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

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


48.  Modifying words and particles are divided into two parts of speech: adjectives and adverbs. Before looking at each of these parts of speech mention should be made of methods which intensify or diminish the quality of words in both of these parts of speech.

The quality of a modifier can be intensified or diminished by placing one of various adverbial particles before the modifier:

hach, zen, zeten, heten, don:   (very); some of the intensifiers.

kaz   (not very, a little); a diminisher.


With adjectives:

Hach nohoch in col.   "My garden is very big."

Zen malob le hanalo.   "That food is very good."

Zeten altacoob le tunichobo.   "Those rocks are very heavy."

Don x-cichpam le x-cħupalo.   "That girl is very pretty."

Kaz kohaan in pal.   "My child is a little sick."

With adverbs:

Hach chanbeli cu meyah le maco.   "That man works very slowly."

Zen malob cu pakachtic le uaho le xunano.   "That woman makes tortillas very well."

Some modifiers can be intensified by reduplicating the beginning consonant and vowel of the first syllable of the modifier:

chac (red) chachac (deep red)
chan (little) chichan (very little) (note shift from a to i)
chanbel (slowly) chachanbel (very slowly)
ci (good) cici (very good)
lob (bad, badly) lolob (very bad, very badly)
kaz (bad, badly) kakaz (evil, very badly)
yax (green) yayax (very green)
zac (white) zazac (very white)

The vowel of the first syllable of the reduplicated prefix is often, depending on the speaker, pronounced as a clipped vowel. There is another example of the reduplication of the first syllable to be found in Section 57. This principal of pronouncing the prefixed syllable's vowel clipped is followed there as well.


zazac u bocħ yetel u kaxi;   "very white her shawl and her hair ribbon"

kakaz ikoob;   "evil winds"

Chachanbel cu tal le palo.   "That child is coming very slowly."

Some modifiers can be intensified by reduplicating the root word around the particle -Vn-. The preferred vowel in this particle is e, but all vowels are possible:

cħuy (to hang) cħuyencħuy (densely hanging)
mucħ (bunch) mucħenmucħ (bunch after bunch)
pec (flat) pecenpec (pile on pile)
zac (white) zacanzac (very white)


Cħuyencħuy u kaan am ti le bucil na.   "The spider webs are densely hanging from the ceiling."

Pecenpec le cheobo.   "The trees are (lying down) in piles upon piles."

Zacanzac a nok ix zuhuy.   "Your clothes are brilliant white virgin girl." (from "Cantares de Dzitbalche")

A somewhat similar reduplicating device is achieved by placing -Vl- in the middle of the reduplicated root:

pet (round) petelpet (very round)
ppit (to jump) ppitilppit (jumping up and down)
thul (narrow) thululthul (very narrow)
zut (to return) zutulzut (round and round)


Petelpet u le.   "Its leaf is very round."
Thululthul u le.   "Its leaf is very narrow."
Zutulzut tu bin le palobo.   "The children are going round and round."

Colors have suffixes which alter or intensify the quality of the color to which these suffixes are attached. These suffixes are generally marked by the trailing suffix -en. Some of the more common of the suffixes are:

bizen bithen boxen budzen buyen
culen chalen dzuyen hadzen hocħen
homen hopen malen methen naen
olen pazen pachen pozen ppochen
ppoxen ppulen tzuyen uayen  

For some of these suffixes, there is an obvious quality which is imparted by the root word from which they are derived:

boxen from box (black)
budzen from budz (smoke)
chalen from chal (clear)
pozen from poz (pallid)

Examples of usage:

chacboxen ich   "face dark red with anger"
Ekbizen ca luken Cumkal.   "It was pitch-black when I left Conkal."
zacchalen ha   "clear water"
zacmalen ich / zacpozen ich   "white eyed, from sickness or fear"

There is also an isolated example of this method of intensifying the quality of an adjective with a non-color adjective:

cochbaben    from coch (wide)

Example of usage:

cochbaben be   "wide road"

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