Accepted paper:

The Impact of Indigenous Migration on Language Maintenance: The Case of Yucatec Maya, Mexico


Eriko Yamasaki (University of Bonn)

Paper short abstract:

The urbanization has caused cultural changes in Yucatecan society. Among others, the indigenous migration seems to factor into the proportional decline of Maya speakers. This paper focuses on the impact of indigenous cityward migration on the language contact situation of Maya and Spanish.

Paper long abstract:

Yucatec Maya is a Mayan language spoken in the Yucatán peninsula. Counting more than 800.000 speakers, Yucatec Maya is generally considered a "safe" language. This perception, however, is not as self-evident as the high number of speakers suggests, given that the percentage of Maya speakers in relation to the general population as well as the rate of intergenerational language transmission is declining. Besides the dominant use of the Spanish language in public domains, the indigenous migration towards urban environments seems to factor into the proportional decline of Maya speakers. Due to the agricultural crisis and the construction of the tourist zone along the Caribbean coast since the 1970's, growing urban centres such as Mérida and Cancún have been attracting Maya speaking migrants from rural areas of the peninsula. This process of urbanization has caused socio-economic and cultural changes in the once predominantly agricultural Yucatecan society. This paper focuses on the impact of these changes on the sociolinguistic situation of Yucatec Maya. The indigenous cityward migration affects the linguistic situation of the peninsula not only by causing urban migrants to abandon their language. The orientation of many Maya speakers towards the urban life might factor into the devaluation of Yucatec Maya and decreasing intergenerational language transmission even in rural areas. Drawn from preliminary results of my fieldwork in Mérida and Cancún, this paper aims to show the significance of the indigenous migration for the language contact situation of Yucatec Maya and Spanish .

panel MMM07
Migration and indigenous peoples