Link to enlarge Scribe from K1185 ©Justin Kerr MAYA HIEROGLYPHIC WRITING


Introduction to the Vocabularies

Dictionaries and vocabularies are instrumental in the recording and documentation of indigenous languages and in Maya studies are invaluable tools for any epigrapher at any given time. Entries in these dictionaries or vocabularies provide the basic linguistic evidence on which new decipherments can be based.

At times, for certain languages, there are no dictionaries or vocabularies available in domestic libraries when the epigrapher is doing his research. In those cases available grammatical studies may be used as the basic material on which to compile a dictionary of vocabulary. The four vocabularies presented here are based on three grammatical studies and one study on spoken texts with a grammatical overview:

Lacandón de Najá

Bruce S., Roberto D.
1968   Gramática del Lacandón. Publicaciones 21. Mexico, D.F.: Departemento de Investigaciones Antropológicas, Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia.

Tzotzil of San Lorenzo Zinacantan

Haviland, John Beard
1981   Sk’op sotz’leb: El tzoztil de San Lorenzo Zinacantan. México, D.F.: Instituto de Investigaciones Filológicas, Centro de Estudios Mayas, Universidad Autónoma de México.

Itzá of San José, Petén

Hofling, Charles Andrew
1991   Itzá Maya Texts, with a Grammatical Overview. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.

Ch’orti’ de Jocotán

Pérez Martínez, Vitalino
1994   Gramática del idioma ch’ortí’. La Antigua, Guatemala: Proyecto Lingüístico "Francisco Marroquín".

At the time these vocabularies were compiled access to published and fully edited dictionaries of these languages was limited or they were simply not yet available. The four vocabularies were compiled in 1995 and 1997 and each vocabulary has been edited in the language in which the grammar was written. Each vocabulary also employs the different classes as recognized by the original author to identify separate linguistic items. As a caveat, none of the vocabularies here presented can be considered to be a complete representation of the original language, but the vocabularies do provide a good comparative introduction to each of the languages concerned and may serve as helpful tools in Maya epigraphic studies. Any omision or incorrect entry in these vocabularies is solely the responsibility of the compiler.

Vocabulary in the Ch’oltí’ Language   Added July 2004
A transcription of the "Bocabulario Grande" by Fray Francisco Morán (1695)

Since its publication in facsimile by William E. Gates in 1935, the grammar, the confessions, and the vocabulary of the Ch’oltí’ language have been of great importance to Maya linguistic and epigraphic research. It is at present the only document that records the now extinct Ch’oltí’ language, once spoken in a large area in the central Petén in Guatemala (an area in which one could find the communities of San Lucas, in the Chol region, and Dolores de Lacandón in the western section). The present study provides a full transcription of the "Bocabulario Grande" as compiled by Fray Francisco Morán, which carries a date of 1695 on its last page.

About the compiler

Erik Boot (1962) is an anthropologist with a degree from Leiden University, the Netherlands. Currently he is working towards his Ph.D. degree, also at Leiden University. He has published on a variety of epigraphic, iconographic, anthropological, and historiographic topics, both nationally and internationally. He has presented papers at several international Maya conferences, both in Europe and the United States, in most cases on the topic of the history of Chichen Itzá. In 2000-2002 he taught Maya epigraphy courses in the Department of Indigenous Languages and Cultures at Leiden University. Some of his most recent contributions have been posted on the web at and His main interests are the texts and imagery on painted, carved, and incised ceramics, the origin and history of Chichen Itzá, and the history of Tikal and the Petexbatun sites.

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