Maya-Zoque Languages

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Maya-Zoque Languages


a language family consisting of three branches:

(1) The Mayan (Maya-Quiche) languages in southern and southeastern Mexico and in Guatemala and Belize (British Honduras), including Ancient Maya (hieroglyphic writing system from the early part of the new era until the 16th century), Yucatecan (Yucatan and Belize; 16th- and 17th-century texts in Latin script), Huastecan, Choi, Tzeltal, Mam, Quiche, and Pokomam (Pokomam and Pokonchi).

(2) The Mixe-Zoque languages in southern Mexico, including Zoque, Tapachula, Veracruz Popoluca, and Mixe.

(3) The Totonac languages, including Totonac and Tepehua (in eastern Mexico, in the states of Veracruz, Puebla, and Hidalgo).

There are about 3 million speakers of Maya-Zoque languages (1970, estimate). Some linguists include the Uru-Chipaia languages of Bolivia among the Maya-Zoque languages. The American linguist J. Greenberg relates the Maya-Zoque languages to the Penutian macrofamily (Macro-Penutian). The Maya-Zoque languages are characterized by rich consonantism and an important role of the glottal stop as a distinctive feature among consonants and vowels. Word inflection and derivation are primarily agglutinative (suffixes, prefixes, and reduplication). Case relations are expressed analytically in some languages (Maya) and by suffixes in others (Zoque). Word order is rigid.


Knorozov, Iu. V. Pis’mennost’ indeitsev maiia. Moscow-Leningrad, 1963.
Wonderly, W. “Zoque: Phonemes and Morphophonemes.” International Journal of American Linguistics, 1951, vol. 17; 1952, vol. 18.
Handbook of Middle American Indians. Vol. 5; Linguistics. Austin, Texas, 1967.
Longacre, R. “Comparative Reconstruction of Indigenous Languages.” Current Trends in Linguistics, 1968, vol. 4.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.