Title: Positional roots in Kanjobal (Mayan)
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00098920/00001
 Material Information
Title: Positional roots in Kanjobal (Mayan)
Physical Description: xiv, 449 leaves : ill., map ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Martin, Laura Ellen, 1947-
Copyright Date: 1977
Subject: Maya language -- Dialects -- Guatemala   ( lcsh )
Maya language -- Roots   ( lcsh )
Linguistics thesis Ph. D   ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- Linguistics -- UF   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Statement of Responsibility: by Laura Ellen Martin.
Thesis: Thesis--University of Florida.
Bibliography: Bibliography: leaves 441-448.
General Note: Typescript.
General Note: Vita.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00098920
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 000182960
oclc - 03263089
notis - AAU9513


This item has the following downloads:

PDF ( 12 MBs ) ( PDF )

Full Text







_ _ ~ __

O Copyright by
Laura Ellen Martin


Many people have been of great help during the

several years of work which led eventually to the completion

of this dissertation. My deepest debt is to Diego de Diego

Antonio and Francisco Pascual who worked with me on Kanjobal

during my field stays in Santa Eulalia. They were always

careful and willing assistants even for the most tiresome

tasks and their interest in understanding the beauties and

complexities of Kanjobal were a constant inspiration to me-

Many other people in Santa Eulalia were also very helpful

and are gratefully acknowledged here: Maria Pascual, Juan

Lorenzo, and Juana Francisco who helped collect and check

data on positional roots; doia Adelivia Soto and her family

who made me welcome in their home and cared for me like a

sister; Jose Pablo Luis of San Rafael who first introduced

me to Santa Eulalla; the municipal administration of Santa

Eulalia who encouraged my work there; and all the Kanjobal

people, many of whom I never met, who recorded texts and

were so willing to share their language with me.

During the time spent working on this dissertation,

many people at the University of Florida were especially

i I II

supportive. I want to thank particularly, the chairman of

my committee, Dr. M. J. Hardman-de-Bautista, both for her

support during my last quarter and for her early example,

encouragement, and training which first led to my commitment

to field-based linguistics. Dr. D. Gary Miller is also

gratefully acknowledged here for the great time and care he

took to read and comment on my dissertation. Both his

criticism and his praise have been especially welcomed. Dr.

Murray Lasley, Dr. Alan Burns, and Dr. Norman Markel also

deserve considerable recognition for the criticisms they

offered on the manuscript and for their willingness to take

on the reading of it under difficult circumstances and with

limited time. Bohdan Saciuk also read much of the disserta-

tion and made many useful suggestions. I want to thank him

for that as well as for his constant, friendly personal sup-

port. Nora C. England also contributed a great deal to my

work first by getting me started in Mayan linguistics, then

by sharing her insights during the time I worked on Kanjobal,

and finally by adding many helpful comments on the draft of

this dissertation. Thanks also to Nancy McDavid, Randall

Martin, and Howard Tupper who made invaluable technical con-

tributions to the preparation of the manuscript.

While on leave to do field work and attend graduate

school as well as on the job, I have been fortunate to have

both the material and moral support of Cleveland State Uni-

versity In Cleveland, Ohio. I thank especially Dr. Bruce

- I

Beatie, Chairman of the Department of Modern Languages; Dr.

Willis Sibley, Chairman, Department of Anthropology; and

Deans Jack Soules and Leslie Armour, College of Arts and

Sciences. Acknowledgment is also made here of Jean Imm,

Eileen Cornez, and Linda Zimmer who handled a lot of admin-

istrative problems for me and of Anita Stoll and Phillipa

Yin who took up slack for me in my absence and wished me well.

There are also my students, too numerous to mention, who

challenged and inspired me and will no doubt make it all

worthwhile. Special thanks to Clive Fetzer who worked with

me on Kanjobal and who had many insights into the language

and the people which are reflected in this work.

During 1972-73, the Proyecto Linguistico Francisco

Marroquin provided me with material support while I worked

on Kanjobal. I want to acknowledge them and also thank the

Indian students at the PLFM who were always so delightful to

be with. I am also grateful to Karen Dakin for sharing some

of her private Kanjobal materials, Chris Day for his quick

response to my requests for Jacaltec data, and to Terrence

Kaufman for his initial instruction about Mayan.

And finally, there is no way to properly thank the

many friends who saw me through the final stages and actual

completion of this dissertation, especially my parents,

Audrey and Sanford Martin; Kathrine Sturgen, Pat Kwachka,

Bill England, Nora England, and Lawrence Carpenter. I could

never have done it without you.

1 __ ~IPI


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ............... .. .. iii


ABSTRACT. ...... . . . . . . . .xii

0 INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . .. .. . 1
0.1 Purpose . . . . . . . . . . 1
0.2 Cultural and Linguistic Background. . . . 6
0.3 Data Base .. .. . . . . . . 24
NOTES. . . . . . . . . ... . .29

1 GRAMMATICAL SKETCH . . . . . . . ... 30
1.1 Phonology . . . . . . . . . 31
1.1.1 Phonemic Inventory . . . . . 32 Obstruent consonants. . . 35 Sonorant consonants . . .. 47 Vowels . . . . . .. . 50
1.1.2 Phonological Processes . . . ... 51 Stress assignment . . .. 52 Vowel harmony . . . . 57 h-insertion . . . ... 59 Reduplication . . . .. 60 Glottalization phenomena . 62 Vowel glottalization 62 Glottal stop dele-
tion . . . . 65 Nasal assimilation. . . . 67 Palatalization . . . . 68 Consonant reduction phenomena 69 Cluster reduction.. 69 Sibilant reduction 71 Vowel reduction . . . . 73 Vowel lowering . 73 Vowel devoicing. . 74 Vowel deletion . 76
1.1.3 Distributional Constraints . . ... 77 Morpheme structure. . . . 78 Cooccurrence restrictions . 80


--- --


Page Clusters . . . . .. 81 Vowel clusters . 81 Consonant clusters 82 Frequencies . . . . .. 84
1.1.4 Nativization and Loan Phonology. ... 85
1.2 Grammar . . . . . . . . . . 90
1.2.1 Grammatical Categories . . . . . 90 Person and possession ... 91 Person. . . .. 91 Possession. .. . 97 Number . . . . . .. . 107 Categorization. . . . .. 111 Transitivity and agency . . 120 Aspect and tense . . ... 126 Direction and location. . .. 138
1.2.2 Grammatical Processes . . . .. . 148 Morphological processes . 149 Morphological word
classes. . . 149 Derivational affixes 155 Compounding ...... .. 166
NOTES. . . . . . . . ... ..... 169

2.1 Segment Distribution. . . . . . ... 174
2.1.1 Cooccurrence Patterns. . . . . 176
2.1.2 Frequencies. . . . . . . ... 176
2.2 Phonological Processes. . . . . . .. .179
2.2.1 Reduplication. . . . . . ... 179
2.2.2 Metathesis . . . . . . ... 185
2.3 Sound Symbolism . . . . . . . . 186
2.3.1 Vowel Alternations . . . . . 190
2.3.2 Consonant Patterns . . . . ... 199
NOTES. . . . . . . . . . . . 207

3.1 Positionals Within the Verbal System. . ... 209
3.1.1 Positionals and Oirectional/Locational
Verbs . . . . . . . . 210
3.1.2 Transitive Derivation. . . . .. 219 Direction transitivization. . 219 Causative . . . . .. 223 Self-causative. . . . .. 229 Indirect transitivization 235
3.1.3 Intransitive Derivation . . . . 238 Inchoative. . . . . .. .239 Iterative . . . . .. 242 Progressive . . . . . 244


_ C~_


Page Completive. . . . . ... 248 Agentless completion
with -ay . . 248 Implied causation
completion with
-Coj . . . . 253
3.2 Positional Roots Within the Nominal System. . 264
3.2.1 Nominal Derivation . . . . ... .264
3.2.2 Numeral Classifiers. . . . . ... 269
3.3 Positionals Within the Attributive System . 278
3.3.1 Adjectival Derivation. . . . ... 278 Redup -VC2i intensitives. . 279 Redup -Cl statives. . . .. 291 Stative atributives in -naj 294 Miscellaneous adjectival
derivation. . . . . ... 296 Plural derivation
with -kixhtaq. . 297 Emphatic derivation
with -taq. ... .298 Diminutive with -ich
or -ix . . .. . 299 ResuT-ant derivation
with -inaq ... .300
3.3.2 Attributive Phrases . . . . ... .302
NOTES. . . . . . . . .... .. . .307

4.1 Class-specific Semantic Features . . ... .311
4.1.1 Conflation . . . . . . ... 311
4.1.2 Direction/Location . . . . .. 320
4.2 Root-specific Semantic Features . . ... .332
4.2.1 Humanness and Animateness . . ... .333
4.2.2 Size and Shape . . . . . ... .337
4.2.3 Position . . . . . . .. 339
4.2.4 Quantity and Distribution. . . .. .341
4.2.5 Texture. . . . . . . . . 343
4.3 Context-specific Semantic Features. . . ... 344
4.3.1 Metaphor and Semantic Extension. ... .346
4.3.2 Joking, Insults, and Language Play . 355
NOTES. . . . . . . . ... ..... 363

5.1 Direction and Location. . . . . . ... 377
5.2 Time and Space. . . . . . . . .380
5.3 Perceptual Categorization . . . . ... .383
5.4 Ouality and Illusion .. . . . . .. 386
NOTES . . . . . . . . . . . 389


_ ___~_



A FREQUENCY DATA. ........ . . 392

B LOANWORDS . . ..... . . 395


D TEXT ........... . . . 412

REFERENCES .............. . . 441

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ........... . . 449


KSE Kanjobal of Santa Eulalia

*PM Proto-Mayan

Sp Spanish

[ ] phonetic transcription

/ / phonemic transcription (practical orthography)

divides morphemes in phonemic transcriptions

C consonant

V vowel

GNumC general numeral classifier

N noun

NCI noun classifier

P positional root

1,2,3 persons

comp completive aspect

dem demonstrative

dir directional

form stem formative

income Incompletive aspect

inten intensive

iv intransitive verb stem

neg negative


part particle

PIV pseudointransitive suffix

pl plural

poss possessive

pot potential aspect

prog progressive aspect

sg singular

subord subordinator

topo toponym

Hyphens before or after a morpheme indicate that it is bound.

Underlined morphemes In discussive passages are always in
phonemic transcription.

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degrae of Doctor of Philosophy



Laura Ellen Martin

March, 1977

Chairman: Dr. M. J. Hardman-de-Bautista
Major Department: Linguistics

Kanjobal is a Mayan language spoken by several

thousand people in northwestern Guatemala; it has been

relatively little described. Like most Mayan languages,

Kanjobal possesses a distinct root class, known as position-

als. These roots have special phonological, syntactic, and

semantic characteristics. This study presents a description

of the properties of these roots within the context of the

overall grammatical and semantic organization of the Santa

Eulalla variety of Kanjobal (KSE). The description is the

result of fifteen months of field work in Guatemala.

An introductory chapter provides linguistic and ethno-

graphic background on the KSE language and its speakers, and

a description of the nature of the data base. This is fol-

lowed by a sketch of KSE phonology and grammar. The phono-

logical description includes a phonemic analysis, a discus-

sion of major phonological processes, and information on dis-

tributional patterns and nativization. The grammatical

description is organized into two parts: grammatical cate-

gories, in which the important underlying categories of

person, number, categorization, transitivity, tense/aspect,

and direction/location are defined and illustrated, and

grammatical processes, in which derivational morphology,

compounding, and sentence formation are treated.

The next three chapters are devoted to the detailed

description of the nature of positional roots. First, they

are considered phonologically in Chapter 2 and examined for

special distribution patterns and phonological processes.

The possibility of sound symbolism operating in the position-

al root class is also investigated.

The next chapter describes the morphological and

syntactic processes affecting KSE positional roots. The

roots show special relationships with directional/locational

verbs and clitics; furthermore, they are easily derived as

transitive or intransitive verb stems. They occur as syn-

tactically defined nouns in certain types of numeral phrases

and have semantic ties with attributives. All these deriva-

tional and phrasal functions are described and illustrated

in Chapter 3.

In Chapter 4, positional roots are examined for their

semantic patterns. The class is defined in terms of features

such as direction/location and conflation properties. Indi-

vidual roots are specified for features such as humanness

I -

size, distribution, shape, and position. Positional roots

also have extremely productive semantic roles in metaphori-

cal expressions in the language. Several types of semantic

play are therefore described.

The final chapter returns to a larger view of the

language and to those patterns found within the broad gram-

matical system and reinforced within a single area of the

grammar, the positional class. These concluding remarks

deal with the questions of linguistic and cultural overlap.

Several general categories such as direction, time and space,

humanity and duality which are important to KSE grammatical

organization may also be reflected in non-grammatical

cultural behavior. Ethnographic data are considered in

order to determine to what degree such overlapping reflec-

tions may be present in KSE language and culture.

Appendices include an inventory of positional roots

used in the study, data on phoneme frequencies, a list of

common loanwords and a text taken from a monolingual KSE

speaker. This text gives a morphemic analysis with a

literal interlinear and a free translation.


0.1 Purpose

The purpose of this study is to examine in detail

the linguistic characteristics of a single root class in

the Kanjobal language. The members of this class have

traditionally been called positionals, and, in one form

or another, are a common feature of most languages in the

Mayan language family to which Kanjobal belongs. The term

positional is somewhat misleading since only some members

of the class refer to the position of bodies in space.

The majority refer to the distribution, shape, size, and

aspect of objects. The term is in very wide use, however

inappropriately, and that designation is used here. The

positionals are phonologically, syntactically, and seman-

tically distinct within the Kanjobal language system and

have an important role in metaphorical usage.

Positional roots occur In most, if not all, of the

Mayan languages, sometimes as a subclass within another

grammatical class and sometimes as a separate morphological

class. In all cases they have distinct derivational

properties and syntactic patterns. References to them in

larger grammatical studies are common, but as a class they

have received relatively little linguistic attention. The

following descriptive examples have been collected from

some readily available sources.


All positional roots are CVC and are dis-
tinguished by patterns of reduplication which occur
with no other class. (Hopkins 1967:76) Positional
roots in Chuj are not a class of verb roots, but
a set of roots which are derivationally and in-
flectionally distinct from verb roots. Chuj
positional roots may be derived to form verb
stems (or derived to form adverbial or noun stems)
S. ut positionals do not occur as verb stems
without derivation. (Hopkins 1970:29)

Tenejapa Tzeltal

Positional verb roots are recognized in two
1) they do not occur as simple CVC unin-
flected stems,
2) upon derivation with -an 'transitive stem
formative' or -ah 'intransitive stem
formative', they take an infixed -h-.
(Berlin 1968:21)


All positional roots are CV or CVC. (Day
1973a:15) Many positional roots are also transi-
tive verb roots. (25) Adjectives and positionals
occur only as stative verb complements and in com-
pound nouns (27) '-an 'positional stem formative'
occurs on positional teams (which are always
roots) in all environments' (except when redupli-
cated). (29)

Aguacatenango Tzeltal

Positional roots are CV or CVC (Kaufman 1971:
35), and are derived in various ways as verbs, both
transitive and intransitive (46-49, 51-53), as

_ ~

adverbs (60-62), nouns (73-76), adjectives
(84), and as specific numeral classifiers (88).

Ixtuac6n Mam

Positional roots are bound forms which must
be derived to form words, always with a change
in class. Some of the particular derivational
affixes which form words from positional roots
are specific to this root class, and most commonly
form verbs or adjectives. The adjective thus
formed indicates that something has the position,
form, or state described by the root, while the
verb indicates that something is becoming like
or is placed like that described by the root.
Positional roots have a semantic element in common;
they generally describe position, form or state
of an object, and imply absence of movement.
(England 1975:76)


Positionals can be distinguished from other
root classes by three characteristics: 1) All
positlonals have the shape CVC. 2) Positionals
do not occur without derivational affixes as simple
uninflected stems. 3) Positionals can be derived
to form adjectives, intransitive verbs, or causa-
tives by means of special suffixes occurring only
with roots of this class. Positional roots also
possess the rather peculiar semantic property of
categorizing objects in highly specific ways.
(Norman 1973:1)

As is obvious from these citations, positionals are defined

phonologically (both by their shape and by the phonological

processes which apply to them), syntactically (by morphology

and by syntactic role), and semantically (both as a class

and as individual items).

In this study, a substantial collection of Kanjobal

positional roots are considered in precisely these three

linguistic contexts. Their phonological characteristics

I ----~---~LI-- - -r

are surveyed for distribution patterns of various kinds.

The morphological and syntactic characteristics of posi-

tional roots are analyzed in considerable detail, both as

a class and as a set of elements within the larger grammati-

cal system. Further, positional roots are examined seman-

tically, and the semantic features which organize the class

are given preliminary definition. It is believed that clues

may be found in the internal semantics of the positional

class which are relevant to the broader semantic categories

of the larger language system. These language categories

may in turn find parallel expression in cultural categories

which are manifest in Kanjobal behavior which is other than

linguistic. Some attention is, therefore, given to the

questions of semantic parallels in language and culture.

The organization of the study is straightforward.

First, a brief background of the Kanjobal language and

people is given as Chapter 0 in order to place them in their

proper space and time context and to provide enough ethno-

graphic data to facilitate the understanding of certain

semantic references made in later chapters. Also contained

in the introductory chapter is a description of the data

base used for this study. This is followed in Chapter 1

by a brief overall grammatical sketch of the Kanjobal

language and a review of the relevant linguistic literature.

The main body of this study is contained in Chapters 2,

I --- -- I F- ii

3,and 4 which describe the phonological, syntactic, and

semantic nature of positional roots. The last chapter

considers the possibility of finding language and culture

parallels in Kanjobal based on the semantic data presented

in earlier chapters.

This work is unique in that it is the first full-

length investigation of positional roots, a class which has

an important place in the grammatical systems of Mayan

languages. In fact, this investigation is one of the few

attempts made in Mayan linguistics which goes beyond surface

structural description. Hopkins (1970:19) remarked on the

lack of such studies on Mayan languages and called for

'syntactic studies which illuminate the relationships be-

tween syntactic classes'. The present study attempts to

begin to fill this gap, at the same time going even further

by investigating the semantic relationships as well. While

Hopkins notes the importance of such studies within Mayan

linguistics for both historical and synchronic purposes,

such a detailed analysis is important for general linguis-

tics as well. Linguistic science is always in need of

analyzed bodies of data against which current theory can

be tested since the best test of a theory is in its account

of new data not used in its original formulation. Further,

this analysis of positional roots may be expected to

contribute a great deal to ongoing cultural studies in

the Mayan area since it will provide at least a partial

assessment of semantic categories which underlie the

grammar. Used in conjunction with a cultural study that

defines the cultural semantic categories, these data could

provide an important testing ground for theories of language

and culture correlations as well as for theories which are

more purely linguistic in nature.

0.2 Cultural and Linguistic Background

Kanjoball is one of the more than twenty-five extant

Mayan languages spoken in southern Mexico and Guatemala.

A number of classification schemes have been proposed for

Mayan languages. The one adopted here is that of Kaufman

as explicated in Kaufman 1974; it is the most recent and

is based on far more data than that available to previous


According to this analysis (Kaufman 1974:85), the

Mayan family has two great divisions, Eastern and Western.

The Western division, to which Kanjobal belongs, has two

branches, the Cholan and the Kanjobal, which have a time

depth of some twenty centuries. The Cholan languages In-

clude Chol, Chontal, and Chorti in one group and Tzeltal-

Tzotzil In another. The Kanjobal branch Is divided Into

the Chuj-Tojolobal group; Motozintlec, about which little

is known; and the Kanjobalan complex. There is still some

- -- II

controversy over the exact genetic relationships among the

three varieties in the Kanjobalan complex: Jacaltec, Acatec,

and Kanjobal. The details of the controversy are not rele-

vant here but the positional data can help resolve the ques-

tion. The arguments for the separation as adopted here are

found in Kaufman 1976. Information on the phonemic inven-

tories of the three languages is giver in Kaufman (1975:

76-84). These languages are mutually intelligible to some

degree and probably have been separated no more than one

thousand years (Kaufman, personal com-unication).

This study is based on the Kanjobal variety spoken

in Santa Eulalia (henceforth abbreviated KSE). The terns

'Kanjobal' or 'Kanjobal proper' are used here to refer to

the language of all four Kanjobal-speaking towns and the

designation 'Kanjobalan' refers to the three-language com-

plex which includes Jacaltec and Acatec as well. 'Greater

Kanjobalan' refers to the languages of the Kanjobal group

of western Mayan: Kanjobal, Acatec, Jacaltec, Chuj, and


The speakers of Kanjobal number around forty

thousand and reside in four towns high in the Chuchumatan

mountains in the northwest Guatemalan department of

Huehuetenango: San Juan Ixcoy, San Pedro Soloma, Santa

Eulalia, and Santa Cruz Barillas. There are some minor

dialect variations among these towns which are outside the

scope of this investigation. These variations are primarily

phonological and some of them are summarized in Kaufman


Kanjobal speakers are primarily in contact with the

Chuj speakers of San Mateo IxtatAn and San Sebastian CoatAn

to the northwest, with Acatec speakers in San Miguel AcatAn

and San Rafael la Independencia to the west, and with

Jacaltec speakers from Jacaltenango and other towns to

the far west. The Kanjobal region itself borders on the

Mam area to the southwest and on Ixil country to the south-

east (see Map I for location of towns and linguistic regions

in Huehuetenango Department).

Current archeological, linguistic, and other evi-

dence suggest that this very area was the home of the

early proto-Mayan groups whose migrations ultimately took

them to Yucatan and the Peten where they developed a very

high level of civilization (McQuown 1964:69; Vogt 1964a:17;

Vogt 1969:11; Kaufman 1976:82-86). Kanjobalan as well as

Mamean speakers, therefore, probably live in much the same

region their ancestors occupied as early as 3500 B.C.

Contact between Northern Mam and some members of the

Kanjobalan branch has been close, resulting in many simi-

larities (primarily through phonological convergence and

lexical borrowings) even though they belong to opposing

branches of the primary Mayan split which may have occurred




-40 s.\

za 9

-~ 4

C. 0

/r 3- 4 -

X, 4"O'

' I *1

around 2500 B.C. (Kaufman 1974:85). These phonological

correspondences have been responsible for the occasional

grouping of Kanjobal proper with Mamean. (See McQuown 1956

for review of early classifications. For details on early

Mayan diversification, see McQuown 1964, Kaufman 1969 and


The central portion of the region in question, which

includes the Kanjobal-speaking towns, is among the most

inaccessible in Guatemala. It has been little visited and

little studied even in Conquest times. Steep slopes and

ravines do not favor north-south travel, and the towns have

been opened to motor travel from the department capital at

Huehuetenango only within the last two or three decades.

The Acatec towns are still without year-round transportation

except on foot. Only scattered references to this area ap-

pear in early documents and there are no early linguistic

materials known, such as those which exist in substantial

quantities for other Mayan language groups.

According to Vogt 1964a, the region now occupied

by speakers of languages of the Greater Kanjobalan group

is the least culturally disturbed of Mayan areas. This

no doubt results in part from the little attention the zone

received in the years after the Conquest. The area was

undoubtedly conquered by the mid-16th century (Virvez et

al. 1968:7 quoting municipal records; LaFarge 1947:x-xi).

Records of the Spanish incursions into Guatemala reveal

that Don Jacinto de Barrios, while chasing still unconverted

Lacandones in 1695, was in the area and probably visited

Santa Eulalia and other Kanjobal towns. Raids by the savage

and cannibalistic Lacadones are an extremely common motif

in Kanjobal folk tales and undoubtedly refer to real events

about the time of Don Jacinto's expedition (Stone 1932).

Town records for Santa Eulalia also indicate how

little attention was paid to the small central towns of the

northwest. For Santa Eulalia, there is information on the

founding of the town around 1550 and the arrival of Mer-

cederian missionaries soon after. There are a few later

documents relating to boundary disputes, tax records, and

lists of town officials since 1873, but there is little

else (LaFarge and Byers 1931:7; LaFarge 1947:x-xii; and

Virvez et al. 1968:7-10).

The first serious studies made in the region were

sponsored by the Middle American Research Institute at

Tulane University. Their expedition to Jacaltenango and

nearby towns is described in LaFarge and Byers 1931 wherein

Is documented the discovery in this area of the active use

of the old Mayan calendar although in somewhat reduced

form. Later, Oliver LaFarge, who had been in Santa

Eulalia for a day or two on the earlier trip, returned

there for a stay of several months. He made careful


observations of Santa Eulalia life, particularly the re-

ligious observances. His monograph, finally published in

1947, is a rare and valuable work which confirms the

presence in these Kanjobalan towns of a religious system

of Prayermakers which is in many ways very different from

the cofradia system so often described for other Mayan

towns. This ritual system may reflect, therefore, a less

assimilated variety of Mayan religion. Nevertheless, like

the religious system found in any Mayan town, it shows

great evidence of syncretism of Christian elements into a

complex organization which permeates most of daily life.

While it is not within the scope of this study to detail

the nature of Kanjobal religion, reference will be made

later to the presence of certain elements within the seman-

tic system which seem to underlie the ritual.

Ethnographic work in Central America has exploded

in the last four decades and a great many studies have been

produced for Yucatec, Quich6, and the Chiapas highland areas;

but the Cuchumat&n towns have still been somewhat neglected.

The most recent works for Kanjobal-speaking towns include

a land tenure study in Santa Eulalia (Davis 1970) and,

under the direction of the anthropologist of that study, a

community monograph (Virvez et al. 1968). This extremely

useful monograph, written by the town leaders, summarizes

the early documents found in Santa Eulalia, and describes

I __I

the old customs and traditions. It reviews the contemporary

state of the community and, in their own words, gives the

people's hopes for their future.

Cuchumatgn people live today much as they must have

done since pre-Colombian times (see Vogt 1964a and h for

detailed discussion of pre-Colombian cultural patterns).

Santa Eulalia is typical of Kanjobal-speaking towns. Of

course, there are differences which affect the character

of a town. For example. Protestantism has had greater

success in Barillas than in Santa Eulalia; the non-Indian

Guatemalan (ladino) population is larger in San Juan Ixcoy;

San Mateo Ixtatin has a valuable commercial resource in its

salt exports. The Ixtatanecos have a terrible reputation

throughout the area for fierceness and dishonesty (probably

due in part to that very salt monopoly). Feuds between

San Miguel and San Rafael have dated from the separation of

the latter from its former municipal center early in this

century. But in spite of these differences, the area

is, for the most part, relatively homogeneous. In fact,

in terms of daily life and overall cultural concerns, life

as lived in the Kanjobalan area is not unlike that de-

scribed for Chiapas (see Vogt 1969 and sources cited there).

This homogeneity of culture will be an important considera-

tion in later chapters as we attempt to examine the lin-

guistic reflections of these pervasive cultural interests.

The people of this area, as in most of Guatemala,

live primarily in settlements which are grouped into hamlets

called aldeas and attached to a town center (see Map II

for aldeas of Santa Eulalia). These hamlets often have

their own chapel and school. For the most part an Indian's

life revolves around these small settlements, which are

generally endogamous and may reflect early patrilineal clan

centers such as those described by Vogt for Zinacantan and

called by him the sna (Vogt 1964i:23-30 and 1g69:140). In

Kanjobal, the root na is still a common general term for

house or household as it is in Tzotzil. Santa Eulalia has

nine such aldeas which vary in distance from twenty minutes

to two days walk away from the town center. Since municipal

lands spread over a considerable distance a town may, as

Santa Eulalia does, have aldeas in several different cli-

matic zones, from low (tierra caliente) to temperate

(tierra templada) to highland or cold country (tierra fria).

The Santa Eulalia municipal center itself and the nearby

aldeas of Nancultac, Pett, and Temux2 are in cold country

at more than 8,000 feet in altitude. The more distant

aldeas such as Chojzunil and Cocald are in lower, hotter

country. This variety allows the cultivation of crops year

round and almost constant food supplies to the town center.

Topographically, the region is one of slopes, ridges, and

valleys which impede travel. The temperatures are mild to


i ?




o C


C .0
5-. *

cold and the climate is damp with heavy mists daily through-

out the rainy season (June to late November) and not uncommonly

during the rest of the year in the town center and high aldeas.

Aldeas, together with even smaller subdivisions

called caserios, are part of the larger municipal center

headed by the township which bears its name.3 Even when

new towns are formed from aldeas which grow to sufficient

size, these new centers still retain their ceremonial de-

pendence on the older township. This is the case, for

example, with Barillas which separated from Santa Eulalia

in 188g. Many independent towns in the area seem to look

to Santa Eulalia, however, and there is fair evidence that

Santa Eulalia exercised a general hegemony over the entire

Kanjobal area until very recent times (LaFarge 1947:131f).

Adult status among the Kanjobal is achieved by mar-

riage which usually takes place in the late teens. Children

are heartily desired, but infant mortality is so high that

it is not uncommon for fewer than half a woman's children

to survive to adulthood. The activities of a typical day

are strictly divided by sex, and by an early age children

join their parent of the same sex for instruction in the

duties of adulthood. Women are responsible for the care

of the house and the very young children and for the daily

preparation of food, especially the grinding of corn and

the cooking of large quantities of tortillas, the dietary

staple. Women also sell in local markets; and, in towns

where small item weaving is practiced, it is done by women.

Other craft specialties are the province of men. These

include the weaving of blankets in San Rafael, the making of

pile rugs in San Sebastian Coatan (a Chuj-speaking town),

the plaiting of hats in Jacaltenango, and the production

of the heavy wool-felt jacket worn by all men of the region.

These short jackets are known as capixays and are made in

Santa Eulalla and San Pedro Soloma,which supply them for

the whole region. A few men specialize in making marimbas

(a wooden musical instrument much like a xylophone) and blow-

guns for small game hunting. Most fabric, tools, and house-

hold utensils in Santa Eulalia today are machine-made

imports; there is little market outside the area for the

few craft items made here. This is in contrast to the situ-

ation in modern Cakchiquel towns, where craft items are

part of a thriving Guatemalan tourist industry. Apparently,.

except for wool products, Santa Eulalia and surrounding

towns have never, even in pre-Colombian times, engaged in

much craft production for export. They are outside the main

Guatemalan trade routes and their ancient trading patterns

have probably been primarily with Mexico before the days of

national boundaries and customs tariffs. Any marketing done

between towns is usually handled by men, occasionally with

their wives to accompany them. Women do not travel much,

and never alone, remaining by custom and by preference in

the neighborhood of their families. They are, as a result,

nearly universally monolingual.

The main occupation of most Indian men is subsist-

ence farming. They are responsible for all the phases of

food production, from the burning and cleaning of the fields

to the sowing of corn and some wheat, caring for the fields

with devotion until the harvest. This annual cycle is the

basis for all life in the Cuchumatanes as it is throughout

the Mayan area and has been for Mayan peasants since before

the building of the great Mayan cities. Corn, the mainstay

of civilization in this part of the world, is found in every

meal. Together with the other members of the well-known

Mesoamerican culinary triumvirate--beans and squash--corn

Is the primary food supply. Meat is scarce here although

families raise some chickens and pigs in addition to the

sheep which supply the wool. They sometimes eat meat pro-

ducts but most meat is sold to Ladinos. In Santa Eulalia,

fresh fruits and vegetables are very limited in supply during

part of the year and, in any case, are often too expensive

for Indian families.

Life in Santa Eulalia is somewhat precarious.

Dysentery, parasites, and other chronic ailments take

their toll among both children and adults. Childhood

diseases are still common although active immunization

programs are bringing them under control. Many people

become ill from diseases contracted in the lowlands during

periods of migrant labor on coastal plantations. Occa-

sional epidemics of flu or other virus result in large

numbers of deaths. There is no permanent medical care in

the town and standards of sanitation are low. Neverthe-

less, Kanjobal people are progressive, eager to learn about

ways to improve their lives, and give strong support to

those who have opportunities for instruction in fields that

seem to them to be relevant to their needs, insisting only

that such information be shared with the community. Al-

though they may appear to be shy or suspicious with strangers,

they are, upon acquaintence, very conscientious and cheerful

people, generous and hard-working.

While most Kanjobal-speakers live in the aldeas. the

town center is important to them in a variety of ways.

Probably as they did before the Conquest, they come to

the municipal center to market, to court, to resolve dis-

putes, to provide civil service, to perform religious

duties, and to participate in ceremonies and festivals.

The town center Is the residence for some Indian families

and for all the ladinos, or non-Indian Guatemalans, who

live in Santa Eulalla. In the town center are all the

municipal buildings, the main market, the church, a public

school, a parochial school with its convent, and a number

of commercial establishments owned mostly by Ladlnos.

These include two large general stores, two public dining

rooms (comedores) which cater to Ladinos and strangers, a

new pension which provides rooms for travelers and permanent

housing for out-of-town residents such as school teachers.

There are locally owned truck lines which transport Indians

to the coast as migrant laborers. Ladino families also

supply the wax candles used in great quantities by Indians

in ritual observance. They own the only ovens in Santa

Eulalia and produce several kinds of wheat breads, including

the dark whole wheat bread known as xeka which is very nour-

ishing and greatly prized by Indians. There is a Ladino

tailor and several seamstresses.

Ladino immigration to Santa Eulalia began around the

turn of the century and their dominance in political and

commercial affairs was immediate and certainly out of pro-

portion to their numbers. In 1964, there were about 350

Ladinos in Santa Eulalia while the Indian population was

over ten thousand (Virvez et al. 1968:1). Because many

young Ladinos are leaving home to attend school or find

work in larger cities such as Huehuetenango and Quetzal-

tenango, and because adult men also tend to be away a great

deal, the Ladino population is largely made up of women

and children living in large extended families. Many of

the middle-aged women have never been away from the town,

but their identification as part of the larger Guatemalan

society gives them a very different world view from the

Indians with whom they have almost daily contact. There is

tension between Indian and Ladino elements within Santa

Eulalia and Ladino economic dominance is being challenged,

particularly by one Protestant Indian who owns a large

general store, several trucks and a bus line; but to a large

degree, the society is characterized by mutual tolerance and

a profound sense of separateness. Many Ladinos are bilin-

gual and have a superficial knowledge of Indian custom, but

they do not pretend to share Indian beliefs about the world

in spite of sharing their space within it.

This separation of the two groups is perhaps most

obvious during the celebration of the annual titular festi-

val, the most important celebration of the village. The

period from the ninth to the twelfth of February, in the

height of the dry season, is set aside to commemorate the

patron saint of the town, Santa Eulalia of Barcelona. The

town is the scene of tremendous activity and preparation

in the weeks before and of great excitement throughout.

Although many of the activities planned for the festival

are the same for both Indians and Ladinos, the two groups

do not participate in them at the same time or in the same

place though they often observe each other. There are

dances--for Indians, traditional dancing with a small local

marimba in the parochial school and for Ladinos, modern

social dancing with a capital orchestra imported to the

town hall for the occasion. There are sports--Indian

school children against other Indian school children in

the aldea of Pett and Ladino community leaders and teachers

against other communities in tne town center. There are

new clothes--Indian women wear new white silk overblouses

(huipils), and colorful new hair ribbons, bought locally

in the general stores or from traveling salesmen. Ladinas

buy modern dresses made privately by a seamstress from

designs in a magazine, or bought in another town. There

are processions--Indians carry sacred images on a ritual

circuit and Ladinos convey the town queen to the big soccer

game. There is a native queen as well, but she is crowned

before a different audience and has little role in the

festivities. There is market for everyone, with out-of-

town hucksters drawing huge crowds. There are games of

chance and fortune-telling birds. Ladino relatives from

other towns come for a visit and Indians from outlying

aldeas come too. It is a time for drinking, for gossiping,

for watching costumed dancers, and for town renewal. The

festival serves primarily to bind people to the community,

while reinforcing their places within it. When it is over,

Indians go about the task of planting in the high country,

but there is a period of great depression for Ladinos before

they settle back into their daily lives. Plans for the

next festival begin at once.

While the festival has little religious significance

for the Ladinos, it is a period of intense religious ac-

tivity among the Indians. The prayer leaders pray con-

stantly and make sacrifices in the sacred cave under the

town (Yalan Na), foreseeing the fate of Santa Eulalia in the

coming year. Worship at the great cross in front of the

church increases dramatically and large numbers of wax

candles are burnt there and at other shrines. But reli-

gious concerns are not limited to the period of the town

festival. Religious and ritual elements are extremely im-

portant in Kanjobal life which, after all, is connected

historically to a theocracy. Old religious ways have sur-

vived here although fewer and fewer learn what they mean.

Increasingly, outside forces erode the old customs. Change

has been accelerated since LaFarge described Santa Eulalia's

religious life because Catholic reform movements as well

as Protestant missionary efforts have combined to reduce

the impact of the 'pagan' religion called costumbre. Until

a new community study is done, the amount of change cannot

be known but even if it is very great, many elements from

the old cosmology still shape daily life and still mold

Kanjobal world view. Among these elements are the pre-

occupation with the passing of time, a belief in animal

companion spirits and hill deities, a strong sense of

hierarchy, a special attention to the location and


direction of bodies in space, a subtle use of metaphor, and

a rich folkloric tradition.

0.3 Data Base

Linguistic work for the Kanjobal area includes a

basic description for most of the major dialects in the

Kanjobal group except Kanjobal proper: San Mateo Ixtatin

Chuj (Hopkins 1967); Jacaltenango Jacaltec (Day 1973a and

Craig 1975); and Tojolobal (Furbee-Losee in press). Many

of these works owe a great debt to one of the earliest

descriptions of languages in this branch, a description

of Aguacatenango Tzeltal contained in Kaufman 1971. Work

continues in all the languages of the Greater Kanjobalan

group especially at the Proyecto LingUistico Francisco

Marroquin (PLFM), a linguistic study center now under an

Indian administration which is dedicated to the preparation

of materials by Indians about and in indigenous languages.

In addition to the longer grammars noted above,

several papers and other materials have become available

In recent years on Jacaltec (Craig 1973 and 1976;

Day 1973b), Kanjobal and Acatec (Dakin 1976), Chuj (Max-

well 1976a,Hopkins 1973) and Tojolobal (Furbee-Losee 1973

and 1976). An as yet unpublished computer-stored dictionary

has been prepared for Jacaltec (Day 1971) and is described

in Day 1976. A set of basic teaching materials is available

for Kanjobal (Martin Barber et al. 1973).

As a result of this recent interest in Mayan lin-

guistics generally, a good overall knowledge is now avail-

able about the phonological and morphological systems of

languages of the Greater Kanjobalan group. The differences

between the languages of the Kanjobalan complex appear to

be relatively slight. Since some basic materials are al-

ready available it seems even more useful to take a dif-

ferent approach in newer studies like this one. Reference

will be made to these other works as they are relevant to

the grammatical description in this analysis.

The data for this analysis were gathered in Santa

Eulalia during two field stays. During the first period,

I was affiliated with the Proyecto Linguistico Francisco

Marroquin (PLFM), then in Antigua Guatemala. I was con-

tracted to them from September, 1972, until August, 1973,

to produce teaching materials in Kanjobal, train teachers,

direct the production of literacy materials (see, for

example, Martin Barber 1973a and 1973b), collect texts,

and do general linguistic analysis. During the second

period, from January to March, 1975, I lived in Santa

Eulalia and collected data on positional roots.

In total this study is based on some ten hours of

taped, transcribed, and translated narratives, several

thousand items of vocabulary and elicited materials, a set

of basic teaching materials, an inventory of over 270

positional roots with extensive information on their semantic

characteristics and syntactic distribution, and additional

miscellaneous materials such as examples of children's games

which use positionals and notes on metaphoric extensions and

joking contexts for positional roots. Some unpublished

notes made by K. Dakin on Kanjobal and Acatec have also been

available to me.

The primary informants for both periods were two

exceptionally able Kanjobal speakers: Diego de Diego An-

tonio and Francisco Pascual F. Mr. Pascual was eighteen

years of age at the time we first began working together.

He was living then in the town center but has recently re-

turned with his wife and child to his native aldea of Nan-

cultac. He is functionally bilingual in Spanish, has com-

pleted a sixth grade education, and is literate in both

Spanish and Kanjobal. His only living parent is his mother

who is completely monolingual in Kanjobal. He has worked

as a teacher at the PLFM from time to time since 1973. He

has a great interest in old folk tales and was responsible

for the collection of many very interesting and useful ones.

Mr. de Diego is in his early thirties and lives in

the aldea of Pett with his parents and wife, all of whom are

monolingual in Kanjobal. He himself is functionally bi-

lingual and literate and has also completed six years of

education. He is highly respected in his aldea and in the

community and has held political office as well as serving

onthe board of the credit cooperative. He has been an ex-

tremely dedicated student of linguistics and is devoted to

the study of Kanjobal. Both he and Mr. Pascual are known

in their communities for their work in language maintenance

and in literacy training.

Although Mr. de Diego has been the primary informant

for most of the data for positional roots, many other people

have participated in the collection of data either during

the first or the second field stay. Some have recorded

texts for Mr. de Diego, Mr. Pascual, or for me. Some have

checked data, especially the positional roots, or in other

ways have rendered valuable assistance to this research.

Together, these informants reflect several degrees of bi-

lingualism and all adult age groups; the materials collected

from them include extemporaneous anecdotes, accounts of

daily life, religious stories, animal fables and histories.

A list of these people follows with aldeas of residence,

ages, and degree of bilingualism.

Jose Andr6s Pett 91 monolingual

Eulalia Bernabe Conob 15 bilingual

Lorenzo Caio Juan Temux 27 monolingual

Francisco Diego Ramirez Temux 63 monolingual

Juana Francisco Pett 32 monolingual

Marfa Francisco Conob 58 monolingual

Ramirez Francisco

Eulalia Garcia M.

Juan Garcia Miguel

Mateo Lorenzo

Juan Lorenzo Diego

Alfonso Nicolas A.

Alejandro Pascual

Maria Pascual

Diego Pedro Primero

It is important to

very interested in the

and cultural identity.

Tziquina 60 monolingual

Conob 26 monolingual

Tziquina 38 bilingual

Temux 84 monolingual

Pett 31 very bilingual

Conob 22 bilingual

Nancultac 38 bilingual

Conob 18 very bilingual

Pett 52 monolingual

note here that Kanjobal speakers

maintenance of their own linguis-

They encourage the study of

their language especially when it can result in materials

for their own use. Interest in literacy training in Kanjobal

is very high despite the fact that there is little opportun-

ity for it and that is only by volunteer efforts. It is

Intended that the results of this study and many of the

materials which made it possible be returned to the people

of Santa Eulalia in a form which will be useful to them.


Kanjobal is the Hispanized version of the language
name and is used here because it is the only form which is
common in the literature. In the language itself, the
language is called 'anjob'al, derived from q'an 'word' by
way of the intransitive verb g'anjab'i 'to speak' with the
instrumental suffix -b'al. Literally therefore the term
means 'for speaking' and does not, as LaFarge (1947:iv)
asserts, mean 'four-way or straight language' deriving
from kan 'four'.

The standard national alphabet is used for place
names of official units such as aldeas. The primary dif-
ference between the national alphabet and the alphabet used
in this study and designed by Terrence Kaufman is the use of
c and qu for the velar stop which is represented in the
Kaufman alphabet by k. A detailed description of the
Guatemalan alphabet controversy is given in Kaufman 1975.
Some aldea names have obvious etymologies. These
are some examples: Nancultac from nan 'in the middle' and
t'ulta 'woods (Sp. monte)'; Paicono from pay 'ancient' and
konob 'town (centerJ Tziguin from tz'ikin 'bird' and
na 'house'. Hopkins 1973 presents a very complete analysis
of place nomenclature for Chuj and many other Mayan lan-
guages including Kanjobal. He documents a large number of
borrowings among the languages of the Kanjobal branch.

31n Kanjobal, the town center is usually not
referred to by the Spanish name Santa Eulalia but rather
by the native word konob' (national orthography Conop)
'town center'.


Chapter 1 is not intended to provide a complete

description of the Kanjobal linguistic system, but rather

to present in overview the outlines of the system, par-

ticularly those aspects of it which have bearing on the

class of positional roots. These roots function within an

interlocking system of sounds, meanings, and grammatical

processes; they cannot be described adequately unless they

are understood in that context. The grammatical sketch

presented in this chapter provides the framework for under-

standing positional roots and their place in the larger

grammatical system of Kanjobal; this system, in turn, is

characteristic of most other Mayan languages in its group

as well.

Chapter 1 is organized into two parts. In the first,

the outlines of the phonology are given, including a pho-

nemic inventory and a set of common phonological processes.

Some remarks are made concerning phoneme frequencies,

morpheme structure, and the processes of nativization which

affect the large number of Spanish loanwords in Kanjobal.

Phonological features and patterns which are especially

relevant to the positional class are treated in Chapter 2.


The second part of Chapter 1 presents a sketch of

the grammar proper. Rather than present a detailed list of

morphemes or organize the sketch in terms of word classes,

the material is given in terms of grammatical categories.

This presentation offers a better opportunity for understand-

ing the kinds of semantic categories which function in

Kanjobal grammar. Such categories are basic to the semantic

organization of Kanjobal and therefore to its grammatical

organization as well. They underlie the organization of the

positional root class as they do the rest of the grammar.

Categories such as person and agency are probably

universally relevant in human language organization. Other

categories, while still optionally present in any language,

seem to be of special importance in Mayan Kanjobal. The

most striking of these include matter classification and

location/direction. The second part of Chapter 1 sketches

the overall relevance of such categories to Kanjobal grammar

while Chapters 3 and 4 will demonstrate in greater detail

the ways in which these categories interact while focusing

on a particular part of the grammar, the positional class.

1.1 Phonology

A practical orthography is used in this study as

a phonemic transcription. Periods Indicate morpheme

boundaries in both the phonemic transcription and the

morpheme-by-morpheme gloss. A free translation is


provided where necessary. In the phonology section the

examples are first given in phonetic transcription. All

phonological examples are taken from recorded text. A

sample text is included as Appendix 0.

1.1.1 Phonemic Inventory

The phonemic inventory of Santa Eulalia Kanjobal

(KSE) consists of five vowels and twenty-five consonants

as indicated in Chart I. An accurate account of the

phonemes of this language was first given by Kaufman (per-

sonal communication) based on dialect surveys made during

1971 as part of a dialect identification program for all

Mayan-speaking towns. This comprehensive survey was carried

out by Kaufman and his assistants at the PLFM and is

described in Kaufman 1976. Ultimately, Kaufman prepared

an alphabet suitable for the efficient writing of Mayan

and other Latin American indigenous languages. This

alphabet and its underlying principles are described in

Kaufman 1973. As applied to Kanjobal, the Kaufman alpha-

bet uses the symbols given in Chart II to represent the

phonemic units given in Chart I.

Since it has been widely adopted and is simple to

write and reproduce, this alphabet will be used as the

phonemic transcription for this study, with three changes.

Kaufman's /h-/, the glottal fricative, which he himself indi-

cates as occurring only in certain prefixes and pronominal


Chart I. Phonemic inventory of Santa Eulalia Kanjobal

labialIalveolarialveolar retroflex IvelarluvularIglottal














m n




high i u

mid e o

low a

front back


Chart II. Kaufman alphabet for Kanjobal

p t

b' t

k q 7

k' q'

tz ch tx

tz' ch' tx'

x xh x 3



e a


words, is not considered phonemic in this analysis and is

not written (see for an account of h-insertion).

Secondly, where the two phonemes /t/ and /x/ occur in se-

quence, they are written t-x to distinguish the sequence

from the phoneme /tx/. This notation was suggested by

Kaufman and is used in Mam.l In Kanjobal the sequence only

occurs across morpheme boundaries. In addition to these

changes, there are several problems with the status of the

glottal stop. These are discussed in some detail in sec-

tion 1..1.1..

The phonemes of Kanjobal are treated below by sound

class. Examples are given for each phonemic contrast.

Positional roots are a rich source of minimal pairs and

where positionals are used as examples (always with the

positional stem formative suffix -an), they are indicated

by (P). Where necessary in the discussion of Kanjobal

phonology, phonetic transcriptions are given and standard

phonetic symbols are used. Explanations are given in cases

of unusual symbols. Such transcriptions are given in the

conventional brackets, [ ]. Obstruent consonants

There are nineteen phonemic contrasts in Kanjobal

which are produced by an obstruction of the air stream be-

fore Its oral release. In addition to the glottal stop,

there are eighttrue stops, six affricates, and four

fricatives. Both the stop and affricate sets are made up

of paired sounds, identical except for the presence of

glottalization on one item of the pair. The obstruent

sounds will be discussed by subclass.

Stops. The true stops in Kanjobal occur at four

points of articulation: bilabial, alveolar, velar, and

uvular. At each point, there is a plain and a glottalized

phoneme. The glottalization is usually simultaneous, but

will be written after the symbol for the glottalized con-

sonant, i.e. [C7]. Except for /q/ which does not occur in

initial position, all stops occur in all positions in the

word. In final position, a simple stop is usually realized

as heavily aspirated, [C h. There may be light aspiration

in any other position. The glottalized stops are usually

unreleased in final position, [C']. The surface phonetic

contrast in final position is one of release and not of


The bilabial stop, /b'/, is realized phonetically

with both implosion and voice, [97]. In a systematic

phonemic analysis it is interpreted as underlying /p'/.

Imploded consonants are frequently voiced as a natural

consequence of their manner of production (see Chomsky and

Halle 1968:323 for detailed discussion). Some other Mayan

languages have imploded realizations of underlying

glottalized voiceless stops and in these cases as well the

imploded stop is voiced (England 1975:18 for examples in

Mam). This identification of voicing with glottalization

probably accounts for the assimilation of Spanish loans

with voiced stops as glottalized in monolingual Kanjobal

speech. Examples include:

[lak'arto] from lagarto 'lizard'

[?arku] from barco 'canoe'

The phenomenon of phonetic ["?] or [b?] for expected

phonemic */p'/ is so pervasive in the Mayan family that

Kaufman reconstructs /b'/ for proto-Mayan (Kaufman, personal


Many Kanjobal speakers, especially young men with

significant experience with Spanish, have a full series of

nonimploded voiced stops used only in Spanish loans. These

are not considered here to be an integrated part of the

Kanjobal sound system. (See section 1.1.4 for further

comments on loan phonology.)

The contrasts among the bilabial, alveolar, velar,

and uvular stops may be Illustrated by the following


/P/ /b'/
pay 'ancient; skunk' b'ay 'at; in'

jopan 'bright (P)' jab'an 'long, thin (P)'

q'ap 'cloth' q'ab' 'hand'


tan 'lime'

ka7 'molar'

koj 'jaquar'

yekal 'tomorrow'

ak 'turtle'

kan 'sky'

/ /
/q/ does not occur

yoqech 'hearth stone'

xiqa7 'cut something'

b'aq 'bone'


yekal 'tomorrow'

waykan 'sky'

ak 'turtle'

t'anan 'staring (P)'

k'a7 'bitter'

k'oj 'mask'

pak'il 'side'

at' 'new'

k'am 'no'


q'oj 'trunk (of a
q'an 'yellow'

q'aq' 'fire'

baq'ech 'fat'

maq'a7 'hit something'

b'aq' 'pit (of fruit)'

yoqech 'hearth stone'

aqgan 'my foot'

b'aq 'bone'

k'olan 'small, round (P)' q'ol

lak'an 'stuck to (P)' laq'an

'sticky (P)'

'embraced (P)'

Affricates. The sounds produced by complete

closure followed by a fricative release occur in three posi-

tions of articulation in Kanjobal: alveolar, palatoalveo-

lar, and retroflex. At each point the plain vs. glot-

talized contrast is found as in the stop series. The

affricates are released in all positions and the secondary

glottalization is quite strong. The palatal and palato-

alveolar sounds have a strong fronting effect on preceding

sounds. This palatalization process is described in

The contrasts in the affricate set are exemplified by the

following items (for convenience, the usual phonetic

equivalentof the orthographic symbol is given).

/tx/ ([3])
tzib' 'palm'

tzub' 'salia'

tzul 'gourd dish'

witz 'hill'

kutzan 'short, round (P)'

patz 'worm'




tz 'um








'close together (P)'

'man's daughter'


/ch/ ([c])
chi7 'flavor'

pech 'duck'
ich 'chile'

/tx/ ([c])
txow 'blanket'
txam 'nose'
txutx 'mother'

/ch/ ([c])
chi7 'flavor'

chipan 'like many little
balls (P)'

/tx/ ([c])
txikin 'ear'

/tz'/ ([e'])
tz'in 'yuca'

/tx'/ ([c'])
tx'i7 'dog'
tx'an 'string'

/ch'/ ([c'])
ch'im 'straw'

pech' 'cockroach'
ich' 'red lowland tick'

/tx'/ ([c])
tx'ow 'rat'

tx'an 'string'
tx'otx' 'land'

/tz/ ([C])
tze7 'laugh'
tzib' 'palm'

/ch/ ([c])
chikil 'blood'

/ch'/ ([c'])
ch'im 'straw'

/ch'/ ([c'])
ch'im 'straw'

ch'en 'stone'

/tx/ ([c])
txul 'urine'

patxan 'flat (P)'

txek'an 'having several
long protru-
sions (P)'

/tx'/ ([c])

litx'an 'flat (P)'

tx'onan 'having an over-
large head (P)'











'a little pile


'full of liquid'

'empty, vacant (P)'

Contrast with occlusives in approximately the same point of

articulation is demonstrated by the following items:

pichan 'rapped up (P)' pitan

chukan 'having a pointed tukan
end stuck into
something (P)'

wech'an 'scattered (P)' wet'an

ch'ojan 'knees drawn up (P)' t'ujan

'small, ball-
like (P)'

'staring (P)'

'watery mass (P)'

'shaped like a
drop (P)'

Fricatives. The fricatives. /s. xh, x, j/ (phonetic

S. J, s, j]) occur in four points of articulation: alveolar,

palatoalveolar, retroflex, and velar. Fricative and affricate
clusters are the most susceptible to reduction (see

for details). The presence of the palatoalveolar and

retroflex fricatives (phonetic [s] and [i]) in Mayan and

other Mesoamerican languages has left an effect on the

Spanish spoken in that region by way of a large number of

loans containing this sound. This has been documented in

Scavnicky 1975 for Guatemalan urban Spanish and in Martin

1975 for Guatemalan rural Spanish.

The contrasts among the fricatives are demonstrated

by the following items:

s17 'firewood'

ostok 'buzzard'

is 'potato'

tisan 'round, wide (P)'

/x/ ([s])

joxan 'small pile (P)'

/x/ ([s])
xan 'adobe'

xaq 'leaf'

pisan 'seated (P)'

yax 'green'

ix 'woman'

/xh/ ([s])
xhi '3rd person said

-uxhtaq 'man's brother'

yalixh 'small'

tixhan 'scattered (P)'

/xh/ ([s])
jexhan 'having one arm
drooping (P)'






/x/ and /j/ as well as /ch/ are phonemes of extremely

high frequency in Kanjobal connected discourse because they

occur in important grammatical morphemes such as aspect

markers. One result of this is the distinctive 'hushing'

quality of spoken Kanjobal.

Glottal stop. The analysis of glottal stop in

Kanjobal is somewhat complex and its phonemic status is

uncertain. It undergoes deletion and movement according to

rules which are imperfectly understood ( Native

intuition on this point is contradictory and variable. In

teaching Indian students to write Kanjobal and other Mayan

languages, the glottal stop is the least consistently

written sound.

Kaufman has reconstructed phonemic /7/ for proto-

Mayan and it has been analyzed as having phonemic status

In at least some positions in Jacaltec (Day 1973a:9),

Tojolobal (Furbee-Losee 1976:171), and Chuj (Hopkins 1967:17).

Proto-Mayan CV7C and CV7VC roots have reflexes in some

Kanjobalan languages which still contain /7/. Hopkins

(1967:53) discusses in some detail the processes affecting

proto-Mayan /7/ roots in Chuj. However, in Kanjobal, all

such proto roots are realized as simple CVC roots (Kaufman

1969:38f). Therefore, in Kanjobal, [7] occurs in word-

medial position only at morpheme boundaries where It is

the result of the compounding or affixation of roots with

final or initial glottal stop. In medial position as in

~_ 1

other positions it is subject to various deletion


Glottal stops in medial position can also result

from phonological substitution processes. For example,

[?] is a frequent realization of underlying /q'/ in

morpheme-final position. The following apparent submini-

mal pair is attested in a single test:

[masyontoqhis] 'she put it'
*--- o0 0

[Eagyd'onlowis] 'she gave (them) food'

max Compp'
y- 3' 2
-on pseudointransitive (PIV)'
tog 'action away from speaker (dir)'
low- 'eat (iv)
Ix 'woman (NC1)'

In fact, both [ySon] and [yIgon] are realizations of the

root aq'.a 'to give or put'. (The final vowel is a transi-

tive stem formative which is lost in phrasal constructions.)3

The underlying /q'/ is retrievable in careful speech; its

loss is the result of widespread reduction processes present

in KSE rapid and semi-rapid speech ( and

A glottal stop produced by such a process is not to be

considered phonemic. (The [?] in ix is treated below.)

Additional data on the phonemic status of the glottal

stop is available from a consideration of the apparently

II~ICIC-~- -TIJ I --- J

vowel-initial stems in Kanjobal. All such items are regularly

occur with a preceding glottal stop, especially after a

pause, but may lose it in normal transition. When prefixed

for person, these [?]-initial stems also lose the glottal

stop. The person marking prefixes for this class are

different from those required by true consonant-initial

stems. Those accompanying C-initial stems contain vowels

of their own and form separate syllables, i.e. in-, ko-.

But the markers for [?]-initial stems differ in that they

are single sounds which form natural syllables with the

following vowel, i.e. w-, 1- (see section for further

discussion of person marking in KSE). Other investigators

have noted a class of apparent /7/-initial stems which

prefix like true consonant-initial stems (England 1975:31;

Day 1973a:18). No such class has been found in KSE and all

[C7-initial stems, except the numerals o 'five' and uq

'seven', prefix in the same way, at least insofar as the

data have been examined on this point. Obviously, the

description of person marking is simplified if these stems

can be considered to be vowel-initial and the glottal stop

simply a phonetic insertion. Not one of the recent analy-

ses of Kanjobalan languages has considered initial glottal

stop to be phonemic. Kaufman himself has recently stopped

writing initial glottal stop because of its predicability

in these and other Mayan languages (1975:71).

-- 1 -11-11-- 1

Final glottal stops are usually manifested by the

extreme shortness of the preceding vowel. However, the

presence or absence of glottal stop in this position responds

to stylistic pressures, at least to some degree. The same

item may be produced, heard, and transcribed by native

speakers both with or without the final glottal stop. Some

of these cases of deletion may be explained by lexical iden-

tity (see; however, the data are very contradic-

tory on this point.

The phonemic status of glottal stop in initial and

final position has important consequences for the descrip-

tion of positional root phonology, especially reduplicative

processes (2.2.1). If glottal stops are recognized as

phonemic in final position, this will uncomplicate that

part of the grammar and also account for rare minimal pairs

such as

[?eJ b'e 'road' [9'0] h'e7 'to grind'

[la7] 1a7 'submerged in liquid (P)' [laq'] laq' 'embraced

Application of rules such as glottal stop deletion (

and /q'/ [(] may result in the production of any of these

forms either with or without the final glottal stop.

Although problems still remain in determining
whether or not a final phonemic glottal stop is present in

any individual item, the establishment of such an underlying

phoneme does allow for greater simplicity in the description.

The problems presented by traveling and disappearing

glottal stops in medial position can then be solved by late

phonetic rules which will apply both to underlying and

derived glottal stops (

Taking all these data into account, glottal stop

is here considered phonemic in final position in some roots

and is so indicated by written /7/. It is not written

in absolute initial position or as a variant of /q'/ where

its presence is predictable. This analysis also does not

admit root-medial phonemic glottal stop although compounding

and other combinatory processes may produce stem-medial

ones. The analysis adopted here is admittedly incomplete

and not entirely satisfactory from a theoretical perspec-

tive. Further investigation into glottal stop and glot-

talization phenomena in KSE may reveal that many of these

peculiarities are the result of sound change in process. Sonorant consonants

Unobstructed resonating consonants are much fewer

in number than the obstruents and include two nasals, two

liquids, and two glides. They occur in all positions in

the word.

Nasals. There are two nasals in KSE: bilabial

and alveolar. They are subject to assimilation pressures

from following consonants (1.1.2). Their phonemic status

is established with the following sets.

// /n/
mam 'father' nam 'moth'

mu7 'wild herb' nuq' 'neck'

man 'no' nan 'middle'

jon 'gourd bowl' jon 'our avocado'

miman 'big' inat 'seed'

Liquids. The lateral, /1/, is of high frequency in

KSE since it occurs in roots and in very common affixes such

as -laq 'place of' and -V1 'abstract moninalizer'. (Fre-

quency data are found In It is rarely in contrast

with the flap, /r/, which is of exceedingly low frequency.

The flap is found in only a few native roots such as tur.u7

'to swallow' and t'iran 'bald, naked (P)'. The usual reflex

of *PM */r/ is KSE /y/. (*PM forms taken from Kaufman 1974:

119, 121.)

PM *war- KSE way- 'sleep'

PM *ru7x KSE yax 'green'

The flap occurs in medial position as a realization of Span-

ish d, e.g. asaron 'hoe', or of Spanish rr, e.g. wuru

'burro'. It occurs in an assibilated form in initial

position in Spanish loans as in [fos] 'rosa'. (Section

1.1.4 provides further examples of nativization processes

in the assimilation of Spanish loans in Kanjobal.)

Examples of /1/:

le wornn

wala7 'I say'

chikil 'blood'

Glides. The glides /w/ and /y/ are phonemic in

Kanjobal, occurring in all positions in the word and before

all vowels. /y/ does not occur phonemically in the same

morpheme following the high front vowel /i/ nor does /w/

occur following the high back vowel /u/. Both glides also

occur in consonant clusters. They are high in frequency

In polymorphemic stems since they are the prevocalic re-

alizations of the first person singular (w-) and third person

singular (y-) possessive prefixes as well as person markers

on one class of verbs ( These are some examples

of phonemic glides:

/y/ /w/
yet 'of him; of' watx' 'good'

ya 'pain' wonit 'hat'

waykan 'star' xiwl 'many'

b'eyl 'walk' evi 'yesterday'

pay 'ancient' tx'o 'rat'
txay 'fish' xajaw 'month'

poy 'head strap for pojow 'pus'
carrying loads'

The sounds [w] and [y] also occur non-phonemically

in KSE as transition sounds resulting from a glide formation

process affecting vowel clusters. For example, /luin/

'Pedro' is normally produced as [luwin]. Native intuition

is of interest here: Indian students objected to writing

luin with the glide (*1uwin) but consistently write the inter-

vocalic glide when it results from underlying iw/ or /y/ as

in the independent pronouns such as ay.on.ti 'we' (see sec-

tion for discussion of formation of independent


1.1.1 Vowels

There are five vowels in Kanjobal, written and

analyzed as /i, e, u, o, a/. Phonetically the cardinal

vowel qualities are not those reflected by the standard usage

of these symbols. The phonetic equivalences of the phonetic

central tendencies for these phonemes are as follows:

/1/ usually realized as [i]

/u/ usually realized as [u]

/e/ realized rather lower than [e], more like [c]

/o/ somewhat more open than [o] but not as open as
[a], here symbolized [o]
/a/ somewhat higher, almost schwa, symbolized as
[aI] or [a-

Various reduction processes affect vowels and produce other

variants, but the tendencies mentioned here seem to be the

basic ones. The factors causing variations in the production

of vowels are discussed in

These are examples of the vowel phonemes:

an 'plant (noun classifier forn)'

in- 'Ist person singular marker'

on 'avocado'

un 'paper'

-en 'popcorn'

janan 'uncovered (P)'

jin 'against us'

Jon 'our avocado'

Jun 'our piece of paper'

Jen 'our toasted corn'

na 'house'

ne 'tail'

ni 'son-in-law'

no7 'animal'

mu7 'type of herb'

1.1.2 Phonological Processes

Several processes affect underlying phonemic forms

in KSE and produce variations in the surface phonetic

realizations. Some of these processes are described in

this section and where possible are expressed as phonological

rules, using the common formalisms of modern generative

phonology. This is made easier by the reformulation of the

phonemic inventory in terms of binary distinctive features.

This reformulation is presented in Table I.

The minimum number of features required for the

description of the KSE sound system is ten. The features and

formalisms are those given in Hyman 1974. Some features such

as voice and delayed release may be specified by redundancy

rules or marking conventions. Such rules can, for example,

express the fact that, in KSE, delayed release is a property

only of strident and continuant consonants.

The ordering relationships governing the applica-

tions of the phonological rules discussed below are not com-

pletely understood. Where possible, ordering sequence is

noted with the rule. Stress assignment

Stress assignment for individual lexical items is

a simple matter in KSE. Setting aside Spanish loans, many

of which must be specially marked, and a few clitics and

particles which do not occur in isolation nor receive

word stress, each KSE stem or root carries one primary stress

on its final vowel. A word then may be partially defined

+ + ,+ ,m+ i + +

+ + 1* 11 .+ i +

+ I' 'I . .. I + + *

+ l i i + + l + I, I +

+ ,+ 1 4 i l +~ 7

i f i i + 4 4 + ,

+ 5* 1 + + i + + .5

Si + + + + 111 : i

I i- + I + I I I I 1 + I

* + 1 1+ 1 1 +* 1+ ,1

* I + + + I + I + I
l 1 @ 4 i j. I I i I +

SI + + i 111 111

SS I + + 111+111+

- | U - - -

C 0 <- = c 41a
-* -^ c Uj 4io u
, Us C - i 4 ) ? ,
S 0 C S r-- s
* i 1 C I- U i11

by its occurrence in isolation with final-syllable stress.

(Further discussion of word-formation is found in section The KSE stress assignment rule may be formalized

as follows:

V V / -- (C)#

Stress, therefore, need only be written on those exceptional

words for which stress is unpredictable. In every case,

these are Spanish loanwords which are stressed as they are

in Spanish. Common examples include anima 'people' and

marimpa 'marimba (musical instrument)'. Some early borrow-

ings have been relexicalized to follow the native pattern:

keneya, with final stress, from Spanish guineo 'banana' which

has penultimate stress. Native forms which do not take word

stress in insolation include items such as the tense-aspect

marker chi 'incompletive', clitics such as tog 'action away

from the speaker', and particles such as kax 'and' and ti7

'demonstrative (here)'. Some of these may occur in sentence

or word final position, however, and in such cases may take


[winaqh] winaq 'man'

[winaqti?] wlnaq.ti7 'this man'

In the context of sentences stress placement is

a complicated process. Kanjobal, like English, and unlike

Spanish, has a stress-timed rather than a syllable-timed

rhythm pattern. This means that different numbers of

syllables may intervene between the principal stresses

which are distributed by phrase rather than by word. In

general, a phrase is marked by two principal stresses. One

occurs on the final syllable and is followed either by a

sharp drop in pitch, marking the end of a sentence, or by

a gentle, trailing rise in pitch, marking the end of a non-

sentential sequence. Yes-no questions have a similar final-

syllable stress, but there is a sharp rise in pitch. If

the final word is an exceptional item which carries non-final

word stress, the stress is not displaced to the end but the

final vowel is considerably reduced.

The other phrasal stress occurs one to three sylla-

bles after the beginning of a phrase on a major lexical root.

This stress is optional on short phrases. Longer phrases

may carry one or more secondary stresses.

Because stress does not have a phonemic function in

KSE, it is available to be utilized in paralinguistic ways

which are stylistic and idiosyncratic. For example, stress

may be displaced for emphasis; but the rules governing this

aspect of stress placement are not yet well understood.

The following examples illustrate various stress

patterns and phrasal intonation. (Note that stem forma-

tives in KSE are deleted in non-phrase-final position.)


1. Single word



w- l'sg'
17- carry (tv)'
-on 'PIV'
-i 'iv formative'

'I carry (it)'

2. Sentence-final phrase

[M1w% oynath]

ul.w.i7.on w.inat

ul 'return' -in 'PIV'
w- 'Isg' w- 'lsg poss'
i7 'carry' inat 'seed'

'...1 return carrying my seed'

3. Non-sentential phrase

[kasmasndi6n ?is sq'J']

kax max.0.nub'.on ix s.q'aq'

kax 'and' ix 'woman (NC1)'
max Compp' s- '3 pass'
p '3' q'aq' 'fire'
nub' 'alight with a little light (P)'
-on 'PIV'

'and she lit her fire'

4. Non-final stress


jos.am mar(mpa

jos- 'work wood (tv)'
-a 'agentive'

'maker of marimbas'

5. Yes-no question sequence

[k 'mcCEj c Entumin kamcoccj unjq and7

k'ajnoCjaCEj hawakAs]

k'am chi.9.och.ej ch'en tumin k'am chi.9.och.ej

jun.oq a.no7

k'am chi.0.och.ej a.chej a.wakax-
k'am 'neg' tumin 'money' (Sp)
chi 'incomp' jun 'one'
0 '3' -oq partitivee'
och- 'want (tv)' a- '2sg poss'
-ej 'tv form' no7 'animal'
ch'en 'stone (NCI)' chej 'horse'
wakax 'cow' (Sp)

'Don't you want some money? Don't you want an
animal? Don't you want a horse for yourself?--
A cow?' Vowel harmony

Several derivational processes in KSE require that

the affix vowel be sensitive to the height or backness of

the stem vowel. This harmony is probably a productive pro-

cess in Kanjobal word formation. Patterns of vowel harmony

or inverse harmony have been described for many Mayan lan-

guages (Oay 1973a:28f, 47; Furbee-Losee 1976:174) and are

likely to have been part of the repertoire of proto-Mayan

(Kaufman, personal communication).

Vowel harmony by height is displayed by those suf-

fixes with underlying /o/ which is raised to /u/ in the

environment of the high back vowel. No suffix has an under-

lying /u/. An example is /-obt'anej/ which derives transi-

tive verbs from positional roots (

patx 'flat thing at rest (P)'

patxobt'anej 'move a flat thing'


jutx 'long thing (P)'

jutx[u]bt'anej 'pull a long thing'

Rounding harmony occurs with one of the formatives

for transitive verb stems. A large class of transitive stems

take a /-V7/ stem formative. The vowel of this suffix is

determined by the backness (roundness) of the stem vowel:

back vowels take identical [o] and front vowels take [a].

When the suffix follows /u/ stems, the o-raising rule de-

scribed above applies to produce [u]. Examples follow:

tek'.a7 'thresh wheat'

il.a7 'see something'

al.a7 'say something'

txon.o7 'sell something'

muq.u7 'bury something'

The most common example of inverse vowel harmony

involves the suffix(es) -il/-al which occurs in all Mayan

languages with several uses. Often suffixes of this shape

serve as a generalizing or abstract noun formative or mark

a type of possessed noun ( The conditioning is

based on stem vowel height: [i] for roots with stem vowel

/a/ and [a] for all other roots. Examples include:

yax 'green' yaxil 'greenness'

q'in 'festival; time' q'inal 'life'

k'u 'sun; day' k'ual 'day's journey'

te7 'tree' te7al 'tree-full'

son 'marimba' sonal 'marimba-like' h-insertion

As indicated above (1.1.1) [h] is not considered

to be phonemic in KSE since it occurs only before certain

vowel-initial pronouns and related person markers. It is

more common in the Soloma dialect than in KSE. This

phenomenon is most common in KSE on the clitic eb' '3rd

person, human, plural' which is realized as [?cb7] [hcb7]

and [h6b7]. The rule is a minor one which applies only

to this and a few other lexical items.

Since it is often missing In normal transition or

realized in voiced form ([(]), it may be part of a progres-

sive weakening chain affecting initial glottal stop; [h]

is an occasional realization of [7] in other environments

as well, for example, between vowels or after /j/. All

attested examples occur across morpheme boundaries.


chi.#.tx'aj ix sek

chi 'income' ix 'woman (NC1)'
0 '3' sek 'dish'
tx'aj- 'wash (tv)'

'she washes dishes' Reduplication

Several processes of reduplication are productive

in KSE as they are in many Mayan languages (Day 1973a:45;

Hopkins 1967:82f; Berlin 1963). Many of these reduplicative

processes affect only or primarily positional roots and will

be discussed in the section on positional phonology (2.2.1).

There is both complete and partial reduplication in

KSE. The most common complete reduplication is of the

numeral root jun 'one' which functions as an indefinite

article and, in reduplicated form, specifies plural dis-

tributive meaning.

un.jun k'al on ay jun.jun j.on

k'al 'together' ( on 'pl'
ay 'existential particle'
j- 'lpl poss'
on 'avocado'
'Each of us has his own avocado.'


Complete reduplication also occurs with other roots, es-

pecially with onomatopoeic roots in which Mayan languages

are especially rich:

tuk.tuk 'woodpecker'

Emphatic and distributive meanings are also accom-

plished by partial reduplication of -VC2 in CVC nouns

although now this may not be a productive process. There

are only a few examples. The noun root is not always known.

pqoqo 'dust' ( k'oxox 'tosted tortilla' (
chulul 'red sapote'

matzatz 'pineapple' (Barillas form)

This type of reduplication is similar to that found in the

productive derivation of emphatic adjectives from positional

roots: jop.an 'bright, shiny (P)' > jp.opi 'very bright'.

This process and its semantic implications are discussed

in 2.2.1.

Reduplication of the initial C in CVC roots forms

intransitive iterative aspect verbs (always further

derived by -on 'repetitive') from a class of affect words

which imitate sounds or motion.

tz'aq 'sound of making tortillas'

tz'aq.tz'.on.i 'making such a sound'

jach 'sound of papers rustling'

jach.j.on.i 'making such a sound'

Similar reduplicative processes derive positional roots

(see 2.2.1). Glottalization phenomena

In section, the analysis of the glottal

stop was presented and processes of deletion, weakening,

and movement affecting glottal stop were alluded to there.

In this section, these rules are described insofar as

possible. Also, processes affecting sounds in the environ-

ment of glottal stop and glottalized consonants are

described. The insertion of [7] before initial vowels has

been described in section Vowel glottalization

Vowels occurring in the environment of [?] or [C?]

may themselves be produced with a very slow vibration or

glottal constriction ([v]), sometimes called vocal fry or

'creaky voice'. This process is optional and is variably

applied: more often if the vowel is preceded by a glottal.

most often If the vowel Is both preceded and followed by

glottalized sounds. Some examples are

1. vowel follows a glottal stop


ay.mi jun.oq cuatro cuerda

ay 'existential particle'
mi 'dubitative particle'
jun 'one'
-oq partitivee'
cuatro 'four' (Sp)
cuerda 'unit of measure' (Sp)

'it is some four cuerdas (in width)'

2. vowel between glottalized sounds


xiwil.xa no' q'Lq'

xiwil 'many'
xa 'already'
no? 'animal (NCI)'
q'uq' 'quetzal'

'already many quetzals'


kan.eb' y.uk'a'

kan 'four'
-eb' 'inanimates (GNunC)'
y- '3 poss'
-uk'a? 'horn'
'his four horns'
Note that vowels which precede [+lo] consonants are not

usually glottalized: /u/ in uk'a?.

The effects of glottalized consonants in the

environment may remain after [?] deletion (

Compare these phrases:

[ci(floj _i1 yftoqh yEth b]

chi.j.tzaloj ix y.Etoq y.etb'i

chi income '
0 '3'
tzaloj- 'be happy (iv)'
ix woman (NC1)'
y- '3 poss'
-etoq 'with'
-etb'i 'husband'

'She is happy with her husband.'

[masc'aj ssgth]

max.0.tx'aj ix sat

max Compp'
0 '3'
tx'aj- 'wash (tv)'
ix 'woman (NCI)'
sat 'face'
'She washed her face.'
In the first sentence the obligatory initial ['] before

vowels remains on [?is] 'woman (NC1)'. In the second

sentence, the glottal stop has been deleted but after

glottalizing the vowel. Note that in the second of the

vowel glottalization examples above, the [7] in no7

'animal (MC1)' has been deleted but has not glottalized

the preceding vowel.

The rule of vowel glottalization may be formalized

as a variable phonological rule of the type described by

Labov (1971:465-474), which specifies, by angled brackets,

< >, that the glottalization is optional following

__ _

glottalized consonants and occurs most often when the vowel

also precedes such a consonant.

V glottaltal friction]>/ C < C >
[+1o] [+lo]

This rule must be ordered before glottal stop deletion. Glottal stop deletion

Glottal stop may be deleted as an optional process

in KSE rapid speech. This may affect either [7] proper or

[']deriving from underlying /q'/. This deletion especially

affects noun class markers(NC1) and clitics which begin or

end with a vowel. The following examples are part of a

connected text sequence and demonstrate the highly variable

and optional nature of this rule. (The NC1 no' 'animal' is

identical to the generic noun 'animal' and precedes it or

any specific animal or animal product name. See

for further details about NCI.)

k'am.xa jun.oq xim awal y.uj [no'n67]

...y.uj [no' nowax no' j6tomawdl] [rnrapa']

k'am 'neg' y- '3 poss'
-xa 'already' -uj 'by'
Jun 'one' wax 'mountain cat'
-oq partitivee' jot- 'dig up (tv)'
xim 'grain (NC1)' -om 'agentive'
awal 'cornfield' mapach 'racoon' (Sp)
'Now there Isrtt any corn (in the field) because of
the animals, because of the mountain cat, animals
that dig up the fields, the racoon.'

---I --- ----i~---P--- ~ ^--q~PLII~i~i~

Obviously, the deletion of glottal stop is governed by compli-

cated minor rules, perhaps marked for class membership or

syntactic function, since it appears that words of certain

syntactic roles or classes are more often subject to them,

e.g. clitics and noun class markers.

In the next example, the deleted glottal is part of

a directional clitic ek' 'passing by' which is a reduced

form of the intransitive motion verb ek'.i (/-i/ is an

intransitive stem formative which is lost in non-phrase-final



ayinti max.in.b'et.ek'...

ayinti '1'
max Compp'
in 'Isg'
b'et- 'go (iv)'
ek' 'pass by (dir)'

'I went'

Compare with the following example In which ek' functions

as a main verb:

[ylc Ik.7d7]

y.et chi.0.ek' k'u?

y- '3 poss' 0 '3'
-et 'of' ek'- 'pass by (iv)'
chi 'income' k'u7 'sun'
'during the day'

9 U~ ----il~

In this instance the initial glottal stop is still present

but has glottalized the preceding consonant after the reduc-
tion and loss of the intervening vowel ( (The

preceding underlying consonants have undergone palatalization
( and consonant reduction ( Nasal assimilation

The alvealar nasal, /n/, assimilates to the point
of articulation of following /p, b', k, k', q and q'/. It

may be realized as [m], [6] or [q]. This rule may be
formulated as

[+naslFa cork
L+co bacd / C
II back]

which says that /n/ assimilates to place of articulation
before non-continuent obstruents. As written this rule will

assimilate /n/ to following palatal affricates and there-

fore overlaps the palatalization rule, discussed in the next
section. These are examples of nasal assimilation.

[Gay jumpak7]
b'ay jun pak'
'at one side'

[ciwbt thims


chi income in- 'lsg poss'
w- 'Isg' -b'a 'self'
ut- 'do (tv)'

'I do (it) for myself'

[?amimaJkul l]

a.miman -k'ul.al

a '2sg poss'
miman 'large'
k'ul 'belly'
-al 'abstract nominalizer'

your patience'


y.ib'an q'in.al

y- '3 poss'
-Ib'an 'over'
q'in 'life; festival'
-al 'abstract nominalizer'

'all over the world' Palatalization

Palatalization occurs in KSE but it is very light.

The palatalization rule affects strid consonants pre-

ceding the co consonants, /ch, ch'. xh/, and the back

vowel /1/; it may be formulated as follows:



([] is a palatalized lateral.)
Examples follow.

patx.an yayji

patx 'flat (P)'
-an 'P formative'
yayji 'having shape'
'it is flat'

[to] i ircEqhl ayth Qh]

tol chi.in.cheq.lay.teq

tol 'that' cheq- 'send (tv)'
chi income -lay 'passivizer'
in 'Isg' teq 'action toward
speaker (dir)'

'that I was sent here' Consonant reduction phenomena Cluster reduction

Consonant reduction applies after nasal assimilation

and palatalization and reduces geminate clusters to long

consonants and, in rapid speech, long consonants to single

consonants. The following examples of such progressive

cluster reduction are given with derivations since the

phonological effects in each case are complex.

1. CC underlying:

/chi...b'es.on.kan ix xij/

chi incomen
9 '3'
b'es 'in order (P)'
-on 'pseudointransitive'


Nasal Ass 9
CC-C- s
Stress i

'remain (dir)'
'woman (NC)'


'she puts bowls in place'

2. CC resulting from nasal assimilation:

/b'ay in.mam/

b'ay 'at/with' mam 'father'


Nasal Ass m
CC-C- m*
C-C m
Stress a A


with my father'

3. CC resulting from palatalization;

/tzet chi.i.chi7 tzet chi.y.uk'.ej/

tzet 'what (interrogative)'
chi income '
*'y- '3'
chi7 'eat (tv)'
uk'- 'drink (tv)'
-ej 'tv form'

tetcici (ctcyuk?:j
Pal c
CC-.C- c- c-
V devoice i
Stress 1 E

'What does (he) eat? What does (he) drink?' Sibilant reduction

The sibilant consonants /xh/, phonetic [i], and, to

a greater degree the more complex /x/, phonetic [s], are

subject to point-of-articulation assimilation before /ch/

and the non-back fricatives, /s, xh/. This probably also

takes place before /tz/ although no example has been

attested in the corpus. As a result of this process, /x/ may

lose its retroflexion completely and merge phonetically

with other phonemes, as in the following examples.


kax chi.y.aq'.on ix

kax 'and' aq'- 'give (tv)'
chi income -on 'pseudointransitive'
y- '3' ix 'woman (NCI)'
'and she gives (it)'


a.ix chi.P.low ix

a 'indefinite demonstrative'
low- 'eat (iv)'

'the woman, she eats'

Such a reduction process is even more pronounced in rapid

speech where /xh/ and /x/ will reduce (become less complex)

when not in clusters.


xhi naq ayin

xhi '3 quotative'
naq 'man (NCI)'
ayin 'I'

'he said to me'

The rules for sibilant reduction are not well understood.

Day (1973a:16) describes a regressive assimilation and re-

duction process which applies cyclically to sibilant and

affricate clusters in Jacaltec. Further analysis in KSE may

reveal that x--reduction and other consonant reduction

phenomena are part of a similar process and may be collapsed
into one rule. Vowel reduction

Vowels in KSE are subject to many reduction pro-
cesses, especially in rapid speech. They may be lowered,

devoiced, or deleted. Their length may also be affected.

They may be shorter than usual (especially before glottal
stop) or they may be lengthened under stress or for para-

linguistic emphasis. Length of vowels appears to be pri-
marily conditioned by extra-linguistic factors and no further

attempt will be made here to describe it accurately. How-

ever, three other rules affecting vowels will be given. Vowel lowering

High vowels in KSE are relaxed and lowered (i.e.

/I/ [I] and /u/ [u]) in the environments of following
/1/ or uvular consonants. This lowering occurs even under
stress and even when [+hi] consonants are elsewhere in the

V [-tense] / -] +lat]

L-hti J





y- '3 poss'
icham 'old man'
-il 'abstract nominalizer'

'(her) husband'






'quetzal' Vowel devoicing

Devoicing of vowels after a voiceless consonant is

extremely frequent, especially when the consonant is

fricative. This phenomenon is not obligatory and, like

vowel gottalization (, is variably applied. It

is most common when voiceless consonants both precede and

follow the vowel. (In these examples, note additional

cases of consonant reduction.)

-- ---~----~

[kasith6j naqh

kax chi.O.toj naq

kax 'and'
chi income '
0 '3'

'and he goes'


xol xim w.awal.tu7

xol 'among'
xim 'grain (NCI)'
w- 'Isg poss'

'among my cornfields'

[kasc9ek' sututuqh]

kax chi.0.ek' sut.ut.oq

kax 'and'
chi 'incon'
0 '3'
ek' 'pass by (iv)'

'and it goes round and round'

This rule is easily formulated.

V < [-voice]>

toj 'go (iv)'
naq 'man (NCI)'

-awal 'cornfield'
tu7 'dem (there)'

'flat, round (P)'
'Redup -VC2 intensive'

C < >
[-voice] [-voice]

Note that this process operates in precisely the same way

and in the same environment as another case of phonetic

'spread' phenomena, namely vowel glottalization (

_ I _I
 Vowel deletion

Vowels are optionally deleted in KSE, especially

from unstressed clitics. This process is probably part of

a larger tendency to avoid vowel clusters across morpheme

boundaries, but also results from the stress pattern in KSE.

Vowel clusters are not entirely absent from the grammar

but are rare ( Various patterns of vowel drop-

ping may be illustrated by the single-syllable aspect

markers, which regularly lose vowels even in careful speech.

chi 'incompletive'

oq 'future'

max completivee'

[c ectoj

ach '2sg'
toj- 'go (iv)'
-i 'iv formative'

'you go'



In 'lsg'
q'an- 'help (tv)'
-a7 'tv formative'

'(he) will help me'



w- 'Isg'
ab'- 'heat (tv)'
-ej 'tv form'

'I heard (it)'

Max regularly loses the entire first syllable when the vowel

is lost. The conditioning for this rule is complex and

undoubtedly sytactic in large part.

In rapid speech, the vowel deletion phenomenon is

particularly common and often produces consonant clusters

which would be completely unacceptable in less casual speech.

chi.P.toj ix

'she goes'


xal tinani xin

xal 'emphatic particle'
tinani 'now'
xin 'well, then, pues'4

'well, now'

1.1.3 Distributional Constraints

In this section the restrictions on occurrence of

phonemes in KSE will be discussed. These restrictions in-

clude those on the combination of phonemes into clusters,

those on the combination of phonemes in roots, and those on

the general shape of roots themselves. Information on

frequency phenomena pertaining to KSE phonemes is also

briefly summarized in this section.

 Morpheme structure

KSE roots of all classes are predominately CVC or

CV in shape. This is the overwhelming pattern in all Mayan

languages and is a hypothesized feature of proto-Mayan.

Nouns and attributive roots are CVC or CV. Some

nouns have rarer shapes such as CVCVC: sanik 'ant', xajaw

'moon', and taqin 'dry'; CVCV: tzima 'gourd bowl'; and VC:

ich 'chile', ix 'woman' and ak' 'new'. A very small number

of noun roots have the shape V7: a7 'water' and -e7 'tooth'.

All intransitive verb roots carry a stem formative,

/-i/, in citation form which is lost in some derivations or

in phrase formation. The roots themselves are primarily

CVC: way- 'sleep', kam- 'die'. Intransitive directional

verbs of motion which also function as verbal clitics are

primarily VC in shape: aj- 'go up', ul- 'return'.

Intransitive verb roots are commonly CVC or CV(7).

The former require one of several possible formative

suffixes. Transitive verb roots include mag'- 'hit some-

thing', 1o7 'eat', xu7 'blow on'. The irregular quotative

verb root chi occurs without a final glottal stop and with-

out a stem formative. Other transitive verbs are VC:

iq- 'carry', och- 'want', ab'- 'feel, sense, hear'.

All but a tiny handful of positional roots are CVC

as are all onomatopoetic roots such as tzin 'sound of a

bell' and soq 'sound of a large snake'. The distributional

patterns observed in the positional class are discussed in

detail in section 2.1.

Particles and clitics in KSE are also CV or CVC:

ta 'if', xa 'already', k'am 'neg part', kax 'and'. All

personal pronoun formatives are VC: in 'I'; on 'we'.

Numerals include the shapes CVC: kan 'four'; VC: ox

'three'; CVCVC: waxag 'eight'; and, in one case, V: 0

'five'. (This morpheme is usually realized with a glide

when followed by a V-initial suffix. Compare [byeb' 'five

inanimates' and l]k'on 'five animals'. In the practical

orthography these glides are written as if they were


Suffixes may be CV, VC, or CVC in shape: -b'i

inchoativee intransitivizer'; -an 'positional formative';

-b'al 'instrumental'. Prefixes may be C, CV, VC, or V in

shape, all Illustrated by possessive markers: w- 'Isg, V-

initial'; ko- 'lpl, C-initial'; in- 'Isg, C-initial'; and

a- '2sg, C-initial'.

There is a large number of longer indivisible forms

in every stem class but these can be assumed to be frozen

compounds, frozen derivatives, or borrowings. In the case

of frozen forms, morpheme cuts are Impossible in a synchronic

grammar although many can be identified historically.


Examples of these longer forms include meltzoj- 'return (iv)'

echb'an- 'wait for (tv), wojb'atz' 'type of large monkey'.

Many older Spanish loans as well as loans from other sources

often have unusual canonical shapes although the item may

be accepted by speakers as completely native. See section

1.1.4 for a discussion of loan phonology and Appendix B

for a list of common loanwords. Cooccurrence restrictions

All vowels occur in root-initial, medial, and final

position. With two exceptions, all consonants occur in all

positions as well: /q/ does not occur in morpheme-initial

position and /r/ has not been found initially in any clearly

native roots. C1VC2 roots in which the consonants differ

only in glottalization are rare In KSE but do occur:

ch'ich- 'scattered (P)', q'eq 'black', kok' 'small (of

animals)'. Such roots are uncommon in all Mayan languages

and absent entirely in some (Hopkins 1967:49).

Affricates do not occur in CVC roots when the other

consonant is also an affricate unless they are both produced

at the same point of articulation. For example, tz'utz'

'coatimundi' occurs but *tzuch does not. The [-strident]

fricatives have a similar restriction: xixoj 'smell of

fresh meat or blood' occurs but *saxh does not.
 Clusters Vowel clusters

Clusters of two vowels are permitted in KSE although

they are not common. They often result from []j-deletion

( Most potential clusters are reduced by the

loss of one of the vowels ( For example, the

incompletive aspect marker chi loses its vowel when affixed

to a vowel-initial stem. Compare



on 'lpl
b'ey- 'walk (iv)'
-i 'iv formative'

'we walk'




ko 'Ipl
maq'- 'hit (tv)'
-a7 'tv formative'

'we hit (something)'

Vowel clusters are also broken up phonetically by

the formation of transition glides. These have been dis-

cussed elsewhere ( Identical contiguous vowels

are reduced in discourse to one vowel. If the vowel sequence

results from segment loss the remaining vowel is more likely

to remain long: maya > [ma-1] 'already'. Consonant clusters

Clusters of two consonants are common in KSE across

morpheme boundaries. They result from compounding or affixa-

tion. In some cases it is not possible to separate the

morphemes, and the resulting clusters must be considered

root clusters: -uxhtaq 'man's brother'.

No restrictions have been found on what consonants

can cluster. Fricatives as C1 in clusters are very frequent

because of the high frequency of max completivee' and, for

some speakers, s- '3 pl possessive'. Sibilant clusters

however are especially prone to reduction processes (

Initial clusters in early Spanish loanwords were

reduced by the insertion of some vowel (1.1.4) but many

more modern loans do have initial consonant clusters.

Initial CC sequences do not occur underlyingly in native

KSE roots.

In natural speech, clusters of as many as three

consonants may occur across morpheme boundaries. Examples

taken from text include the following which do not result

from any reduction processes. Examples of clusters which

do result from vowel reduction are given in section


ix s.q'aq'

ix 'woman (NC1)'
s- '3 poss'
q'aq' 'fire'

'her fire'


y.et s.lob'.ej

y-'s- '3 poss'
-et 'of'
lob'ej 'food'

'food for him'


jun.Jun s.xub'

Jun 'one'
xub' 'thigh'

'each of his thighs'

[iaiiatith wn]

iJ.an chi.9.tit w.in

ij 'having the point against (P)'
-an 'P form' tit- 'come (iv)'
chi income w- 'lsg poss'
0 '3' -In 'against, at'

'(it) cones against me'

_ _


Frequency counts have been taken on KSE phonemes in

running text, based on underlying forms. Each morpheme was

counted only once even if it occurred several times. Bor-

rowed morphemes were eliminated in calculating absolute

phoneme frequencies. Glottal stops were not counted. Ad-

ditional frequency data on phonemic segments in the posi-

tional class are reported in section 2.1.2 and complete re-

sults of frequency counts are included as Appendix A.

In general, the results for running text show, not

unexpectedly, that the most complex consonants are the

least frequent. These include all glottalized consonants

except /b'/. Even less common than these are /xh/ and /r/.

Both are common in loanwords, however. The low occurrence

of /xh/ is quite startling since the more complex retroflex

fricative has an extremely high rate of occurrence. Of the

five most frequent consonant phonemes three are sonorants:

the two nasals and /1/. The others are /t/ and, inter-

estingly, /x/. Unlike other /c'/s, /b'/ is rather common.

Among the vowels, /a/ occurs three times as often

as any of the others; /o/ and /i/ occur an almost equal

number of times. /e/ and /u/ also occur with equal fre-

quency but a third less often than /o/ and /i/.

Frequency data are hard to interpret and are subject

to a large number of variables. Nevertheless, frequency

of sounds is undoubtedly related in some way to relative

naturalness in phonology and other questions. The data for

KSE are made available here in the hope they may be useful

to investigators interested in such questions.

1.1.4 Nativization and Loan Phonology

Although Spanish is the source for the greatest

number of borrowings into KSE and other Mayan languages,

it has not been the only one. Before the Conquest Mayan

speakers were in contact with speakers from language

families such as Uto-Aztecan (Nahuatl), Zapotecan, and

Mixe-Zoque. Kaufman (1964:131-135) discusses non-Spanish

borrowings throughout the Mayan family. Several items that

he mentions are present in modern KSE and include such

forms as kakaw 'cocoa' from Nahuatl and asun 'cloud' and

unin 'child' both from Mixe-Zoque. These together with a

large number of early Spanish loans are not recognized by

native speakers as other than native KSE words. None in-

cludes phonological segments which are non-Mayan and are

only identifiable by their structure or by linguistic

comparisons done with the source languages.

Words of Spanish origin are, of course, the most

frequent loans into KSE as into other Mayan languages.

The borrowing process has been a constant one for over

four hundred years; and, consequently, there are degrees

of assimilation or nativization (cf. Kaufman 1971:12f) as

well as examples of reborrowing. Among the very early

borrowings are a large set of Spanish proper names which

have completely replaced indigenous names. These, together

with the names of animals and products introduced by the

Spaniards, illustrate a series of assimilation processes

affecting the non-Mayan segments. Many of these processes

continue to be observed today in the speech of monolingual

and bilinguals. Even functional bilinguals have many of

these assimilation processes both while speaking Spanish

and on loanwords in KSE. The most common of such processes

are described below.

1. Substitution of /p/ for Sp. (f]: KSE pinka

'plantation' < Sp finca; KSE opisyo 'work'

substitution heard in modern KSE and other

Mayan languages. Its pervasiveness is

probably not unrelated to the high frequency

of [fp] a voiceless bilabial-labiodental

articulation of /f/ in Guatemalan Spanish

(cf. Predmore 1945).

University of Florida Home Page
© 2004 - 2010 University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.
All rights reserved.

Acceptable Use, Copyright, and Disclaimer Statement
Last updated October 10, 2010 - - mvs