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Yucatec Maya


Admission requirements

Propedeutic year must be completed


Yucatec Maya (Mayathan) is one of the languages of the Mayan language family and is spoken on the Yucatán peninsula in Mexico by approximately 800.000 people. Yucatec Maya is a verb-initial language with a structure that is partly ergative (‘split-ergative’). It has an elaborate system of numeral classifiers and distinguishes several types of possession (alienable, inalienable). It has distinctive tone and glottalized consonants.

The present course includes a short introduction to the history of the Mayan language of Yucatán and a detailed overview of the grammar of contemporary Yucatec, including its basic vocabulary. The reading lessons are based on conversations, short stories and tales that were collected in Yucatan during fieldwork.

Course objectives

The student acquires knowledge and insight into the grammar and sound system of Yucatec Maya. He/she is enabled to interpret and translate elementary Yucatec texts with the help of a dictionary. He/she obtains a basis of knowledge and familiarity with the Yucatec language on which a practical user knowledge can be developed in a fieldwork situation, particularly in a context of anthropological or archaeological field research. He/she acquires the linguistic basis that is necessary to undertake a study of colonial and pre-colonial Yucatec and its native hieroglyphic writing system. He/she gains insight into the socioeconomic situation of the present-day Yucatec Maya.

Timetable h3. Mode of instruction

Lectures and reading material

Assessment method

Grammatical analysis and translation of a text with the help of a dictionary (Maya > English).


Only for practical communications Blackboard

Reading list

Suggested reading:
W. Hanks, Referential practice: language and lived space among the Maya (University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1990)

A. Re Cruz, The two milpas of Chan Kom: a study of socioeconomic and political transformations in a Maya community (State University of New York Press: Albany, 1996)

Christine A. Kray, The sense of tranquility: bodily practice and ethnic classes in Yucatán (Ethnology 44(4):337-55, 2005)

V. Bricker, E. Po’ot Yah and O. Dzul de Po’ot, A Dictionary of the Maya Language as spoken in Hocabá, Yucatán (University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City 1998).
Order via bookfinder.com or borrow from University Library. It is highly recommended that you buy/borrow the book as working with the dictionary will be intensive.


Students are requested to register for the course and the examination through uSis

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website
for information on how to apply.

Contact information

E.B. Carlin
Christian W. R. Klingler


Teacher: Christian W.R. Klingler