Achi, achí, baja verapaz k'iche'
Guatemala: in the department of Baja Verapaz (to the north of Guatemala City, the country's capital), in the municipalities of Cubulco, Rabinal, San Miguel Chicaj, Salamá, San Jerónimo, Granados and Santa Cruz El Chol.
Guatemala's constitution identifies Spanish as the country's official language and states that its 'vernaculars' are part of its cultural heritage. A number of initiatives have been carried out in recent years (such as the introduction of the Ley de Idiomas Nacionales or National Language Law in 2003) to protect and promote the use of the languages of the Maya, Garifuna and Xinca peoples.
Guatemalan Academy of Mayan Languages (Academia de Lenguas Mayas de Guatemala).
CAMPBELL, L. (1997) American Indian Languages. The Historical Linguistics of Native America, Oxford University Press, New York-Oxford.
GRINEVALD, C. (2007) 'Endangered Languages of Mexico and Central America'. In BRENZINGER, M. (ed.), Language Diversity Endangered, Trends in Linguistics, Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin-New York.
LECLERC, J. (2007) L'aménagement linguistique dans le monde. Quebec: TLFQ, Université Laval.
Guatemala's Ley de Idiomas Nacionales (2003), Alertanet - Portal on Law and Society.
Produced by the Endangered Language Study Group (Grup d'Estudi de Llengües Amenaçades or GELA) of the General Linguistics Department of the University of Barcelona.
Achi' is closely related to K'iche', for which reason it is also known as Baja Verapaz K'iche'. The Guatemalan Academy of Mayan Languages and the Guatemalan state classify Achi' and K'iche' as different languages.
Some sources distinguish between Rabinal Achi' and Cubulco Achi', identifying them as two separate dialects or languages.
Guatemala's government recognises 22 Mayan languages, namely Achi', Akateko, Awakateko, Chalchiteko, Ch'orti', Chuj, Itza', Ixil, Jakalteko, Kaqchikel, K'iche', Mam, Mopan, Poqomam, Poqomchi', Q'anjob'al, Q'eqchi', Sakapulteko, Sipakapense, Tektiteko, Tz'utujil and Uspanteko.
Approximately 40% (or even up to 50%, according to certain sources) of Guatemala's population are Maya. Nonetheless, the country's Maya peoples have historically suffered repression and marginalisation. It was not until recent decades that Guatemala's government began to take measures to protect the Mayan languages. One such measure was the creation, in 1990, of the Guatemalan Academy of Mayan Languages, the state's highest-ranking authority where the promotion and development of its Mayan languages are concerned. The academy has since instigated many projects, both in terms of research and social promotion (translations, dialect studies, production of teaching material, dictionaries and grammars, etc.).
One of the Americas' most important pre-Columbian civilisations, the Maya developed their own writing system. The oldest known sample still in existence dates back to 250 BC. It seems that the system remained in use until the 16th century. The most significant progress in deciphering the script was made in the 1980s, although there are certain symbols whose meaning is still unknown at the time of writing. Made up of around 550 logograms (symbols that represent words or morphemes) and approximately 150 syllabograms (symbols that represent syllables), the script has undergone something of a revival among the Maya population in recent years.
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