Organs and Points of Maya Articulation

The complexity of Maya sounds articulation is illustrated in the the Maya writing system described linguistically as a logosyllabic system, comprised of signs representing whole words (logograms) and syllables (syllabic signs, which can either work as syllables or phonetic signs).

There are approximately 200 different syllabic/phonetic signs in the Maya script, of which around 60 percent comprise of homophonic signs. Thus, there are some 80 phonetic syllables in the Classic Maya language and about 200 graphemic syllables in the script . Once contrasted to other Mesoamerican writing systems, it is apparent that the ancient Maya used a system of writing that had the potential to record linguistic structures as complex as the syntax present in the oral manifestations of their languages. In practice, however, the writing system is a graphemic abbreviation of highly complex syntactical structures and thus many items omitted had to be provided by readers intimately familiar with the language the script records.

To illustrate the lingua franca of several Maya dialects, we include a graphic diagram of the organs and points of Maya articulation:


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