What an exhausting week! I’m proud to say that, at the halfway point of my stay here, my trip is currently in full stride and has been a huge success so far. Thank you all for keeping up with my page!
This week in Mayan class, I have mainly focused on learning more vocabulary, especially those words and concepts which relate to life in the Yucatan. And so, every day, I have been memorizing over 100 new words spanning such wonderful concepts from tropical fruit to different types of moths. I find it very interesting how many different words the language has for “lizard” and “bean” while having names for only a few colors such as “white, black, red, and blue,” expressing all the other colors using compounds of those. I’ve also explored the Mayan number system, which differs from that of English significantly because it is vigesimal and not decimal (base 20 instead of base 10). However, this won’t be of much use around the house and in the markets, because most Maya only count to 5 in Mayan and then switch to Spanish, only using the Mayan numbers in certain ritual performances. In general, what I’ve found is that Spanish has exerted heavy influence on Mayan, to the point where words borrowed from Spanish are gradually replacing traditionally Mayan words. This seems to have occurred in several areas of the lexicon, ranging from numbers, as mentioned above, to fruit, and especially to concepts introduced to the Maya from outside cultures.
Other than vocabulary, I have learned more of Yucatec’s interesting grammatical features this week. Last week, I mentioned how Mayan articles and numbers change depending on whether the nouns they are modifying are living or non living. However, since then, I have learned that this is not the only distinction. Different “classifiers” (the element which changes within the article numeral), can be used to change the meaning of a noun. For example “jun p’eel ja’as” means “one banana,” “jun kuul ja’as” means “one banana tree,” “jun chuuy ja’as” means “a bunch of bananas,” and “jan kuuch ja’as” means “a large bunch of bananas.” There are over fifteen of these classifiers still in use, not to mention dozens more that are considered archaic, which count various things such as large branches of trees, periods of 20 years, and specific objects that are very wide and thin.
Outside of class, I have continued to bond with my host family. One activity spent together was my host brother Javier’s graduation from escuela secondaria (roughly the equivalent of an American middle school). The only American at the event, I found it very different from a typical graduation in the United States, and therefore quite fascinating. Besides the typical school principal reading out the names, there was also a mariachi band and five minutes of traditional Mexican dancing. Javier, in addition to receiving his diploma, happened to be one of the dancers! After the graduation, we ordered pizza from Domino’s. Here are some pictures. I have tons of video but WordPress isn’t letting me upload it now… I’ll try later.
My next update will be on Sunday night. For a sneak peek, I will be venturing this weekend to Merida, the largest city in the Yucatan peninsula and 12th largest in Mexico, and the nearby archaeological site of Uxmal, one of the most important Maya ruins still existing and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Until then! Sorry for the late update this week!