The concept of space in Classic Mayan

Keywords: Classic Mayan, the concept of space, semantic topological description, verbs of motion, frames of reference

Abstract

The ancient Maya civilization left us a significant corpus of glyphic inscriptions, a large portion of which consists of historical records, meticulously dating events and time elapsed between them – births, accessions and deaths of rulers, wars, ceremonies, visits and family relationships between royal dynasties, etc. (see Martin and Grube 2008). Time being such a prominent topic, the texts contain a number of time-related terms, including (1) event-based expressions (ti ik’ k’in ‘at black day / at dusk / at night’; i pas ‘then at dawn’; si[h]yajiiy ‘(X years) after s/he was born’), (2) conceptualizations which are potentially and likely spatial in nature as they appear both in locative expressions and temporal adverbials (preposition ti ‘in/on/at/with/as; the verb uht ‘to happen’ and deictic verb hul ‘to arrive’; tu paat + date ‘on the back of / after), and finally, (3) non-spatial metaphorical conceptualizations, such as reification and personification of the units of time. Sweetser and Gaby (2017, 626) notice that “crosslinguistically, the single primary historical source for temporal vocabulary is spatial vocabulary” and it is an overwhelming tendency observed in numerous languages around the world. Levinson and Wilkins (2006c, 6) also pose an interesting question how much spatial information is coded in language and how much is inferred from context and our knowledge of the world around us. The concept of space being so basic and significant, surprisingly little has been published on how space was conceptualized in Maya texts of the Classic Period (250-950 CE). Thus, this paper investigates how the domain of space is coded in Classic Mayan, a grapholect recorded in Maya glyphic inscriptions, how the language expresses relationships of containment, contiguity and adjacency, the manner and path of motion events, as well as available frames of reference to locate objects which are separated in space.

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Published
2021-10-01
How to Cite
Hamann, A. (2021). The concept of space in Classic Mayan. Estudios Latinoamericanos, 40, 33-59. https://doi.org/10.36447/Estudios2020.v40.art2
Section
Maya studies from Warsaw