Mayan sign languages


Mayan sign languages

language
name=Yucatec Maya Sign Language
states=Mexico
region=Isolated villages in south-central Yucatán
signers=Unknown. 16 deaf signers and 400–500 hearing signers reported in one village.
iso2=sgn-MX-YUC
iso3=msd

Maya sign languages are used in Mexico and Guatemala by Maya communities with unusually high numbers of deaf inhabitants. In some instances, both hearing and deaf members of a village may use the sign language. These sign languages are thought to be unrelated to both the "national sign languages" of Mexico (Mexican Sign Language) and Guatemala (Guatemalan Sign Language), as well as the local spoken Mayan languages and Spanish.

Yucatec Maya Sign Language

Yucatec Maya Sign Language is used in the Yucatán region by both hearing and deaf rural Mayas. It is a natural complex language, which is not related to Mexican Sign Language, but may have similarities with sign languages found in nearby Guatemala.

As the hearing villagers are competent in the sign language, the deaf inhabitants seem to be well integrated in the community - in contrast to the marginalisation of deaf people in the wider community, and also in contrast to Highland Maya Sign Language, which appears to be used in at least one village as a means of social segregation and oppression (see below).

The spoken language of the community is Yucatec Maya language.

Highland Maya Sign Language

In the highlands of Guatemala, Mayas use a sign language that belongs to a "sign language complex" known locally in the K'ichee'an language as "Meemul Ch'aab'al" and "Meemul Tziij", "mute language." Researcher Erich Fox Tree reports that it is used by deaf rural Maya throughout the region, as well as some traders and traditional storytellers. These communities and Fox Tree believe that "Meemul Ch'aab'al" belongs to an ancient family of Maya sign languages. [ [http://www.diverseeducation.com/Anthropology_ErichFoxTree.asp Navigating North and South for Native Knowledge] , by Patricia Valdata for DiverseEducation.com, 2005.] Fox Tree claims that Yutactec Maya Sign Language is also "closely-related and substantially mutually-intelligible". [Fox Tree, Erich (2004). "Meemul Ch'aab'al (Highland Maya Sign Language): The Invisible Visible Vernacular of an Indigenous Underclass". Society for Linguistic Anthropology. [http://culturalheritageinternational.org/forums/view.php?site=anthrocommons&bn=anthrocommons_section31&key=1100304653 Abstract] .]

In at least one highland community, the sign language is used by "an impoverished class of deaf and hearing servants who are often forbidden to speak aloud in the presence of their masters: a hidden class of rural peons who call themselves 'slaves.'"

Footnotes

Further reading

*Johnson, Robert E. (1991). "Sign language, culture & community in a traditional Yucatec Maya village", in Sign Language Studies 73:461-474 (1991).
*Shuman, Malcolm K. & Mary Margaret Cherry-Shuman. (1981). "A brief annotated sign list of Yucatec Maya sign language." Language Sciences, 3, 1 (53), 124-185.
*Shuman, Malcolm K. (1980). "The sound of silence in Nohya: a preliminary account of sign language use by the deaf in a Maya community in Yucatan, Mexico." Language Sciences, 2, 1 (51), Mar, 144-173.
*Du Bois, John W. (1978). "Mayan sign language: An ethnography of non-verbal communication." Paper presented at the 77th annual meeting, American Anthropological Association, Los Angeles.

External links

* [http://www.sil.org/mexico/lenguajes-de-signos/04i-LSMayaYucateco.htm SIL overview of YMSL]


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