Mayan languages

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Former settlement area of ​​the Maya

The Mayan or Maya languages form a language family in the Mesoamerican cultural area and are spoken by the Maya in Central America .

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 .

Language structure

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:

  Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
normal implosive normal ejective normal ejective normal ejective normal ejective normal
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

Today's Mayan languages. Small names stand for <10,000 speakers, medium names for <100,000 speakers, big names for <500,000 speakers. Even bigger: Yukatek (about 900,000 speakers), K'iche '(about 2,000,000 speakers). The colors show the language groups.

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

Terrence Kaufman and Lyle Campbell divide the Maya languages ​​into five main groups:

Chol (Ch'ol, Lak t'an): around 190,000 speakers (2000) in Chiapas (Mexico)
Chontal (Yokot t'an) : about 44,000 speakers (2000) in Tabasco (Mexico)
Chortí (Ch'orti '): about 52,000 speakers (1995) in the southern lowlands of Guatemala (around Copán ).
Tzeltal (Bats'il K'op, ethnonym Winik atel): about 336,000 speakers (2000) in Chiapas (Mexico)
Tzotzil (Batsil k'op): about 356,000 speakers (2000) in Chiapas (Mexico)
Huastecan (Téenek)
Huastekisch : about 173,000 speakers (2000) in Veracruz and San Luis Potosí (Mexico)
Chuj : around 41,000 speakers in Huehuetenango (Guatemala), around 2,000 (2000) in Chiapas (Mexico)
Tojolabal (Tojolwinik otik): about 45,000 speakers (2000) in Chiapas (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
Aguacateco (Awakateko): around 18,000 speakers (1998) in West Huehuetenango (Guatemala)
Ixil (Chajul, Cotzal, Nebaj): about 71,000 speakers (1995) in Guatemala
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.
Pocomam (Poqomam): about 31,000 speakers (1995) around Guatemala City and Jalapa (Guatemala)
Pocomchí (Poqomchi '): about 70,000 speakers (1995) around Guatemala City and Jalapa (Guatemala)
Cakchiquel (Kaqchikel): about 480,000 speakers (1995) at Lago de Atitlán and in Sololá (Guatemala).
Achí (Achi '): about 58,000 speakers (1995) in Baja Verapaz (Guatemala)
Quiché (K'iche '): about 925,000 speakers (1995) in 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)
Mopan : around 8,000 speakers in Belize and 2,600 in South Peten
Itzá : 123 speakers (2001) on Lake Petén
Yucatec Lakandon
Mayathan or Yucatec Maya (Maaya t'aan): about 893,000 speakers (2000) in Yucatán , Campeche and Quintana Roo (Mexico)
Lacandon (Hach t'an): 731 speakers (2000) in the eastern jungle of Chiapas (Mexico)

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.

family Language group Subgroups Subgroups Subgroups language code speaker
Maya Chol Tzeltal Chol Chol Chont Chont, Tabasco chf 55,000 in Mexico
Chol, Tila cti 44,000 in Mexico
Chol, Tumbalá ctu 90,000 in Mexico
Chorti Ch'orti ' caa 30,000 in Guatemala
Tzeltal Tzeltal, Bachajón tzb 100,000 in Mexico
Tzotzil, Chamula tzc 130,000 in Mexico
Tzotzil, Chenalhó tze 35,000 in Mexico
Tzeltal, Oxchuc tzh 90,000 in Mexico
Tzotzil, Venustiano Carranza tzo 4,000 in Mexico
Tzotzil, San Andrés Larrainzar tzs 50,000 in Mexico
Tzotzil, Huixtán tzu 20,000 in Mexico
Tzotzil, Zinacantan tzz 25,000 in Mexico
Huastec Chicomuceltec cob 1,500 in Mexico
Huastec, southeast hsf 1,700 in Mexico
Huastec, Veracruz hus 50,000 in Mexico
Huastec, San Luís Potosí hva 70,000 in Mexico
Kanjobal Chuj Chuj Chuj, San Sebastian Coatán cac 19,000 in Guatemala
Chuj, Ixtatan cnm 22,000 in Guatemala
9,500 in Mexico
Tojolab toj 36,000 in Mexico
Kanjobal Kanjobal Jacaltec Jakalteco, East jac 11,000 in Guatemala
Jakalteco, West yeah 78,000 in Guatemala
10,000 in Mexico
Q'anjob, east kjb 78,000 in Guatemala
Akateco knj 49,000 in Guatemala
10,000 in Mexico
Mocho Mocho mhc 170 in Mexico
Quiche mam Grand-Mam Ixil Awakateco agu 18,000 in Guatemala
Ixil, Nebaj ixi 35,000 in Guatemala
Ixil, Chajul ixj 18,000 in Guatemala
Ixil, San Juan Cotzal ixl 16,000 in Guatemala
Mam Mam, north mam 200,000 in Guatemala
1,000 in Mexico
Mam, south mms 125,000 in Guatemala
Mam, Tajumulco mpf 35,000 in Guatemala
Tacanec mtz 20,000 in Guatemala
1,200 in Mexico
Mam, central mvc 100,000 in Guatemala
Mam, Todos Santos Cuchumatán mvj 50,000 in Guatemala
10,000 in Mexico
Tektiteko ttc 1,300 in Guatemala
1,000 in Mexico
Large quiche Kekchí Q'eqchi ' kek 400,000 in Guatemala
12,000 in El Salvador
9,000 in Belize
Pocom Poqomam, east poa 12,500 in Guatemala
Poqomchi ', west pob 50,000 in Guatemala
Poqomam, central poc 8,600 in Guatemala
Poqomchi ', east poh 42,000 in Guatemala
Poqomam, south pou 28,000 in Guatemala
Quiche Kakchiquel Kaqchikel, Akatenango Southwest ckk 500 in Guatemala
Kaqchikel, central cak 132,000 in Guatemala
Kaqchikel, east cke 100,000 in Guatemala
Kaqchikel, north ckc 24,000 in Guatemala
Kaqchikel, Santa María de Jesús cki 18,000 in Guatemala
Kaqchikel, Santo Domingo Xenacoj ckj 5,000 in Guatemala
Kaqchikel, south-central ckd 43,000 in Guatemala
Kaqchikel, south ckf 43,000 in Guatemala
Kaqchikel, West ckw 77,000 in Guatemala
Kaqchikel, Yepocapa Southwest cbm 8,000 in Guatemala
Quiche achi Achi ', Cubulco acc 48,000 in Guatemala
Achi ', Rabinal acr 37,000 in Guatemala
K'iche, central quc 1.9 million in Guatemala
K'iche, Cune'n cun 9,000 in Guatemala
K'iche, east quu 100,000 in Guatemala
K'iche, Joyabaj quj 54,000 in Guatemala
K'iche, San Andre's qxi 20,000 in Guatemala
K'iche, West Central qut 250,000 in Guatemala
Tzutujil Tzutujil, east tzj 50,000 in Guatemala
Tzutujil, west tzt 34,000 in Guatemala
Sacapulteco Sacapulteco quv 37,000 in Guatemala
Sipacapeno Sipacapense qum 8,000 in Guatemala
Uspantec Uspanteco usp 3,000 in Guatemala
Mayathan (Yucatec Maya) Mopan-Itza Itza itz † (in Guatemala)
Mopan Maya mop 8,000 in Belize
2,600 in Guatemala
Yucatec Lacandon Lacandon lac 1,000 in Mexico
Yucatan Maya yua 700,000 in Mexico
5,000 in Belize
Chan Santa Cruz Maya yus 40,000 in Mexico

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".

See also


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Buried Mirror - Mesoamerica and the Maya World: Mayan Languages . Retrieved April 21, 2020 (English).
  2. Browse by Language Family - Classification of the Maya languages ​​(English).