maya variants as separate languages and therefore makes up the largest number of individual languages.
There are a total of 69 Maya languages in the SIL classification that can be assigned to the different language groups. The number of speakers refers to surveys that mostly come from the last 15 years and can therefore only be regarded as approximate values. When naming the individual languages, a geographical classification was usually made, which is why many languages were named after the places, regions or cardinal points in which they occur. The codes listed are the official SIL codes of the respective languages.
Mayan languages recognized in Mexico and Guatemala
The "National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples" of Mexico (CDI) listed the following 17 Maya languages among the 62 indigenous languages of Mexico recognized as "national languages " in 2000 : Maya of Yucatán (Maaya t'aan) with 892,723 speakers, Tzotzil (Batsil k'op) with 356,349 speakers, Tzeltal (Bats'i K'op) with 336,448 speakers, Chol (Lak t'an) with 189,599 speakers, Huastekisch (Téenek) with 173,233 speakers, Tojolabal (Tojolab'al, Tojolwinik otik) with 44,531 speakers, Chontal von Tabasco (Yokot t'an) with 43,850 speakers, Kanjobal (Q'anjob'al) with 10,833 speakers, Mam (Qyool) with 8,739 speakers, Chuj with 2,143 speakers, Kekchí (Q'eqchi ' ) with 835 speakers, Lacandon (Hach t'an) with 731 speakers, Jakaltekisch (Abxubal) with 584 speakers, Quiché (K'iche ') with 286 speakers, Cakchiquel (Kaqchikel) with 230 speakers, Ixil with 108 speakers and Aguacateco ( Awakatek) with 27 speakers. The 6 Mayan languages Kanjobal, Mam, Kekchí, Quiché, Cakchiquel and Aguacateco are spoken by immigrants from Guatemala; nevertheless they are recognized as indigenous languages in Mexico. The other 11 Mayan languages are traditionally spoken in today's Mexico, including Yakaltic in Guatemala.
In Guatemala , according to the 2002 census, in addition to the Xinca language and the Garífuna language, 21 Mayan languages are officially listed: Acateco with 35,763 speakers, Achí with 82,640 speakers, Aguacateco (Awakateko) with 9,613 speakers, Cakchiquel (Kaqchikel) with 444,954 speakers , Chortí with 11,734 speakers, Chuj with 59,048 speakers, Itzá with 1,094 speakers, Ixil with 83,574 speakers, Jacalteco with 34,038 speakers, Kanjobal (Q'anjob'al) with 139,830 speakers, Kekchí (Q'eqchi ') with 716,101 speakers, Mam (Qyool) with 477,717 speakers, Mopan with 2,455 speakers, Pocomam (Poqomam) with 11,273 speakers, Pocomchí (Poqomchi ') with 92,941 speakers, Quiché (K'iche') with 890,596 speakers, Sacapulteco with 6,973 speakers, Sipacapense with 5,687 speakers Tacaneco with around 20,000 speakers, Tectiteco with 1,144 speakers, Tzutuhil (Tz'utujil) with 63,237 speakers and Uspanteco with 3,971 speakers.
To understand the proper names, it should be noted that the name t'an (in Mayathan t'aan ) means "language". While Maaya t'aan means "Mayan language", Hach t'an means "true language" and Winik t'an means "language of the people".
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