The Mayan Languages Of Guatemala And Mexico

1219 words - 5 pages

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Data Analysis Essay
The Mayan languages of Guatemala and Mexico can be called a “linguistic area” (Study Guide, 2014, p. 102) because they are geographically in close proximity and the “languages” of the speech communities there would “have been spoken side by side for many generations” (ibid). Due to long-term contact between speech communities in this linguistic area, bilingualism and language mixing in the speeches of the close-knit natives are sure to have existed due to demographic movements. (Winford, 2003, p. 19). However, when language contact involves foreign and native languages, communicating in a common language becomes an issue. Therefore, to overcome language barriers, lexical items are borrowed from the former into everyday discourse or vice versa. This occurs either unconsciously or consciously by natives, or foreign language speakers through code-switching if they want to express an idea in a language that can be understood by both parties. “Borrowing may vary in degree and kind, from casual to heavy lexical borrowing … “(Winford, 2003, p. 254, cited in Study Guide, 2014). It is clear in the given data, casual borrowing of Spanish lexical items is a common feature of the types of loanwords adopted and nativized by the Mayan speech communities of Guatemala and Mexico. This essay intends to discuss the social and cultural contact between Spanish, the donor language, and the native speakers of the Mayan speech communities, who are the recipients. The nativization processes and meaning changes will be highlighted. Also, worth mentioning are the possible reasons why borrowing took place.
Borrowing of lexical items was “contact-induced” (ibid) during the period of Spanish conquest of Mexico (Study Guide, 2014, p. 99) and Guatemala. Consequently the Mexicans and Guatemalans became colonised peoples. In such historical situations, the Spanish bring with them changes that impact on the social conditions of the colonists. Linguistic change is a significant change that comes about due to daily interactions. Language shift is unavoidable in such situations. However, this is not the case with the Mayan speech communities. It is evident from the data that “casual borrowing” took place. The natives of Guatemala and Mexico appeared to have borrowed lexical items in relation to their occupations. For example, some of them were farmers and house servants. For the purpose of daily discourse, borrowed words were mainly common nouns that named a type of animal, a bird and items that the Mayan
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languages may not have had a word or exact translations for. Social standing in the community was seen by the Mayans as an important relationship between the Spanish and in order to address a female who was a non- native, borrowing was essential. Religion as an integral part of Mayan society, a Spanish word associated with the concept, a closely related Spanish word was borrowed. In order to understand the social division colonisation created...

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