Accepted paper:

Anthropological "reducing" of Mayan languages for their revitalization


Shigeto Yoshida

Paper short abstract:

This paper reviews the linguistical works on Mayan languages and its relations for their revitalization in order to explore the future of anthropology as social science. It discusses the ways in which the anthropologists or linguists can contribute to the revitalization of Mayan languages.

Paper long abstract:

In the Maya movement in modern Guatemala, some kinds of anthropological, linguistical and archaeological studies provided an ideological base for the Mayans to reconstruct their ethnic identity. But linguistical studies on Mayan dialects and communitiy specific ethnographies were considered harmful, because they were thought to help to fractionalize the Mayan peoples. An then what do the anthropologists have to do to manage with those Mayans who seek the unification of the Mayan peoples? In order to answer this question, colonial Spanish missionaries' works on Mayan languages will be taken as model for "writing" culture of/with/for the Mayans. The Spanish missionaries called it "reducir" (to reduce) to make a grammar. It implies a simplification of linguistic rules for the Spanish speaking users of the grammatical guide. It was not intended to describe scientifically its linguistic rules but to help them to learn the language. The missionaries used the Latin and Spanish grammars as model for describing the linguistic rules of indigenous languages. Although those grammatical guides did not properly nor totally account for the linguistic rules of the targeted language, they fulfilled needs of the era to a certain extent. If we admit subjectivity and cultural bindedness of the anthropologists in ethnographic descriptions, we notice that the anthropologists are not so different from the colonial missionaries. From this point of view, we start thinking about what anthropological "reducing" can do for the revitalization of Mayan languages and the unification of Mayan peoples.

panel P052
The future with/of Maya anthropology