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  • Danny Law (a1), John Robertson (a2), Stephen Houston (a3), Marc Zender (a4) and David Stuart (a5)...


Advances in hieroglyphic decipherment and in language contact typology provide new data and theories with which to investigate and reassess prior interpretations of Mayan linguistic history. The present study considers the shift from proto-Mayan *k and *k' to /ch/ and /ch'/, a sound change that affected several Mayan languages in different phonological contexts. This sound change, with a very particular set of conditions, has been highlighted as a defining feature of the Cholan-Tseltalan branch of the Mayan language family. New evidence suggests that this sound change was shared as a result of contact around the time of the Classic period, rather than reflecting an inherited sound change that would have taken place at a much earlier stage of the language family. Hieroglyphic data provide further evidence that this sound change was adopted in the hieroglyphic language in a word-by-word fashion, rather than applying to all similar phonological contexts at the same time.


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