Ling 491 Topics in Linguistics: Mayan Languages

Ling 910 Linguistic Seminar: Mayan Languages

1-2:15 TR BL 108

Instructor: Clifton Pye (pyersqr at ku dot edu)

The Mayan languages are famous for their ergative properties and hieroglyphic writing. There are 30 Mayan languages spoken in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras. This class will provide a comparative survey of the phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics of these languages with the goal of understanding how the diversity of forms in Mayan languages derive from an original ancestor language. Another goal of the survey will be to understand how to use data from an entire family of languages to evaluate linguistic theories. The class will include a look at what data on the acquisition of these languages can tell us about the structure of the adult languages.

The seminar will consist of class discussions of the assigned readings supplemented with additional descriptive material on the Mayan languages. Each student will be responsible for presenting data on a specific Mayan language related to the class discussion on an assigned topic. In addition to the reading and class discussion each student is required to write a paper discussing the history or acquisition of a Mayan language. The seminar will be organized as a workshop. Students will present a preliminary version of their paper in class, and refine their concepts through class discussion. They will then be asked to present a final revision of their paper that incorporates suggestions from the class and the instructor.