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

A Historical Dictionary Of Chol (Mayan): The Lexical Sources From 1789 To 1935
by Nicholas A. Hopkins and J. Kathryn Josserand
with the assistance of Ausencio Cruz Guzmán

Table of Contents

Introduction to the Historical Dictionary Of Chol (Mayan)
History of the Project
The Chol Sources
Dictionary Entries
A Brief Sketch of Chol Grammar
Feldman's (1984) Study of Chol Derivation
The Historical Dictionary Of Chol (Mayan)

Introduction to the Historical Dictionary Of Chol (Mayan)

This historical dictionary of Chol, which lists and analyzes all of the lexical items that were reported in significant numbers in published sources from 1789 to 1935, has been some thirty years in the making. Along the way, support has been provided by the Centro de Investigaciones Superiores del INAH (CIS-INAH) and its successor, Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS), National Science Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc., and the Council on Research and Creativity, Florida State University. We gratefully acknowledge this support. Opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsoring institutions.

History of the Project

We began collecting material on Chol in 1978. Attendance at an early hieroglyphic workshop led by Linda Schele had alerted us to the need for more information on the modern language, arguably the Mayan language most closely related to the language of the Classic period script (and at the very least a language that could shed light on Classic Maya). Likewise, in our roles as teachers and trainers of Mexican anthropology students (at CIS-INAH and the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Iztapalapa), we were looking for an area in southern Mexico where we might bring students for field work. After a few days in and around Palenque, Chiapas, trying to make contact with suitable informants, Merle Greene Robertson introduced us to one of her principal assistants, Ausencio Cruz Guzmán. Chencho, as he is universally known, is a fluent bilingual in Spanish and Chol, and he became an ideal informant. We began serious work by eliciting the lexicon of Terrence S. Kaufman's (1962) Mayan Vocabulary Survey questionnaire, a wordlist of some 1500 items relating to Mesoamerican culture. Soon we began recording stories and folktales, having discovered that Chencho is a talented storyteller. We began to spend more and more time in Palenque, and we brought Chencho to Mexico City to work there in the interims. In 1981 we spent the Fall semester in the field with students from CIS-INAH and the UAM, adding ethnography to our repertory of studies. In 1982 our relationship with Mexican institutions came to an end, and we returned to the United States. However, we continued to collect and analyze material on Chol.

Further work on Chol was supported by NSF (Linguistics) grant BNS-8308506, "Chol Texts, Grammar, and Vocabulary," 1983-85; and NEH (Research Tools) grant RT-20643-86 and NSF BNS-8520749, "Chol (Mayan) Dictionary Database," 1986-88. Under the first of these we advanced our grammatical analysis of the language and prepared for publication a set of Chol texts, T'an ti Wajali (see Hopkins and Josserand 1994); the original field recordings of these stories are posted on AILLA (Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America, Under the second set of grants we assembled the published material on Chol that forms this dictionary, checked the lexical items in the field (usually with Ausencio Cruz), and entered the data in a database. At this time the first personal computers were on the market, and in 1983 we purchased two state-of-the-art computers, an Osborne Executive and a Kaypro 10, along with a 20 MB hard drive and a Diablo 360ECS printer. The database software was Programmable Text Processor (PTP), developed by the Summer Institute of Linguistics for CP/M operating systems.

Data from each source was entered into a separate database, but each database had the same format and entries were designed to facilitate eventual merging of the files. Each record began with a "sorting code," usually the root on which the item was based; when merged, the files could be sorted on this column and items based on the same roots would be grouped together. Following this code, the lexical item was entered in the form we considered to be correct, and this was followed by a grammatical classification based on our analysis of Chol grammar. Next came English and Spanish glosses, then a reference to the source. Source references were complete bibliographic references, e.g., Stoll 1938:52; thus, after the files were merged and sorted, source information would accompany each record. Following the bibliographic reference, the original citation was enclosed in brackets, e.g., <yaálk'ö> (for /yal k'äb'/ 'finger'). If the original gloss was not the one cited as the English or Spanish gloss, the original gloss followed the bracketed form. Comments and examples ended the record; these were not carried forward into the present dictionary, but have been replaced by other comments and examples as well as cross-references.

This dictionary database has had a tortured history. The separate databases were completed and printed out as part of our NEH grant report (Josserand and Hopkins 1988). Bound into three volumes, some two hundred copies of this report were produced over the next few years and were intensively used by epigraphers searching for lexical support for hypotheses concerning Classic period Maya hieroglyphic writing. The first volume (Part I) included a report on the project itself and a series of research papers produced during the period of the grant (see Bibliography, below). The second volume (Part II) contained an introduction to the Chol dictionary database and a set of grammar notes (Fascicles 1-2), followed by the lexical databases drawn from six sources (Fascicles 3-8) and anticipating a seventh database that still needed field checking (based on Becerra 1935). These fascicles included Proto-Mayan and Proto-Cholan antecedents of dictionary entries (compiled by Terrence S. Kaufman), Colonial Chol calendrical names (Campbell 1984), and the 1789 lexicon derived from Fernández (1892), the nineteenth century wordlists of Berendt (Stoll 1938) and Sapper (1907), and two early twentieth century lists compiled by Starr (1902). The final volume (Part III) included two fascicles, the lexicon elicited through the Mayan Vocabulary Survey questionnaire, and that collected by means of Monosyllable Dictionary elicitation, both the products of our field work.

It is fortunate that this material had been printed out, because soon after its publication, the CP/M operating system was abandoned, and the "floppy disks" that stored the data became obsolete. An attempt was made to write the data over to the new systems of hardware and software, but failed because of system incompatibility and the lack of technical expertise on the part of the investigators. Lacking a high-tech solution to the problem of retention of data, the entire set of databases was once again key-boarded. The original Osborne and Kaypro computers now having been replaced by Macintosh hardware, the software chosen for this task-none too wisely-was Panorama, a database system designed to facilitate on-line access. Since virtually nobody else used this software, the data were eventually written over to Excel. There it languished until 2008, when a colleague, Elizabeth Purdum, volunteered to carry out the merger of the separate databases into one file, a task that had exceeded the investigators' grasp of the technology. The merger accomplished, the database was converted to a text file. Over a period of months in 2009 that file was edited to produce the present document, deleting the tabs that had delimited columns in the database program, putting in appropriate punctuation, formatting and ordering the entries, cross-referencing, making additional comments, etc. A project begun in 1978 finally yielded a concrete result thirty years later. In the meantime, several specialized studies had drawn on the data, including Josserand and Hopkins (2005) and Hopkins et al. (2008).

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Introduction to the Historical Dictionary Of Chol (Mayan)  (543 KB)

A Historical Dictionary Of Chol (Mayan):  The Lexical Sources From 1789 To 1935  (713 KB)

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