Chol Language
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Chol Language
Native toMexico
RegionNorth Central Chiapas Tabasco
EthnicityCh'ol people
Native speakers
250,000 (2020 census)[1]
Early form
Language codes

The Ch'ol (Chol) language is a member of the western branch of the Mayan language family used by the Ch'ol people in the Mexican state of Chiapas. There are two main dialects:

  • Ch'ol of Tila spoken by 43,870 people of whom 10,000 are monolinguals in the villages of Tila, Vicente Guerrero, Chivalito and Limar in Chiapas.
  • Ch'ol of Tumbalá spoken by 90,000 people of whom 30,000 are monolinguals in the villages of Tumbalá, Sabanilla, Misijá, Limar, Chivalita and Vicente Guerrero.

The Cholan branch of the Mayan languages is considered to be particularly conservative and Ch'ol along with its two closest relatives the Ch'orti' language of Guatemala and Honduras, and the Chontal Maya language of Tabasco are believed to be the modern languages that best reflect their relationship with the Classic Maya language.[2]

Ch'ol-language programming is carried by the CDI's radio station XEXPUJ-AM, broadcasting from Xpujil, Campeche.


The basic word order is VOS. However, word order varies and VOS is not always grammatical: factors including animacy, definiteness, topicalization and focus contribute to determining which word order is appropriate.[3]

Ch'ol is a split ergative language: its morphosyntactic alignment varies according to aspect. With perfective aspect, ergative-absolutive alignment is used, whereas with imperfective aspect, we rather observe nominative-accusative.[4]

Numeral classifiers are obligatorily included in noun phrases containing numerals. They occur between the numeral and the noun. The classifiers vary according to semantic properties of the noun: -tyikil is used for persons, -tyejk for trees, etc.[5]


Below is the consonant and vowel inventory of Ch'ol.[6]

Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Stops Voiced b
Voiceless p t? k ?
Ejective p' t?' k'
Fricative s ? x
Affricates Voiceless ts t?
Ejective ts' t?'
Nasals m ?
Laterals l
Trills r
Glides w j
Front Central Back
High i ? u
Mid e o
Low a

Writing system

Ch?ol alphabet of Tumbála (de Aulie)[7]
Uppercase A ? B C C? Ch Ch? D E I J L M N Ñ O
Lowercase a ? b c c? ch ch? d e i j l m n ñ o
Uppercase P P? Q Q? R S T T? Ts Ts? U W X Y ?
Lowercase p p? q q? r s t t? ts ts? u w x y ?
Ch?ol alphabet of Tila (Warkentin and Scott)[8]
Uppercase A ? B C C? Ch Ch? E I J L M N Ñ O P?
Lowercase a ? b c c? ch ch? e i j l m n ñ o p?
Uppercase Q Qu' Q?u R S T Ty T? Ts Ts? U W X Y ?
Lowercase q qu' q?u r s t ty t? ts ts? u w x y ?
Ch?ol alphabet (INALI)[9]
Uppercase A B CH CH? E I J K K? L M N Ñ O P
Lowercase a b ch ch? e i j k k? l m n ñ o p
Uppercase P? R S T TS TS? TY TY? U W X Y Ä ?
Lowercase p? r s t ts ts? ty ty? u w x y ä ?

Ch'ol relationship with Mayan glyphs

The absence of glyphic material in Guatemala points that calendar was a creation of the lowland Maya.[2] Ch'ol has been considered one of the closer languages to several Mayan glyphs inscriptions.[10] Lounsbury suggested that ancient Palenqueños spoke a Proto-cholean language. A Palenque ruler has his name glyph a Quetzal head; as the word for Quetzal in Chol is kuk, it is believed that his name was Lord Kuk.[11] The affix Landa's I that occurs only with posterior date indicators retains resemblance with the idea of past time of Ch'ol, such in hobix 'five days hence,' hobixi 'five days ago.' As vocabularies of Ch'ol, Chontal, Chorti, and Tzotzil are far from complete, it is not possible to establish some cognates between these languages and Mayan glyphs.[2]

An alternative hypothesis developed by Houston, Robertson, and Stuart proposed that Classic Maya inscriptions between A.D. 250 and 850 convey to Eastern Ch'olan languages, more related to Chorti language than Ch'ol language.[12] However, there is no consensus around the topic.

See also


  1. ^ Lenguas indígenas y hablantes de 3 años y más, 2020 INEGI. Censo de Población y Vivienda 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Houston, S., O. Chinchilla, Stuart D. "The Decipherment of Ancient Maya Writing", U. of Oklahoma Press, 2001.
  3. ^ Vázquez Álvarez, Juan Jesús. A Grammar of Chol, a Mayan Language. Austin, Texas: University of Texas at Austin, 2011; pp.21-22
  4. ^ Vázquez Álvarez, Juan Jesús. A Grammar of Chol, a Mayan Language. Austin, Texas: University of Texas at Austin, 2011; pp.177-178
  5. ^ Vázquez Álvarez, Juan Jesús. A Grammar of Chol, a Mayan Language. Austin, Texas: University of Texas at Austin, 2011; p.160
  6. ^ Vázquez Álvarez, Juan Jesús. A Grammar of Chol, a Mayan Language. Austin, Texas: University of Texas at Austin, 2011; p.35
  7. ^ de Aulie & de Aulie 2009, p. xxi.
  8. ^ Warkentin & Scott 1980, p. 3.
  9. ^ INALI 2011.
  10. ^ Hopkins, Nicholas A.; Josserand, Kathryn (2010). INTRODUCTION TO THE HISTORICAL DICTIONARY OF CHOL (MAYAN): With a Sketch of the Grammar of Chol (PDF).
  11. ^ Matthews, Peter; Schele, Linda (1974). "Lords of Palenque: The Glyphic Evidence". Primera Mesa Redonda de Palenque : a Conference on the Art, Iconography, and Dynastic History of Palenque, Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico, December 14-22, 1973. Robert Louis Stevenson School, Pre-Columbian Art Research. OCLC 834378616.
  12. ^ Houston, Stephen; Robertson, John; Stuart, David (2000-06-01). "The Language of Classic Maya Inscriptions". Current Anthropology. 41 (3): 321-356. doi:10.1086/300142. ISSN 0011-3204.


External links

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