Speech carved in stone
Language and culture are inherently bound. “Speech Carved in Stone” is a historical sociolinguistic study of Late Classic Maya hieroglyphic inscriptions. Building upon data from previous studies on linguistic diversity in the texts, this research demonstrates that there existed much more diversity in language in the Late Classic than previously recognized. The features discussed in this research include phonetic, morphological, and syntactic elements, regional vocabulary, and orthographic preferences as recorded on 699 monuments from 51 sites across the Maya lowlands. The data were analyzed in the form of maps, 560 of which are made available in Appendix E of this dissertation. This research demonstrates two main points on the nature of language variation in the Late Classic inscriptions. First, much of the linguistic variation falls in a dialect continuum – where the divisions between language varieties are not stark boundaries, but rather shade from one to the next. Second, this dissertation provides evidence for the varying role of the state in the institutionalization of language – in some cases the political affiliation of a site significantly impacted the linguistic choices made by the scribes, and in others this was not the case. Writing was (and is today) a powerful tool which makes ephemeral language permanent. This research studies human variability with respect to processes of language diversification as well as political and institutional ramifications on language use. In this work, I hope to move away from a homogenizing vision of the Maya world, and focus on the diversity of related Maya peoples, with interacting but distinct historiographies.