Language Contacts with(in) Mayan

Authored by: Danny Law

The Mayan Languages

Print publication date:  May  2017
Online publication date:  May  2017

Print ISBN: 9780415738026
eBook ISBN: 9781315192345
Adobe ISBN:


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It is increasingly clear that the history of Mayan languages is one of almost constant vigorous, and at times turbulent, linguistic exchange. The outcomes of that history have varied according to the languages involved and the sociohistorical context of the linguistic contact. Documented linguistic outcomes include not only borrowed lexical items, but also the direct transfer of grammatical morphology, phonological innovations, and morphosyntactic and semantic patterns. The following sections briefly discuss colonial and post-colonial contact with Spanish and contact with non-Mayan indigenous languages, Mixe-Zoquean in particular, but also at a more superficial level Nahuan, Totonacan, and Oto-Manguean. Then, the chapter reviews changes due to contact among Mayan languages, particularly in the Huehuetenango and lowland Mayan spheres of linguistic interaction, followed by a discussion of contact and genetic relationships for Tojol-ab’al and Huastec. The chapter concludes with a discussion of what the observed linguistic outcomes and ethnographic, historical, and archaeological evidence might tell us about the possible mechanisms through which language contact molded the shape of Mayan languages.

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