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Lacandon belongs to the Yucatecan family of Mayan languages, and it is one of the least known of the Middle American languages (Campbell 1979: 928; Andy Hofling, p.c., 2000; Nora England, p.c., 2000). There is a northern and southern variety of the language, spoken by the northern and southern Lacandon groups respectively. Although considered by linguistics to be mutually intelligible, each Lacandon group considers the other's speech to be deficient, and at times, unintelligible (Bruce, p.c., 1992).

Previous Research

Of the linguistic resources available on both dialects, Bruce (1968) provides a grammatic sketch for northern Lacandon, and Baer & Baer (1953) and in Baer & Merrifield (1971, 1972) provide grammatical descriptions for southern Lacandon. An unpublished dictionary of southern Lacandon provided by Canger (1995). Swadesh (1961) gives a survey of Mayan, while comparative studies of Lacandon and Yucatec are provided by Thompson (1977), while Fisher (1973), Romero Castillo (1977), and Tozzer (1978 [1907]). Oral performances by both Lacandon groups are examined in McGee (1997a, 1997b, 1987) and Boremanse (1981), respectively. More abundant texts from the northern Lacandon are published in Bruce (1974, 1975-1979 vol.2, 1976). view references»

Phonetics and Phonology

Lacandon displays a consonant inventory similar to other Maya languages, having stops and affricates which occur in pulmonic and glottalic series. The system includes only one voiced obstruent, /b/. There are six vowel qualities. Vowel length is distinctive. more»

Morphology and Syntax

The clause structure is morphologically ergative; yet, the extent to which it is syntactically ergative needs yet to be determined (Christian Lehmann 2001, personal communication). Verbs take suffixes to indicate valency (especially transitivity, causation, reflexivity), tense, aspect, mood and person. Nouns take possessive suffixes. Both nouns and verbs are preceded by clitics of personal reference (possessor and subject, respectively). The verb complex is introduced by tense/aspect/mood markers that co-occur with corresponding suffixes on the verb. more»


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