Image - Cacao Pod Vessel - K6706 © Justin Kerr FAMSI © 2001:
Frauke Sachse

Xinka Lexicography and Morphology
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Research Year:  2000
Culture:  Xinka
Chronology:  Contemporary
Location:  Santa Rosa, Guatemala

Table of Contents

Planification and Implementation of the Project
Research Results
The Linguistic Situation in the Xinka Area
The Data
Xinka Lexicography
Xinka Morphology
Dissemination of Research Results
Concluding Remarks
Sources Cited


Here I wish to present my project on "Xinka lexicography and morphology" which I have been able to carry out last year owing to the generous funding from the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc. (FAMSI). The project pursued the aim of documenting contemporary Xinka language knowledge and analysing it subsequently with regard to the language’s lexical and morphological typology. Purpose and relevance of this research shall be argued in the following.

In the field of Mesoamerican studies, the culture and languages of the Xinka in Southeastern Guatemala have never been subject to very intensive ethnographic or linguistic research. Their language not affiliated and their cultural behaviour distinct from other Mesoamerican ethnic groups, the Xinka are of unknown origin. Formerly inhabiting an area from the Pacific coast to the Southeastern highlands covering the present-day department of Santa Rosa as well as parts of Jutiapa and Jalapa, the Xinka bordered on settlements of Ch’orti and Poqom Maya as well as Pipil groups, which attributes a certain significance to Xinka presence in the Mesoamerican cultural area.

In this settlement area, Lyle Campbell and Terrence Kaufman have distinguished the variants of Guazacapán, Chiquimulilla, Jumaytepeque, and Yupiltepeque as four different Xinka languages, which form one extremely moribund language family with the Xinka of Yupiltepeque being considered extinct since the beginning of the 20th century (Campbell, 1972:187). Concerning the status of extinction of the other variants there have been deviating reports covering a spectrum from total extinction (Kaufman, 1997: personal communication) to more than 300 speakers (Museo Ixchel, 1996).

The linguistic documentation of the Xinka languages is scant. The only linguistic data accessible for academic research are a few concise vocabularies or word lists as well as short and insufficient grammatical descriptions. There is, furthermore, a colonial grammar with the title "Arte de la lengua szinca" written by the priest Manuel Maldonado de Matos around 1770 (forthcoming: Sachse, 2001). Together with the "Estudios lingüísticos" of Eustorgio Calderón (1908) and Otto Schumann’s thesis on the "Xinca of Guazacapán" (1967) this latin style description is the most extensive source on a Xinka language which is available heretofore. Neither of the mentioned sources of linguistic data on Xinka yields substantial information on the language’s grammatical structure. Xinka morphology and it’s linguistic typology have not been subject to intensive research.

The project "Xinka lexicography and morphology" was aimed at acquiring better information on the structure of Xinka languages by documenting the language knowledge of present-day speakers. Research was, therefore, focussed on the compilation of lexical data and the morphological structure of Xinka, hoping for new insights on the languages’ affiliation and on the impact other languages have had on Xinka (e.g. loan words, structural borrowings) (see Campbell, 1972; Kaufman, 1977). Furthermore, searching for present-day Xinka speakers and working with these informants of rather advanced age was expected to clarify the linguistic situation of Xinka concerning it’s state of extinction.

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Submitted 02/20/2001 by:

University of Bonn

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