The purpose of this thesis is to describe the grammatical system of Classical Ch'olti', the language of the Classic Maya hieroglyphic inscriptions, as attested in inscriptions of the Early Classic (approximately AD 200-600). Around 300 Lowland Maya Hieroglyphic inscriptions have been dated to the Early Classic or before, nearly one third of these remain unpublished. Previous work on the monumental inscriptions of the Early Classic (Mathews 1985; Proskouriakoff 1950) has examined Early Classic monuments primarily as works of art. Mora-Marin (2001) examined the language of inscriptions found on early portable texts, a small subset of the corpus here examined. In great part, however, this study of the language of Early Classic inscriptions breaks new ground. The body of the thesis consists of a description of the linguistic system attested in Early Classic texts, with particular emphasis on morphology. The corpus is divided into three general sections according to date: Cycle 8 Texts, including all texts which date prior to the end of the Eighth Baktun in AD 435; Early Ninth Baktun Texts, covering the years between AD 435 and AD 534 ( in the Maya Long Count), and ‘Terminal Early Classic’ Texts, which includes texts from between AD 534 and AD 633 ( With these divisions it is possible to track the development of the attested linguistic system of the Early Classic inscriptions. It is discovered that the core elements of that system are already in place by the end of the Baktun 8. The morphological features first attested during the Eighth Baktun continue in use for the duration of the Early Classic, though in both of the subsequent time periods new features are added to the inventory of Early Classic morphemes. The static nature of the language, as suggested by its apparent continuity throughout the centuries which comprise the Early Classic, is consistent with the prestige status proposed for that language by Houston et al. (2000).



College and Department

Humanities; Linguistics and English Language



Date Submitted


Document Type





Maya, hieroglyphics, Mayan languages, grammar, Early Classic



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Linguistics Commons