Lacandones speak the Lacandon-Maya language. This language is closely related to
the Yucatec-Maya, which is spoken on the Yucatán peninsula. Because
Yucatec-Maya is the most spoken of all Maya-dialects, it is often called Maya.
The Lacandones call their language the Hach T’an, or ‘Real Language’.
Lacandon alphabet consists of 26 letters, however it is different then the
alphabet that we know. The Lacandon alphabet is made up of the following
a ä b ch ch’ e h I k k’ l m n o p p’ s t t’ tz tz’ u V w x y
pronunciation of letters in the Lacandon-Maya also differ of that what we are
used in English. In particular one should take the following letters into
is pronounced as the ‘a’ in father
is pronounced as the ‘u’ in cup
is pronounced as the ‘e’ in set
is pronounced as the ‘ee’ in see
is pronounced as the ‘o’ in hold
is pronounced as the ‘oo’ in zoo
u is pronounced lika a w when the letter is placed before a vowel
or when it is the last letter of a word. If the u is placed at the
beginning of a word it is pronounced like a plain u.
is pronounced as sh
is pronounced as k
is pronounced as tsj
is pronounced as z
is pronounced as a k with the glottis closed
the old spelling you can find the use of the letter j. This letter
was pronounced like a h, as in Lacanjá. This spelling was
a heritage of the Spanish culture that surrounds the Lacandones. A
Spanish-speaking writer wrote the first Lacandon words. The modern Lacandon
alphabet does no longer contains the letter j.
modern Lacandon alphabet has no r; when the southern Lacandones
were thought to read and write by the American missionary Phillip Baer, however,
he did used the letter r in the system he developed. In the
present system the r is replaced by a l. In some
names you can still find the r, like in Bor (Bol).
with the glottis closed are pronounced without closing the glottis. In the text
this is given by an apostrophe. The meaning of a word can change because of a
closed glottis and thus makes a correct pronunciation very important. For
example, kan means ‘snake’ while k’an is the word for ‘hammock’.
words are written in plural. Lacandon words in plural end with o’,
like ton (male) and tono’ (males).
It is also interesting to mention that the pronunciation by women is different compared to the pronunciation by men. For an outsider this so-called ‘Kitchen-Lacandon’ is almost completely unintelligible.
Vocabulaire Lacandon (Nahá dialect) - Spanish (FAMSI, by E. Boot, based on R. D. Bruce, 1968)
Lacandon Corlour Terms (by Suzanne Cook, University of Victoria)