Speaking Maya, Being Maya: Ideological and Institutional Mediations of Language in Contemporary Yucatan

Reference work entry


Research on the Yucatec Maya language has shown increasing interest in the socio-cultural aspects of the language and its use – said differently, scholarship has shifted from a focus on the language to a focus on its speakers and their use of the language. In particular, recent work is showing that speaking Maya is being directly tied to ideas about what it means to be Maya. In light of this, authors survey current scholarship that studies the relationship between Maya, the language, and Maya, the people. In particular, the focus of this chapter is on conceptions of Maya language and personhood, particularly on how scholarly and popular conceptions of these are intimately tied together – both contemporarily and historically – and how they relate to processes of social identification on the Yucatan peninsula. The conclusion points to the importance of studying the language in use.


Yucatec Maya language Language use Language practice Personhood Identity 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA

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