Lingua maya classica

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The Classic Maya language is the oldest historically-attested member of the Mayan language family. It is the main language documented in the pre-Columbian inscriptions of the Classic Era Maya civilization.



Classic Maya is a direct descendent of Proto-Mayan and the common ancestor of three branches of Mayan languages - Cholan, Yucatecan and the more distantly related Huastecan. These branches have contemporary living descendant languages, which include the Ch'ol language and Yukatek (Yucatec) Maya. Modern Ch'ol and Yucatec speakers can understand many words in Classic Maya.

Writing system

Template:Main Classic Maya is the principal language documented in the writing system used by the pre-Columbian Maya, and is particularly represented in inscriptions from the lowland regions and the period c. 200—900 CE. The writing system (generally known as Maya hieroglyphics) has some similarities in function (but is not related to) other logosyllabic writing systems such as Egyptian hieroglyphs, in which a combination of logographic and syllabic signs (graphemes) are used. The script's corpus of graphemes features a core of syllabic signs which reflect the phonology of the Classic Maya language spoken in the region and at that time, which were also combined or complemented by a larger number of logographs. Thus the expressions of Classic Maya could be written in a variety of ways, represented either as logograms, logograms with phonetic complements, logograms plus syllables, or in a purely syllabic combination. For example, in one common pattern many verb and noun roots are given by logographs, while their grammatical affixes were written syllabically, much like modern Japanese.


Like the other Mayan languages, Classic Maya is Verb Subject Object and ergative in its basic typology. Being polysynthetic, it uses both prefixes and suffixes to show grammatical function. Nouns are not inflected for case or gender. There is also an entire class of intransitives that convey the object's spatial position. In addition, the language employs counter words when quantifying nouns and uses a vigesimal number system. Verbs are not conjugated according to tense, but rather are semantically altered by a series of aspect particles.



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