Yucatec Maya (endonym: Maya; Yukatek Maya in the revised
orthography of the Academia de Lenguas Mayas de Guatemala), called
Màaya t'àan (lit. "Maya speech") by its speakers, is a Mayan
language spoken in the
1 History 2 Phonology
2.1.1 Consonants 2.1.2 Vowels
3.1 Verb paradigm
4 Orthography 5 Examples 6 Use in modern media and popular culture 7 See also 8 Notes 9 References
9.1 Language courses
10 External links
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Yucatec Maya forms part of the Yucatecan branch of the Mayan language
family. The Yucatecan branch divides into the subgroups Mopan-itza and
Yucatec-Lacandon, which in turn split into h e n l o four languages:
Itza, Mopan, Yucatec Maya, and Lacandon. All the languages in the
Mayan language family are thought to originate from an ancestral
language that was spoken some 5,000 years ago, known as
During the colonization of the
Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m [m] n [n]
Implosive b [ɓ]
Plosive aspirated p [pʰ] t [tʰ]
k [kʰ] ' [ʔ]
ejective p' [pʼ] t' [tʼ]
tz [tsʰ] ch [tʃʰ]
tz' [tsʼ] ch' [tʃʼ]
s [s] x [ʃ] j [x] h [h]
Approximant w [w~v]† l [l] y [j]
† the letter w may represent the sounds /w/ or /v/. The sounds are interchangeable in Yucatec Mayan although /w/ is considered the proper sound. Vowels Neutral vowels [-tonality] are far less subject to mishearing than any long high, broken high, and long low vowels (all[+tonality]). Long vowels appear to be mutually confusable. A possible reason for the high confusion for long nuclei is that the nuclei themselves are more complex. There is a tendency for back vowels to be misheard more often than front vowels in children who are acquiring the language. Vowel quality seems to stabilize much earlier than other associated prosodic variations, but the neutral tone version of the vowel is typically the first to be stabilized and secure than the tonal variants are, especially back vowels.
Front Central Back
Close i iː
Mid e eː
Grammar Like almost all Mayan languages, Yucatec Maya is verb-initial. Word order varies between VOS and VSO, with VOS being the most common. Many sentences may appear to be SVO, but this order is due to a topic–comment system similar to that of Japanese. One of the most widely studied areas of Yucatec is the semantics of time in the language. Yucatec, like many other languages of the world (Kalaallisut, arguably Mandarin Chinese, Guaraní and others) does not have the grammatical category of tense. Temporal information is encoded by a combination of aspect, inherent lexical aspect (aktionsart), and pragmatically governed conversational inferences. Yucatec is unusual in lacking temporal connectives such as 'before' and 'after'. Another aspect of the language is the core-argument marking strategy, which is a 'fluid S system' in the typology of Dixon (1994) where intransitive subjects are encoded like agents or patients based upon a number of semantic properties as well as the perfectivity of the event. Verb paradigm
Class Ia: Transitive verbs of action or state ('het', to open [something])
Present tin (tan-in) het-ik "I am opening something"
Past Simple tin (t-in) het-ah "I opened something"
Recent tz'in (tz'on-in) het-ah "I have just opened something"
Distant in het-m-ah "I opened something a long time ago"
Future Simple hēn (he-in) het-ik-e "I shall open something"
Possible kin (ki-in) het-ik "I may open something"
Going-to future bin in het-e "I am going to open something"
Imperative het-e "Open it!
Class Ia: Intransitive verbs of action or state ('het', to open)
Present tin (tan-in) het-el or het-el-in-kah (het-l-in-kah) "I am performing the act of opening"
Past Simple het-en or t'-het-en "I opened"
Recent tz'in het-el "I have just opened"
Future Simple hēn (he-in) het-el-e "I shall open"
Going-to future ben-het-ăk-en "I am going to open"
Imperative het-en "Open!"
Class Ia: Passive verbs of action or state ('het', to be opened)
Present tun (tan-u) het-s-el "it is being opened"
Past het-s-ah-b-i or het-s-ah-n-i "it was opened"
Future hu (he-u) het-s-el-e or bin het-s-ăk-i "it will be opened"
Class Ib: Transitive verbs of action or state with causal ('kim', to kill [something])
Present tin (tan-in) kim-s-ik "I am killing something"
Past Simple tin (t-in) kim-s-ah "I killed something"
Recent tz'in (tz'on-in) kim-s-ah "I have just [killed] something"
Distant in kim-s-m-ah "I killed something a long time ago"
Future Simple hēn (he-in) kim-s-ik-e "I shall kill something"
Possible kin (ki-in) kim-s-ik "I may kill something"
Going-to future bin in kim-s-e "I am going to kill something"
Imperative kim-s-e "Kill it!
Class Ia: Intransitive verbs of action or state with causal ('kim', to die)
Present tin (tan-in) kim-il or kim-il-in-kah "I am dying"
Past Simple kim-i or t'-kim-i "He died"
Recent tz'u kim-i "He has just died"
Future Simple hēn (he-in) kim-il-e "I shall die"
Going-to future bin-kim-ăk-en "I am going to die"
Imperative kim-en "Die!"
Class Ia: Passive verbs of action or state ('kim', to be killed)
Present tin (tan-in) kim-s-il "I am being killed"
Past kim-s-ah-b-i or kim-s-ah-n-i "he was killed"
Future hēn (he-in) kim-s-il-e or bin kim-s-ăk-en "I shall be killed"
Class II: Verbs in t-al, "endowed with" ('kux', to live)
Present tin (tan-in) kux-t-al "I am living"
Past kux-t-al-ah-en or kux-l-ah-en "I lived"
Future Simple hēn (he-in) kux-t-al-e "I shall be living"
Going-to future bin kux-tal-ăk-en "I am going to live"
Imperative kux-t-en or kux-t-al-en "Live!"
Class IIIa: Transitive nominal verbs ('tz'on', gun)
Present tin (tan-in) tz'on-ik "I am shooting something"
Past Simple tin (t-in) tz'on-ah "I shot something"
Recent tz'in (tz'ok-in) tz'on-ah "I have just shot something"
Distant in tz'on-m-ah "I shot something a long time ago"
Future Simple hēn (he-in) tz'on-ik-e "I shall shoot something"
Possible kin (ki-in) tz'on-ik "I may shoot something"
Going-to future bin in tz'on-e "I am going to shoot something"
Imperative tz'on-e "Shoot it!
Class IIIa: Intransitive nominal verbs ('tz'on', gun)
Present tin (tan-in) tz'on "I am shooting"
Past Simple tz'on-n-ah-en "I shot"
Recent tz'in (tz'ok-in) tz'on "I have just shot"
Distant tz'on-n-ah-ah-en "I shot a long time ago"
Future Simple hēn (he-in) tz'on-e "I shall shoot"
Going-to future bin-tz'on-ăk-en "I am going to shoot"
Imperative tz'on-en "Shoot!"
Class IIIa: Passive nominal verbs ('tz'on', gun)
Present tin (tan-in) tz'on-ol "I am being shot"
Past tz'on-ah-b-en or tz'on-ah-n-en "I was shot"
Future hēn (he-in) tz'on-ol-e "I shall be shot"
The Maya were literate in pre-Columbian times, when the language was
written using Maya script. The language itself can be traced back to
proto-Yucatecan, the ancestor of modern Yucatec Maya, Itza, Lacandon
and Mopan. Even further back, the language is ultimately related to
all other Maya languages through proto-Mayan itself.
Yucatec Maya is now written in the Latin script. This was introduced
during the Spanish Conquest of
Yucatec Maya English
Standard pronunciation Pronunciation of western Yucatán, northern Campeche and Central Quintana Roo Normal translation Literal translation
Bix a beel? Bix a beh? How are you? How is your road?
Ma'alob, kux teech?
Good, and you? Not bad, as for you?
Bey xan teen.
Same with me. Thus also to me.
Tu'ux ka bin?
Where are you going? Where do you go?
T(áan) in bin xíimbal.
I am going for a walk.
Bix a k'aaba'?
What is your name? How are you named?
In k'aaba'e' Jorge.
My name is Jorge. My name, Jorge.
Jach ki'imak in wóol in wilikech.
Pleased to meet you. Very happy my heart to see you.
Ba'ax ka wa'alik?
What's up? What (are) you saying? What do you say?
Mix ba'al. Mix ba'ah. Nothing. Don't mention it. No thing.
Bix a wilik?
How does it look? How you see (it)?
Very good. Very not-bad
Let's go! (For two people - you and I)
Let's go! (For a group of people)
Ba'ax a k'áat?
What do you want?
(Tak) sáamal. Aasta sáamah. See you tomorrow. Until tomorrow.
Jach Dyos bo'otik.
Thank you. God bless you very much. Very much God pays (it).
Use in modern media and popular culture
Yucatec-language programming is carried by the CDI's radio stations
Yucatec Maya Sign Language
INALI (2012) México: Lenguas indígenas nacionales
^ Ley General de Derechos Lingüisticos Indígenas Archived 2007-02-08
at the Wayback Machine.
^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds.
Barrera Vásquez, Alfredo (dir.); Juan Ramón Bastarrachea Manzano
(ed.); William Brito Sansores (ed.); Refugio Vermont Salas (col.);
David Dzul Góngora (col.); Domingo Dzul Poot (col.) (2007) .
Diccionario Maya (in Spanish).
Language courses In addition to universities and private institutions in Mexico, (Yucatec) Maya is also taught at:
OSEA - The Open School of Ethnography and Anthropology The University of Chicago Leiden University, Netherlands Harvard University Tulane University Indiana University (Minority Languages & Culture Program) University of Wisconsin–Madison The University of North Carolina INALCO, Paris, France
Audio course materials are available for purchase at
The University of Chicago Digital Media Archives Spoken Yucatec Maya, by Robert Blair & Refugio Vermont Salas Spoken Maya Lessons by Robert Blair and Refugio Vermont-Salas can be borrowed in Microfilm and Audio Cassette format through Inter-library Loan services with the University of Chicago. Microfilm Collection on Manuscripts on American Indian Cultural Anthropology, Series No. X, Reels 65 and 66 (1965-1966).
Free online dictionary, grammar and texts:
FAMSI © 2001: David Bolles University of Quintana Roo, 2009 (pdf)
Yucatec Maya language
Yucatec Maya Collection of William Blunk-Fernández and Michael Carrasco at the Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America. Contains six audio recordings totaling 1.5 hours of spoken Yucatec Maya. Mesospace Collection of Juergen Bohnemeyer at the Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America. Contains 19 video recordings. Content restricted, but may be available for researcher use. Mayan Languages Collection of Victoria Bricker at the Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America. Contains 714 archival files, including audio recordings and transcriptions, from the languages Chol, Tzotzil, and Yucatec Maya. The recordings include "(1) histories of the Caste War of Yucatan of 1847-1901 and local manifestations of the Mexican Revolution of 1917-1921; (2) legends; (3) astronomical lore; (4) medical lore; (5) autobiographies; (6) conversations; (7) and songs (both traditional and original) from a number of different towns in the peninsula." Yucatec Maya Collection of Melissa Frazier at the Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America. Contains 60 audio recordings of narratives, collected "to establish a collection of spoken Yucatec Maya that will be helpful to anyone who studies the language."
v t e
Languages of Mexico
Spanish Nahuatl Yucatec Maya Mixtec Zapotec Tzeltal Maya Tzotzil Maya Otomí Totonac Mazatec Ch'ol Huastec Chinantec Mixe Mazahua Purépecha
Tlapanec Tarahumara Amuzgo Chatino Tojolab'al Sierra Popoluca Chontal de Tabasco Huichol Mayo Tepehuán Trique Cora Popolocan Huave Cuicatec Yaqui Q'anjob'al Tepehua
Under 10,000 speakers
Pame Mam Chontal of Oaxaca Chuj Tacuate Chichimeca Jonaz Huarijío Chocho Pima Bajo Q'eqchí Lacandón Jakaltek Matlatzinca Seri Ixcatec K'iche' Kaqchikel Paipai Cucapá Mototzintleco Kumiai Pápago Kikapú Ixil Cochimí Kiliwa Aguacatec
Plautdietsch Venetian English French Basque Catalan Hebrew Arabic Chinese
Mexican Sign Language Mayan Sign Language
Note: The list of official languages is ordered by decreasing size of population.
v t e
Languages of Belize
Kriol Spanish Garifuna Q'eqchi' Mopan Yucatec Maya Plautdietsch ASL
v t e
Languages of Guatemala
Awaketek Ixil Mam Tektitek
Akatek Chuj Jakaltek Q'anjob'al
Achi K'iche' Kaqchikel Poqomam Poqomchi' Sakapultek Sipakapense Tz'utujil Uspantek
Itza' Mopan Q'eqchi' Yucatec Maya
Ch'orti Garifuna Xinca
Guatemalan Sign Language Mayan Sign Language
v t e
Chicomuceltec Wastek (Huastec)
Itza' Lacandon Mopan Yucatec Maya
Chontal Ch'ol Ch’olti’ Ch’orti’
Akatek Jakaltek Q'anjob'al
Achi K'iche' Kaqchikel Tz'utujil
Sakapultek Sipakapense Uspantek
Italics indicate extinct languages