Mayan language Resources

The Mayan civilization is one of South America’s most well-known civilizations. The empire lasted 3,479 years, when it was eventually taken over by the Spanish. By that point, they ruled a substantial area of South America. Since the Mayans were spread out over a large area, they had many different languages so it’s not uncommon to have people from one region not fully understanding the dialects of another region. Pronunciation typically depended heavily on the area a person lived in.

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Today, it’s estimated that about 6 million indigenous Mayans still speak Mayan languages. Most of these people live in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. In Guatemala, there are 21 known Mayan languages, and there are eight more in Mexico. It is believed that most modern Mayan languages are derived from a 5000-year old language known as Proto-Mayan, the old Maya language. There are five branches in the Mayan language family, namely, Cholan-Tzeltalan, Huastecan, Q’anjobalan-Chujean, Quichean-Mamean, and Yucatecan. From these branches, subgroups and sub-branches were developed, culminating in the present Mayan languages. Now, the Yucatec Maya language is spoken by about 740,000 people in Mexico and 5,000 people in Belize. The K’iche’ is spoken by about 2.3 million people in Guatemala. Q’eqchi is the most widely used Mayan language. It has 400,000 speakers in Guatemala, 12,000 speakers in El Salvador, and 9,000 speakers in Belize. On the other side, the Mocho’ language is only spoken by 170 people in Mexico while the Lacandon is survived by 1,000 speakers, also in Mexico. The Chicomuceltec language is already extinct.

The Mayans were also known for their many ingenuous inventions. One of their most fascinating inventions was the Mayan calendar. They took an older system and refined it to the point that it remains to be one of the most sophisticated calendars in the world. Their year lasted 260 days.

The Mayans had a number of calendars, but the most famous Mayan Calendar is the one known as the Long Count calendar. In this calendar, the cycles run for 52 solar years before they are repeated. Interestingly, this calendar ends on December 12, 2012. This fact gave rise to a New Age doomsday prediction that some huge, cataclysmic event will occur on this day. Many insist it’s the beginning of Armageddon.

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