Link to enlarge K6042 (Las Bocas - Ceramic Vessel) THE FOUNDATION RESEARCH DEPARTMENT

A Grammar of the Yucatecan Mayan Language
by David & Alejandra Bolles


Demonstrative Pronouns and Related Parts of Speech

39.  Demonstrative pronouns are directly related to demonstrative adjectives which were introduced in the chapter on nouns. The basis of both the demonstrative pronouns and demonstrative adjectives, which we will call here Set C, is as follows:

singular plural
-a (this) -oba (these)
-o (that) -obo (those)
-e (that over there) -obe (those over there)


40.  The demonstrative adjective is built from the above set by placing the particle le before the word or clause which is being modified:

singular plural
le (word/clause)a le (word/clause)oba
le (word/clause)o le (word/clause)obo
le (word/clause)e le (word/clause)obe


le kino "that day"
le yax kino "that blue day" (= dry season)
le macoba "these men"
le nucuch macoba "these big men"


41.  The demonstrative pronouns are formed from Set C as follows:

singular plural
lela (this) leloba (these)
lelo (that) lelobo (those)
lele (that over there) lelobe (those over there)


42.  There are two sets of locative pronouns which are formed from Set C by prefixing it with the particles te- and he-. The particle te- is used generally and the particle he- emphatically. The resulting pronoun set is defective, lacking both the third form (-e) and the plural forms:

tela (here) hela (here)
telo (there) helo (there)

An alternative for telo (there) is tolo (there).

The locative pronouns tela and telo can be expanded by inserting an adverb or adjective into these words. The resulting adverbial clause makes the position of the object much more precise:

te caanalo up there
te caanala up here
te cabalo down there
te cabala down here
te pachilo back there
te ichila in here
te nachilo far over there


43.  The demonstrative pronoun set can be combined with te- and he- to form a demonstrative locative pronoun set:

singular plural
le tela (this one here) le teloba (these here)
le telo (that one there) le telobo (those there)
le tele (the one over there) le telobe (the ones over there.)
singular plural
le hela (this one here) le heloba (these here)
le helo (that one there) le helobo (those there)
le hele (the one over there) le helobe (the ones over there.)


44.  Set C is also combined with bey- (like, as). The resulting set is defective:

beya     (like this)
beyo     (like that)


Interrogative Pronouns and Adverbs

45.  Interrogative pronouns and adverbs in Mayan function much like their counterparts in English and differ mainly in idiomatic usage. We treat these interrogative words here together since their function is similar.

Baax? Baan?   (What?)
Baax a kati?   "What do you want?"
Baan ta betah?   "What did you do?"

Bahux?   (How much? (that is, "What is the price?"))
Bahux le hanalo?   "How much is that food?"

Bikix?   (When?)
Bikix ca ulech?   "When did you return?"

Bix?   (How?)
Bixi?   "How's that?"
Bix a kaba?   "How's (what's) your name?"

Bucaah?   (How much?, How many?, What quantity?)
Bucaah a kati?   "How much do you want?"

Maax?   (Who?)
Maax cu bin telo?   "Who goes there?"

Macalmac?   (Which?, Which one?)
Macalmac a kati?   "Which one do you want?"

Tuux?   (Where?)
Tuux ca bin?   "Where are you going?"

The words baax (what?), maax (who?), and tuux (where?) tend to shift their glottal-stopped vowels in standard conversation to regular, elongated, or glided vowels.

The words baax (what) and maax (who) are combined with various suffixes to make other interrogative pronouns:

With -tial (here meaning "for"):

Baaxtial?   (Why? For what?)
Baaxtial binech Ho?   "Why did you go to Mérida?"
Baaxtial le hao?   "What is the water for?"

Maaxtial?   (For whom?)
Maaxtial le hao?   "Who is the water for?"

With kin (day):

Baaxkin?   (When?)
Baaxkin ulech?   "When did you return?"

With -ten (origin not certain):

Baaxten? Baanten?   (Why?, For what reason?)
Baaxten talech holace?   "Why did you come yesterday?"
Baanten ta betic beyo?   "Why are you doing it like that?"

Notice that in some of the examples given in the interrogative sentences above that sometimes the sentence ends with the suffix -i or more rarely with -e. These suffixes seem to serve the purpose of marking the sentence as an interrogative sentence. However they are used only with certain verbs and not with others and we can not discern any rule which would help the reader in making a decision about when to use them.

Baaxtial binech?   "Why did you go?"
Baaxtial binechi?   "Why did you go?"

The suffix -i is optional.

Baaxtial binech Ho?   "Why did you go to Mérida?"

The suffix -i can not be used.

Only with the verb kat (want, desire), as long as the verb is the last word in the sentence, does the suffix -i seem to be obligatory.

Baax a kati?   "What do you want?"
Baax a kat a hante?   "What do you want to eat?"

Many of the interrogative words, when the suffix -i is affixed to them, can stand by themselves:

Baaxi?   "What's that?"
Bixi?   "How's that?"
Maaxi?   "Who?"
Tuuxi?   "Where?"

The suffixes -i and -e are also used for negation bracketing and will be looked at in Section 59 on negation.


For some of the above interrogative pronouns there are standard answering formulae just as in English:

Baaxten?, Baanten? (Why?) Tumen, Tiolal (Because.)
Baaxtial? (Why? For what?) Utial (So that)
Maaxtial? (For whom?) Utial ("For", or one of the possessive pronouns.)

Q:  Baaxten binech Ho?   "Why did you go to Mérida?"
A:  Tumen yan in kaxtic meyah.   "Because I have to find work."

Q:  Baaxtial talech uaye?   "Why did you come here?"
A:  Utial in uilic in cic.   "So that I can see my sister."

Q:  Maaxtial le hao?   "For whom is the water?"
A:  Utial in uicham.   "For my husband."

The conditional particle he when used before an interrogative pronoun or adverb has the meaning of the suffix "-ever" in English. This formula is used as in English in an answer to a question in which the answerer is giving the questioner the option. Often the interrogative pronoun/adverb can be followed by the particle -ac:

he baaxac whatever
he macalmac whichever
he maax, he maaxac whoever
he bix, he bixac however
he tuux, he tuuxac wherever

Q:  Baaxkin c' bin Ho?   "When are we going to Mérida?"
A:  He baaxac kin a kati.   "Whatever day you want."

Q:  Bix cin in takancunze a he?   "How shall I cook your egg?"
A:  He bix a kati.   "However you want to."

Q:  Tuux cin in cultal?   "Where shall I sit?"
A:  He tuux a kati.   "Wherever you want to."

By suffixing the particle -e to the particle -ac, resulting in the suffix -ace, an independent answering phrase is formed:

He baaxace. "Whatever."
He bixace. "However."
He maaxace. "Whoever."
He tuuxace. "Wherever."

In older colonial writing balx was the word for "what?", bahunx was the word for "how many?", bicx was the word for "how?", bikinx was the word for "when?", macx was the word for "who?", and tabx was the word for "where?", etc. The word bal or today baal means "thing" and the word mac means "man" or "one" (person). The word bic in this context shows up only in colonial usage as the word for "how?". The meaning of tab is uncertain as used in this context, but there is a companion word tub which seems not to have been used in an interrogative context which means "where". It seems that the true form for some of these interrogative words should be baal ix, bic ix, and mac ix, etc., the particle ix here being an interrogative marker. In any case the final consonant in these cases has been dropped resulting in the modern words baax, bix, and maax, etc. It is evident that the same process is true for tabx / tub, resulting in tuux, but the line is not quite as direct. Exactly when this change took place is hard to determine, but even in material originally written in 1628 (U Zuyua Than yetel Naat) we see both the old and the modern forms in the same text. Of course we only have copies of that material so it may well be that the modern forms were introduced at the time the copies were made.

One could also conjecture that the word bucaah, and its declarative companion bencaah, are derived from the phrase bahun u caah, meaning "what size or what quantity is he/she/it?", and that just as was shown above in Section 37 with bin in caah resulting in nin caah in modern speech, so too bahun u caah has been abbreviated to bucaah.


46.  The negative particle mix, an alternative word for ma (no) and derived from the colonial form ma ix, can be prefixed to some of the interrogative pronouns and adverbs to form the negation of these pronouns and adverbs. In some instances the final consonant suffers a change which shows something about the original nature of these interrogative words.

mixbaal nothing
mixbikin never
mixmac no one
mixtuux nowhere

The colonial forms for the words formed with maix are:

maix bal nothing
maix mac no one
maix tab nowhere

In these cases to derive the modern form mix instead of the i of ix being dropped as happened with bal ix, mac ix, bic ix, and tab ix the a of ma has been contracted out.


47.  When the question "How many?" is related to a particular object then the interrogative particle hay- is combined with the number classifier which is used for that object. In Section 71 we will look at the importance of number classifiers and the objects which are classified by them. The three most commonly used number classifiers are -ppel (inanimate objects generally), -tul (animate objects), and -ten (times an action is done).

Hayppel?   "How many inanimate objects?"
Hayppel kaan yan tech?   "How many hammocks do you have?"

Haytul?   "How many animate objects?"
Haytul tzo yan ti?   "How many tom turkeys does he have?"

Hayten?   "How many times?"
Hayten binech Ho?   "How many times have you gone to Mérida?"

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