What is the Mayan language?
Yucatec Maya language is commonly called Mayan language, that is, the indigenous language of the Yucatan peninsula, southern Mexico (states of Yucatan, Quintana Roo and Campeche).
It belongs to the surviving body of the Mayan languages (spoken in Belize, Guatemala and southeastern Mexico), the main Mesoamerican linguistic family .
In Mexico, the Mayan language is the second indigenous language with the largest number of speakers after Nahuatl. Today it is spoken by more than 800,000 people in the national territory, along with some 5,000 in Belize and 700 in Guatemala.
How many languages does the Mayans speak?
According to the government of Guatemala, 25 languages are spoken in its territory, of which 22 qualify as Mayan languages (with a common stem to Yucatecan Mayan).
In these regions the Mayan language is widely used, both for school teaching , domestic life and local economic transactions. It is recognized since 2003 as one of the national languages of the Mexican State.
History of the Mayan language
All Mayan languages are descendants of a Protomayo language that dates back approximately 5,000 years.
It arose in the Mesoamerican area and very quickly diversified into a set of Mayan languages, a family of languages that exhibit enormous similarities. Some of them were written, in pre-Columbian America, using glyphs.
Writing was common during the classical stage of the Mayan Culture (c. 250-900 AD), and many of its codices on bark paper have survived to this day.
Together with the rich Mayan colonial literature of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, they are extremely important documents for understanding Mesoamerica prior to the arrival of the Spanish.
Thanks to this, the Mayan family of languages is one of the best documented and best known in all of America. They cover 22 official languages in Guatemala and 8 in Mexico , Yucatec Mayan being just one of them.
Characteristics of the Mayan language
In general, the Mayan language is a synthetic and thrifty language, based on monosyllabic morphemes. Although it saves vowels, it does not manage to produce long consonant strings, nor vowel groups. There are no articles, no genre, no infinitive mode.
Many of its verbs also function as nouns, and it uses an apostrophe to separate repeated letters. The whole language can be written today with Latin characters.
Phonetically, in Yucatec Maya , deaf consonant sounds abound, as well as glottalized consonants (pronounced at the end of the throat).
It has five vowels, like Spanish, which can be long, and also two glottalized vowels. It also has two tones, one high and one low, and its pronunciation is usually fast and complex.
Words in Mayan language
Here is a brief sample of Mayan words:
- Janal : Food.
- Naj : Home.
- Aj : Sir.
- Xiix : Rest, residue.
- T’eel : Rooster.
- Ma’ax : Mono.
- Soots’ : Bat.
- Miis : Cat.
- Ha ‘ : Water.
- Peech : Tick.
- Baaxal : Toy, joke.
- Nojoch : Great.
- Maalix : Ordinary, common.
- Tuunich : Stone.
- Puuch ‘ : Crush or crush.
- Pan ch’eel : Toucan.
- Am : Spider.
- In’kel : Insect.
- Tsimim : Horse.
Mayan language poems
And next, we present a couple of poems in Mayan with their English translation:
Mix máak ku yuk’ul tin luuch,
mix máak ku jupik and k’ab ichil in leek
mix máak ku janal tin laak.
A yámae júntuul tzayam kóil peek ‘ch’apachtán tumen máako’ob.
Najil naj ku páatal yéetel u xtakche’il jool naj.
Your láakal máak yojel dzok u chíiken a yáamaj.
No one drinks from my canteen,
no one slides his hand into my bread basket,
nobody eats from my plate.
Your love is a dog with rage that is estranged by everyone else.
In every house, the doors are closed for you.
And people know that your love has bitten me.
Bin in tzuutz a chi
Bin in tz’uutz ‘a chi
Tut yam x cohl
X ciichpam zac
And an and an au ahal
I will kiss your mouth
I will kiss your mouth
among the cornfield plants,
you must hurry up.
Read more about: Mayan Culture