Sunday, October 22, 2006

Yab'ixal Ix Xajaw
Story of the Moon

A Q'anjob'al Maya story

A yet payxatu,
? at time-DEM

ix ko tx'utx' Xajaw chi tz'eq'eq'i ix yet aqb'alil axka cham ko man k’u ti nani.
CLAS 3P-POSS mother moon INCOM bright CLAS at night ? CLAS 3P-POSS ? sun ? now

Palta ix tx'utx' wojb'atz'
but CLAS mother howler-monkey

k'am chi je way yuninal ix,
there-no-exist INCOM ? sleep E3S-children-3S-POSS

yujtol k'am aq'b'alil.
that-why there-no-exist night

Axa yetoq jelanil ix
? with intelligence-3S-POSS

max k'uon ix yunetu wayi.
COM teach? E3S 3S-POSS-children sleep-SUFF

Palta eb' unin tu k'am
but 3P children here there-no-exist

chi je way eb' yuj
INCOM ? sleep 3P-for

tzeqeqial xal Xajaw tu.
shine CLAS moon there

Axa naq b'ab'el unin max
? CLAS first child COM

q'umlej ay b'a naq yetoq
converse there-is oldest CLAS with

yuxhtaq naq.
3S-POSS-brother CLAS

A nani oqon
? now ?

mulnajoq masanil k'u.
work-PART all day

Oqkowajb'aoq'oq masanil xaq' an ak'un k'al masanil
PART-?-gather-PART? all leaf PART bush and all

xaq' te' te'.
leaf CLAS wood (tree)?

Axa yet oqonwayoq, k'ojank'ulal
? there-exist ?-sleep (time)-? slow

oqtoqkomaqcheloq sat
?-?-?-cover-? face

ix Xajaw tu.
CLAS moon there

Kajtu oqjejiloni yet k'ualil k'al yet aq'b'alil. Kaytu max yun kankan ix ko tx'utx' Xajaw
So ?-?-see at on the day and so at night. So COM 3S-make? become CLAS 3S-POSS mother moon

tu yin q'eqq'inal.
there in darkness.

Once upon a time, our mother moon was as bright in the night as the sun in the day all the night long. But the howler monkey's children could not sleep because there was no night. Then the mother of the monkeys taught the children to sleep thanks to her intelligence. But the children could not see their dreams due to the light of mother moon. Then the oldest child made an agreement with his brothers. Now they would gather leaves and at the time to sleep they would slowly cover the face of mother moon. That would make difference between day and night. And so our mother moon only shines with a weak light in the darkness of the night.

Traducción en español

Una vez, nuestra madre luna alumbraba toda la noche igual que el sol en el día. Pero los niños del mono aullador no podían dormir, ya que no hubo noche. Entonces la madre de los monos les hizo dormir através de su inteligencia. Pero los niños no podían ver sus sueños por la claridad de la luna. Entonces el hermano mayor de los monitos hizo un acuerdo con sus hermanitos. Ahora iban a trabajar todo el día. Iban a juntar todas las hojas de monte y de los árboles y en la hora de dormir iban a cubrir la cara de la madre luna despacio. Asi iban a poder ver la diferencia entre el día y la noche. Y así quedó alumbrado suave nuestra madre luna en la oscuridad.

As many of you know, I’m taking a class called The Structure of Mayan. In this class we’ve had to select one Mayan language (out of 31 total, both living and extinct) on which to work, researching and doing papers on different aspects of it such as phonetics, morphology, and syntax. I partnered with a classmate and friend of mine to work on Q’anjob’al, one of the highland Mayan languages spoken near the border area of Mexico and Guatemala. In the process of doing some online research, I came across this short story. I tried to gloss it as best I could with my current knowledge of the language*, which is not much as you can tell from all the ? scattered throughout the gloss. But it’s a beginning to helping me to understand the word order and syntax a little better.

Just for a little background on Q’anjob’al and Mayan in general:

Mayan languages are ergative-absolutive, meaning that they treat the agent of transitive verbs distinctly from the subject of intransitive verbs and the object of transitive

Those ‘ you see after certain consonants are the markers for an ejective stop. The ejective is one of the primary characteristics of Mayan languages. It is pronounced by holding back air then letting it go with a sudden burst after the consonant sound. The letter j is pronounced h, q is a uvular stop, tx is pronounced ch (not sure of exact difference between ch and tx), and x is a retroflex sh sound (tongue bent backward toward rear of the mouth). While b' is implosive in some Mayan languages, it is not in Q'anjob'al. ' after a vowel indicates a glottal stop.

Mayan languages have many particles, several of which are in this text. Mayan nouns take various
classifiers. For example, in the above text, there is ix, referring to females. Naq refers to males. Cham refers to older males, volcanoes, stars and planets, among other things. Te' is for wood or things made of wood. No’ refers to animals, so that ‘a cat’ in Q’anjob’al is jun no’ mis (one CLAS cat).

Verbs, as you can see, pose great challenges in the number of aspectual and various other markers they may take.

There is, of course, much more for me to learn!

* Some of this may change once I speak to my Q'anjob'al-speaking friend!
** Note that, in the text, COM refers to completive aspect, INCOM to incompletive, CLAS to classifier.



Anonymous said...


How is ch pronounced? Is b' an implosive? Is the apostrophe in no' a glottal stop?


Dave said...

To be honest, I'm not sure what the difference is in pronunciation of ch versus tx. While the b' is implosive in several Mayan languages, it does not appear to be so in Q'anjob'al. It sounds like an English b to me. Yes, the ' is a glottal stop.

Anonymous said...

I work for an interpreting agency and we are looking for Q'anjob'al speakers. You mentioned you knew some people who speak it... do you think they would be interested in over-the-phone interpreting? We're receiving a huge demand for it and could really use some help in finding speakers!

Please e-mail or call (877) 272-2434 if you think you could help me out a little.

Thanks and I hope to talk to you soon!