11587 - Mayan Identities and Linguistic Praxis in an Age of Mechanical Reproduction

In Guatemala, work with Mayan languages has provided one of many outlets for changing the public face of Mayan culture. Projects such as the creation of neologisms for nationalistic and political purposes, the standardization and prescription of grammar for the unification of speakers of different dialects, and new translations have enabled Mayan groups to take active roles in shaping how the government and international community views them, as well as how they view themselves. The command of language and the publication and dissemination of Mayan texts have been attempts to represent an emerging consciousness that continues to be projected in workshops, meetings, conferences, schools, and publications. For both internal and external audiences, a standardized dialect promoted by ALMG linguists has been critical for pedagogical purposes. However, the work of Maya activists in the areas of language revival and linguistics has been met with obstacles and difficulty along the way. One of the greatest areas of difficulty has been the adoption of a unified dialect for each of the Mayan languages. Community-specific loyalties have hindered the selection of any one particular dialect for a Mayan language. Various strategies have focused on identifying which dialects incorporate the most widespread use of archaic forms which are considered prestige dialects within a particular region, and even the creation of a prescriptive dialect which may incorporate various phonemic and lexical forms across dialects. In this paper, I discuss the difficulties which were presented to me in my attempt to co-publish a Mayan textbook with a western community whose leaders rejected the standardized dialect promoted by Kaqchikel Mayan linguists and which is taught in the Oxlajuj Aj intensive Kaqchikel Mayan summer program.

Keywords: Mayan, Guatemala, Language, Bilingual, Praxis

Author: Smith, Timothy (Appalachian State University, Ud States of Am / USA)


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