Mayan being spoken

Some people claim that Mayan, in its various dialects, is still a healthy language with a rosy future.  For example, here is a tour guide in Uxmal describing the state of his language (at my request):
We dragged this man out of a bar in Oxkutzcab.  On his table were many large, and empty, bottles of cheap beer.  Here he describes (apparently) a trip he once made to California.  This man speaks Mayan daily with his friends and family.
Here is a little girl reciting something in Mayan at Chichen Itza.  Even to my untrained ear, it is obvious that her pronunciation is off, and heavily influenced by the Spanish she speaks all the time.  Her ancestral tongue is something the old folks speak, something she studies in school and a way to make extra money off tourists like myself.  I did buy some of her wares.  Fake Mayan for tourists is better than no Mayan at all.

This entry was posted in pan-nationalism and multi-culturalism. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Mayan being spoken

  1. Sid says:

    What kind of skin tone did the Mayans have? I once knew a Mayan girl at my high school whose skin was far, far paler than mine (I look Swedish).

  2. latte island says:

    I can almost believe the optimism of the tour guide. Maybe the little girl was better educated than most. For example, in the SF Bay Area, I routinely pass by groups of construction workers from Mexico, who absolutely are not speaking Spanish. The conventional wisdom around here is that most of those types are from Oaxaca and speak Mixtec. Which has nothing to do with the people in your vids, I’m just saying the native Mexican languages seem to be thriving among work crews.

    • jewamongyou says:

      My brother, who has spent a lot of time in Meso-America, just told me basically the same thing today. It’s clear to me that Mayan is dying in Yucatan, but indigenous languages might still be thriving in other areas.

  3. bob sykes says:

    The Mayans fluorished 1000 years ago, so it is almost certain that the modern version has substantial differences from the “original”. The largest changes would be in pronunciation, but the lexicon likely also changed. Semantic structure might have persisted. But you can argue that it’s still Mayan. It’s sort of like Beowulf. That’s English, isn’t it?
    The enduring mystery is, Why were the cities abandoned? There are hundreds of them large and small rotting in the jungles. But then there is Angkor Wat et al.

    • The Mighty Tig says:

      The abandonment of their poleis are less of a mystery than how such an obviously decrepit people once studied the heavens, plotting the solar year with a high degree of accuracy and made fairly sophisticated mathematical computations. They sometimes performed calculations involving sums in the hundreds of millions. While the Maya did not invent any of these techniques, they fully developed them. Among other things, they came up with the concept of zero by the 1st century BCE. Pretty impressive, actually, especially when you contrast it with the cultures of Indians in North America.
      So how did a people who once did all this become what they are today? I’m not aware of any advancements in the sciences or technology being done today by anyone of Mayan ethnicity. I’ve read that as their culture declined their wars got pretty gruesome, sometimes involving wholesale slaughter of the aristocracy of conquered cities. Do you think this might have had an ultimately dysgenic effect on the population as a whole? Any thoughts?

      • jewamongyou says:

        That’s a very good question. What you suggest may have been the case. It is also possible that the early Mayans were, overall, a more advanced people but, as they built their urban centers, surrounding tribes demographically overwhelmed them. The descendants of those primitive tribes would have ended up speaking Mayan and being indistinguishable, in our eyes, from the real Mayans. I doubt it is possible, at this point, to know the truth of what happened.
        There can be little doubt, however, that their accomplishments were the efforts of only a tiny elite – which I suppose is true of any civilization.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *