LING 575: The Structure of K’iche’ Maya

MW 2:00-3:15 PM, 207 Blake

Instructor: Clifton Pye (pyersqr (at) ku (dot) edu)

Office Hours (Tues|Thur)day 1:30-2:30 pm or by appointment

This course provides students with an introduction to the Mayan language K’iche’ spoken in western Guatemala. K’iche’ is the language of the Popul Vuh. The class will study the phonological, morphological, syntactic and semantic features of K’iche’. The course provides students with a linguistic knowledge of the language rather than a practical command of it. One goal of the course will be to work out an analysis for one part of the K’iche’ grammar. By the end of the class students should be able to read the Popul Vuh in its original language.

Course textbooks:


Thomas Walter Larsen. 1988. Manifestations of ergativity in Quiche grammar.

      Doctoral dissertation, University of California, Berkeley. Available through ProQuest.

James L. Mondloch. 1978. Basic Quiche Grammar. Institute for Mesoamerican Studies. State University of New York at Albany, publication no. 2.

James L. Mondloch. 1981. Voice in Quiche-maya. Doctoral dissertation, State University of New York at Albany. Available through ProQuest.


The course grade will be based on a term paper and class participation. Graduate students will be expected to do more than undergraduates. All students will be responsible for leading the class discussion of one reading. The readings augment the information in the Mondloch’s Basic Quiche Grammar. The readings and their approximate dates for discussion are:


Jan. 27

Shostead, R. 2011. Towards a glottalic theory of Mayan


Feb. 3

Pye, C. 2011. Mayan Stative Predication


Feb. 10

Larsen, T. W. 1987. The syntactic status of ergativity in Quiche


Feb. 24

Campbell, L. 2000. Valency-changing derivations in K’iche’


Mar. 2

Mondloch, J. 1978. Disambiguating subjects and objects in Quiche


Mar. 9

Dayley, J. P. 1981. Voice and Ergativity in Mayan Languages


Mar. 23

Larsen and Norman. 1979. Correlates of ergativity in Mayan grammar


Mar. 30

Mora-Marin, D. 2000. Historical reconstruction of the Mayan antipassive


April 6

Mora-Marin, D. 2003. Historical reconstruction of Mayan applicative and antidative constructions


April 11

Norman, W. M. and L. Campbell. 1978. Toward a Proto-Mayan syntax


April 18

Pye, C. 1996. K’iche’ Maya verbs of breaking and cutting

Term paper topics must be cleared with the instructor by the middle of March.

The term paper will be due in my office by 8 am, May 12th. I have posted some guidelines for the project at project guidelines.

Plagiarism is the presentation of someone else’s work as your own. Plagiarism of all or a portion of any assignment will not be accepted. Plagiarism will result in a failing grade for any assignment or report.

Any student who has a disability which may prevent his/her ability to participate fully in the course should contact the instructor as soon as possible so we can discuss the class assignments.


The reading assignments are designed to complement the class lectures for the week. It is to your advantage to complete the reading before the class discussion of the topic.



Additional Papers

Jan. 20

1-3 sounds and idioms

Kaufman, Terrence. 1977. Some Structural Characteristics of the Mayan Languages with Special Reference to Quiche. Spanish version available in England & Elliott (eds.). 1990. Lecturas Sobre la Lingüística Maya, pp. 59-114. Guatemala, CIRMA.

Campbell, Lyle. 1984. The implications of Mayan historical linguistics for glyphic research. In John S. Justeson & Lyle Campbell (eds.), Phoneticism in Mayan Hieroglyphic Writing. Albany, NY: Institute for Mesoamerican Studies, State University of New York at Albany.

Campbell, L. 1979. Mayan. In Campbell and Mithun (eds.), The Languages of Native America, pp. 928-936. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Larsen, chapter 2

Feb. 1

4-6 non-verbal

Larsen, section 3.5.1

Pye, C. 2011. Mayan Stative Predication. In Proceedings of Formal Approaches to Mayan Linguistics, Shklovsky, Kirill, Pedro Mateo Pedro, and Jessica Coon (eds). MIT Working Papers in Linguistics Vol. 63. 191-207. Cambridge, MA: MITWPL.

Feb. 8

7-9 possession

Larsen, section 3.4

Feb. 15

10-12 intransitive

Larsen, section 4.2

Feb. 22

13-15 transitive

Larsen, chapter 5

Feb. 29

16-18 transitive

Coon, Jessica, Pedro Mateo Pedro, and Omer Preminger. 2014.

The role of case in A-bar extraction asymmetries: Evidence from Mayan. Linguistic Variation 14:179–242.

Woolford, Ellen. 2000. Ergative agreement systems. The University of Maryland Working Papers in Linguistics 10.157-191.

Mar. 7

19-22 voice

Dayley, Jon P. 1981. Voice and Ergativity in Mayan Languages. Journal of Mayan Linguistics 2.3-82.

Campbell, Lyle. 2000. Valency-changing derivations in K’iche’. In R. M. W. Dixon and Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald (eds.), Changing Valency: Case Studies in Transitivity, pp. 236-281. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Mondloch, J. L. 1981. Voice in Quiche-Maya. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. State University of New York at Albany. Albany, NY.

Larsen, section 8.4

Mar. 14

Spring Break


Mar. 21

21 transitive

Mondloch, J. 1978. Disambiguating subjects and objects in Quiche. J. of Mayan Linguistics 1:3-19. Pye, C. 2006. Mayan Word Orders. ms.

Smith-Stark, Thom. 1978. The Mayan antipassive: Some facts and fictions. In England (ed), Papers in Mayan Linguistics, pp. 169-187.

Mar. 28

Focus; instrumental 22-23

Mondloch 1981, 4.7; Class Presentations and 2-page draft

Larsen, section 8.4.3

Larsen, chapter 9

Mora-Marín. 2003. Historical reconstruction of mayan applicative and antidative constructions. IJAL 69 (2) 186–228.

Apr. 4



Mondloch 1981. Sections on nominalization. Larsen, section 8.1

Larsen, T. W. 1987. The syntactic status of ergativity in Quiche. Lingua 71:33-59.

Apr. 11

Word Order 26-27

Larsen, chapter 7

Norman, William M. and Lyle Campbell. 1978. Toward a Proto-Mayan syntax: a comparative perspective on grammar. In Nora C. England (ed.), Papers in Mayan Linguistics, Number Two, pp. 136-156. Columbia, MI: University of Missouri-Columbia.

Apr. 18

Semantics 28-29

Pye, C. 2006. Mayan Semantics. ms.; 5-page draft

Pye, C. 1996. K’iche’ Maya verbs of breaking and cutting. Kansas Working Papers in Linguistics 21.87-98.

Apr. 25

Popul Vuh 30-31

Pye, C. 2006. Mayan Discourse. ms.

10-page draft

May 2

Class Presentations