by Lawrence Feldman
In the seventeenth century several Franciscan friars collected information for a dictionary of the eastern lowland Chol language today known as Cho'ltí'. This language was once spoken within the area south of Lake Petén Itza, north of the Lago de Izabal and east of Rio Usumacinta. Today the language is not known from any portion of this region and the closely related language, Chorti, is rapidly disappearing from the eastern highlands.
Cho'ltí' disappeared with the Spanish instigated population removals of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. A similar fate awaited the dictionaries of Cho'ltí', only one of which survived in a distant land, at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia (Arte y diccionario en lengua Choltí, 1695).
My work is a compilation derived, in large part, from that early dictionary. A few words need to be said regarding it. The 1935 Gates Arte y diccionario de lengua Choltí, a manuscript copied from Libro Grande of fr. Pedro Morán, is not identical to the 1695 manuscript version in the library of the American Philosophical Society. What was published in 1935 is a transcription of the 1695 dictionary and that transcription is not complete. Gates published most of it but small portions were excluded from publication. I have tried to include a complete version of the original manuscript text.
I have added the occasional Cho'ltí' words mentioned in Cano (1685), Gallego (1676), Tovilla (1630) and Ximénez (1695) as well as a few more words of Salazar (1620). They, in total, can't be even called a word list but they do supplement the dictionary text.
The original text is Spanish - Cho'ltí'. I used the text of Brian Stross (1990) to translate several words (as noted) into English. Most of the text was translated into English using standard Spanish/English dictionaries (especially that of Collins 1971). The function, as I see it, of this "dictionary" is to provide a handy guide to the Cho'ltí' language. It is not a final version, but I hope it will be useful for those interested in working with the colonial past of the southern Maya lowlands.
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