Linguists warn that the Mayan language could disappear due to the lack of hereditary transmission

12/04/2021

Currently, about 70 percent of Mayan speakers are adults, so the language is having problems of transmission to the new generations of adolescents and children, who are becoming less and less interested in learning it. If this trend continues, this ancestral language could disappear in less than 100 years.

Mayan language at risk. Archive file
Mayan language at risk. Archive file

Social mobility in the use of the Mayan language is changing drastically, which translates into disuse among its speakers, so there is a latent level of risk that must be addressed to avoid future problems. Although figures from the National Institute of Statistics, Geography, and Informatics show that in 50 years Mayan has reached its highest number of speakers (759,000 people), there is a latent risk that must be addressed to avoid future problems. It is necessary to be cautious with the numbers and take immediate actions since the risk lies in the symptomatic tendency of its lack of hereditary transmission.

Of this total, almost 70 percent are adults, so there is still time to reverse the phenomenon. Currently, there is an inverted pyramid of the majority-speaking population, where there are many adult and elderly speakers, but the new generations will not be able to sustain the trend in the future; there is a yellow risk level that will worsen with time.

Maya, unlike Nahua, is a regional language spoken in the three peninsular states of Yucatan, Campeche, and Quintana Roo, and its internal variants do not impede mutual understanding among its social groups.

There are 1,13 languages in the American continent and 20 percent of them are spoken in Mexico. Mexico has 364 linguistic varieties belonging to 11 different families distributed throughout its territory. Language is a fundamental part of the development of a culture; it not only serves to communicate with it but also preserves ways of thinking, ideologies, and idiosyncrasies, and its loss entails the disappearance of a people.

Mexican National Anthem authorized to be interpreted in the Mayan language

Yucatan received official authorization so that the Mexican National Anthem could be interpreted in ceremonial acts in the peninsular Mayan language, which is considered by the local authorities as a great step in the dignification of the native ethnic group of this region and the preservation of its culture.

Other native languages that have also been authorized to interpret the Mexican National Anthem are Nahuatl, Mixtec, Tzeltal, and Zapotec, among the most important.

In Yucatan, the Mayan language is a living language because according to information from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi), 30.3 percent of the population of Yucatán speaks an indigenous language. Of this percentage, 537 thousand 618 people speak Mayan, which positions the state as the second federal entity with the highest percentage of the population that speaks an indigenous language, surpassed only by Oaxaca, which has 33.8 percent.

By Mexicanist