Monday, March 26, 2012

Mayan Language Family

The Maya Language Family.

Whatever the primitive meaning and first application of the name Maya, it is now used to signify specifically the aborigines of Yucatan. In a more extended sense, in the expression “the Maya language family,” it is understood to embrace all tribes, wherever found, who speak related dialects presumably derived from the same ancient stock as the Maya proper.
Other names for this extended family have been suggested, as Maya-Kiche, Mam-Huastec, and the like, compounded of the names of two or more of the tribes of the group. But this does not appear to have much advantage over the simple expression I have given, though “Maya-Kiche” may be conveniently employed to prevent confusion.
These affiliated languageof Maya tribes are, according to the investigations of Dr. Carl Hermann Berendt, the following:—
1.The Maya proper, including the Lacandons.
2.The Chontals of Tabasco, on and near the coast west of the mouth of the Usumacinta.
3.The Tzendals, south of the Chontals.
4.The Zotzils, south of the Tzendals.
5.The Chaneabals, south of the Zotzils.
[18]6.The Chols, on the upper Usumacinta.
7.The Chortis, near Copan.
8.The Kekchis, and
9.The Pocomchis, in Vera Paz.
10.The Pocomams.

11.The Mams.
12.The Kiches.
13.The Ixils.In or bordering on Guatemala.
14.The Cakchiquels.
15.The Tzutuhils.
16.The Huastecs, on the Panuco river and its tributaries, in Mexico.
The Mayan languages of these do not differ more, in their extremes, than the French, Spanish, Italian and other tongues of the so-called Latin races; while a number resemble each other as closely as the Greek dialects of classic times.
What lends particular importance to the study of this group of Mayan languages is that it is that which was spoken by the race in several respects the most civilized of any found on the American continent. Copan, Uxmal and Palenque are names which at once evoke the most earnest interest in the mind of every one who has ever been attracted to the subject of the archæology of the New World. This race, moreover, possessed [19]an abundant literature, preserved in written books, in characters which were in some degree phonetic. Enough of these remain to whet, though not to satisfy, the curiosity of the student.
The total number of Indians of pure blood speaking the Maya proper may be estimated as nearly or quite 200,000, most of them in the political limits of the department of Yucatan; to these should be added nearly 100,000 of mixed blood, or of European descent, who use the tongue in daily life. For it forms one of the rare examples of American languages possessing vitality enough not only to maintain its own ground, but actually to force itself on European settlers and supplant their native speech. It is no uncommon occurrence in Yucatan, says Dr. Berendt, to find whole families of pure white blood who do not know one word of Spanish, using the Maya exclusively. It has even intruded on literature, and one finds it interlarded in books published in Merida, very [20]much as lady novelists drop into French in their imaginative effusions.
The number speaking the different dialects of the stock are roughly estimated at half a million, which is probably below the mark.