Wednesday, August 26, 2015


You just can't neglect and overlook this book if you want to learn Maya


This is a dictionary and you cannot expect more than it proposes. It is organized in alphabetical order but based on the phonetic transcriptions of the glyphs. Note they use two phonetic transcriptions: Ch’olan and Yucatec.

The glottalized consonants (consonants followed by a glottal stop marked in the transcription with an apostrophe) follow the non-glottalized consonants in the alphabetical order. Thus CH’ comes after CH.

But the great advantage is that you can really understand the composition of the glyphs thanks to the transcriptions first but also because you will find the various components in the dictionary as such. The writing system is thus a composite writing system since the glyphs are composed of various glyphs associated  to build new words. We are dealing here with the morphology of the compound words and many Mayan words are compounds.

It also gives you the various categories and declension or conjugation elements of the words. Hence you have nouns, verbs, adjectives. Nominal phrases are often treated as one glyph composed of various elements showing that the syntax of the nominal phrase is treated as if it were morphology. And we have the same thing for verbal phrases. That seems to show this language is developing on the basis of the second articulation of human language, though it seems to be developing the first steps towards the realization of the third articulation which implies declensions and later prepositions to express nominal cases, and conjugations for the verbs.

To specify that language more we will enter the details of the description of its syntax. Since it is a Native American language we know today it comes from Siberia where two vast families of languages, and ethnic groups, cohabited. DNA has confirmed these dual origins. On one hand the agglutinative languages of the Turkic family mostly settled in Central Asia, South West Siberia (Urals for example), Asia Minor and the whole of Europe  before the last ice age up to the arrival of Indo-Europeans in Europe a few thousand years after the ice age. On the other hand the Sino-Tibetan family us composed of isolating languages.

Most of Native American languages are thus mapped on one pattern or the other. Further studies have to be made to check if the two affiliations are strictly respected or if some languages actually merged the characteristics of both families. The Turkic family is third articulation, whereas the Sino-Tibetan family is second articulation.

I will then have to come back to the subject after more studies.

This dictionary has many indices at the end and these indices transform the dictionary into a multilingual and a practical tool. Three languages are concerned first with the Mayan Index, the English Index and the Spanish Index. Then you have the Index of Visual Elements and then a collection of Subject Indices: Numbers, Days, Months, Long Count, Phonetic signs, Verbs/Verbal Phrases, pronouns, adjectives. T-numbers.

Per se this dictionary cannot teach you the language, but it is an indispensible tool for learning that language.


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