Author Archives: Sven Gronemeyer

About Sven Gronemeyer

Ab 1998 Studium der Altamerikanistik und Ethnologie, Vor- und Frühgeschichte und Ägyptologie an der Rheinischen Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn. 2004 Magister mit einer epigraphischen Studie der Inschriften von Tortuguero, Mexiko. Von 2011 bis 2014 Promotionsstipendiat an der La Trobe University Melbourne, 2015 Promotion mit einer Arbeit über die orthographischen Konventionen der Mayaschrift und die phonemische Rekonstruktion des Klassischen Maya. Von 2010 bis 2012 Mitarbeiter im Proyecto Arqueológico Tamarindito. Seit 2014 Vizepräsident von Wayeb (European Association of Mayanists). Honorary Associate der La Trobe University seit 2015. Preisträger 2015 der Nancy Millis Medal.
Die Kultur der Klassischen Maya. Epigraphisch interessieren vorrangig historiographische Aspekte und Systeme der politischen und territorialen Organisation, sowie typologische Untersuchungen des Schriftsystems. Linguistisch liegen die Schwerpunkte auf komparativen und quantitativen Methoden einer historischen Linguistik des Klassischen Maya, insbesondere in den Bereichen Phonologie und Morphologie.

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Filling the Grid? More Evidence for the <t’a> Syllabogram

Research Note 4


Sven Gronemeyer1,2

1 Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, Bonn
2 La Trobe University, Melbourne

This epigraphic note1)This research paper abstains from indicating or reconstructing vowel complexity on the basis of supragraphematic vowel disharmony, as has been proposed in two studies (Houston, Stuart & Robertson 1998, Lacadena & Wichmann 2004). There are two main reasons for this approach: 1) although both proposals operate under similar premises, their conclusions are rather distinct; and 2) no consensus has yet been reached on the mechanisms of disharmonic spellings, resulting in alternative views on the reasons underlying the phenomenon of vowel disharmony (e.g. Kaufman 2003, Mora-Marín 2004, Gronemeyer 2014). We neither neglect previous research nor entirely dismiss the possibility of a quantitative Classic Mayan vowel system and its orthographic indication. Before the project has collected sufficient epigraphic data and can test previous proposals against the existing evidence or formulate new hypotheses, we prefer to pursue an unprejudiced approach in our epigraphic analysis and to be rather conservative, while also noting that the transcriptional spelling in one model may vary between authors. We therefore apply a broad transliteration and a narrow transcription, but only as far as sounds can be reconstructed using methods from historical linguistics. This last point particularly concerns the aspirated vowel nucleus, as in e.g., k’a[h]k’. reviews David Stuart’s proposal for a t’a syllabogram (Stuart 1998: 417; Bíró 2003: 2, Lacadena & Wichmann 2005: fn. 1) and enriches the evidence for his reading by providing more examples in different productive contexts.

The Initial Evidence from Ikil

In a written communication to fellow epigraphers in 1998, David Stuart identified a hitherto unrecognised and still unclassified grapheme on one of the two inscribed lintels from Structure 1 in Ikil, Yucatan. Each of these two lintels consists of 10 glyph blocks, and together they comprise a single, continuous text spanning two opposite doorways of the summit temple of Structure 1 (Figure 1a-b; Andrews & Stuart 1968: 73, figs. 1, 3, 7).

The glyph block in question (Figure 1c) is block B on Lintel 1. Based on context, Stuart proposed the reading nnt’a?-T501ba-T18yi, for t’ab?-ay-i “(s)he/it ascended”, representing a unique instance of syllabic substitution for the typical “step verb” T843T’AB?. The logogram T843 was first proposed as a dedicatory verb for ceramic vessels by Barbara MacLeod (1990: 342) because of its abundant occurrence in the PSS. Stuart (1998: 409-417) later also linked it to building dedications. The reading and translation “to go up, to rise, to ascend” was first proposed by David Stuart, Nikolai Grube and Elisabeth Wagner (cf. Wagner 1995, Schele & Looper 1996: 51), based on the grapheme’s use in other contexts of historical nature2)For example, compare the accounts of Bajlaj Chan K’awil seeking refuge in different places as mentioned on Dos Pilas Hieroglyphic Stairways 2 and 4 (cf. Guenter 2003), or its use in association with other warfare events or tribute scenes (Stuart 1998: 409-416). and correspondences in Ch’olan languages (Kaufman & Norman 1984: 133). However, clear phonemic support was lacking.


Figure 1. Ikil Structure 1 texts. a) West Room, Lintel 1; b) East Room, Lintel 2 (photos after Andrews & Stuart 1968, fig. 1); c) Ikil Lintel 1, block B (drawing by Sven Gronemeyer).

Stuart’s (1998: 417) idea of a full phonemic substitution is supported by the dedicatory nature of the Ikil text, which opens with a-ALAY-ya t’a?-ba-yi u-wa?-ya-bi-li (blocks A-C), alay t’ab?-ay-i-Ø u-way?-ab-il “here ascended the dormitory of …”, followed by the elaborate name phrase of a noble woman. Equivalent formulae with either the T843 “step verb” or the T1014 “God N verb” are attested elsewhere and are well known in Yucatan (Figure 2). However, this evidence does not yet prove a full syllabic substitution for one of these two logograms, as it draws on functional parallels alone.


Figure 2. Examples of dedicatory verbs following alay. a) Cacabbeec Lintel 1 (drawing by Daniel Graña-Behrens [2002: pl. 4]); b) Edzna Ball-court Sculpture (drawing by Sven Gronemeyer [Benavides & Gronemeyer 2005: fig. 2]).

Further Support by Phonemic Complementation

Stuart (1998: 416-417) furthermore cites the case of Uxmal Capstone 2 (Figure 3). In block C, he recognises the same shape with a dotted outline typical of the T843 “step verb”. This sign icon is the Late Classic representation of the footprint ascending a stairway that is more clearly visible in early forms (compare to Figure 2a). Although the main sign is again clearly T501ba, he considers the third sign to be a rendition of the very same supposed t’a? syllabogram visible on Ikil Lintel 1, an interpretation also followed here. Thus, we might be dealing in this instance with a full phonemic complementation.3)A similar instance may appear on Uxmal Ball-court Sculpture 1, block F (Graham 1992: 119), where we might have the bulbous part of the supposed t’a? sign on top of the “step verb”. However, this occurrence cannot be confirmed because of the block’s badly weathered state and the fracture in the middle. We also have a dedicatory statement here and can thus analyse blocks C-D as t’a?-T’AB?-ba u-tz’i-bV for t’ab?-a[y-i]-Ø u-tz’i[h]b, “it ascends its writing”.

Figure 3. Uxmal Capstone 2 (drawing by Frans Blom [1934: fig. 4]).

A hitherto unrecognised instance of the “step verb” provides further support for the proposal that the enigmatic grapheme in question might indeed be a t’a? syllabogram. An altar support looted from Piedras Negras or its vicinity in the late 19th century and now stored in the magazine of the Peabody Museum (Teufel 2004: 565) was documented by Maler (1901: 64) in 1899 in Ciudad del Carmen. The inscription is badly weathered, especially in its lower half.

a b

Figure 4. Piedras Negras Altar Support. a) Front Side (photo by Teobert Maler [1901: pl. 11]); b) Block A5b (drawing by Sven Gronemeyer).

In block A5b, we obviously encounter another instance of the T843 “step verb”, likely conflated with the yi sign indicating the mediopassive (cf. Houston 1997: 295-296, Houston, Robertson and Stuart 2000: 330). Above is a less clearly recognisable sign that bears resemblance to the examples from Ikil and Uxmal, although this should be verified by double-checking the original monuments. Based on these assumptions, we are likely dealing with t’a?-T’AB?°yi; however, the rest of the inscription does not further clarify the verb’s function, as only ya-ha-? ?-?-k’i is still recognisable from the subject.

The evidence brought forward thus far provides some supporting indications that the reading of the T843 “step verb” may thus indeed be T’AB and that the unclassified sign in question is likely the syllabogram t’a.

Another Context to Test the <t’a> Reading

To verify the t’a? reading, more examples must be found of productive readings in other contexts. Luckily, there is at least one more environment where the sign is used. There are three examples, and once more, these originate from Yucatan, making the suspected case from Piedras Negras the only one from the Late Classic in the Maya heartlands.

Again, we are dealing with dedicatory statements of carved texts that all have a very similar structure (Figure 5). With the other syllabograms being well-known, we can tentatively operate with the spelling bo-t’a?-ja. As the expression appears in a predicative position, T181ja clearly marks a derived intransitive verb; thus, we can assume that bot’ is the root and test it against the lexical and semantic evidence in the given hieroglyphic context.

Lexical evidence for bot’ as a transitive verb is extremely limited and originates exclusively from Yukatekan (Table 1); thus, the spelling must indicate a passive. Here, we are dealing with a Yukatekan vernacular form with typical Classic Mayan morphology, providing another attestation of diglossia.

YUK bot‘ magullar, levantar chichón (Barrera Vásquez 1980: 65)
YUK bot’a’an carne levantada a magullada de algun golpe (Barrera Vásquez 1980: 65)

Table 1. Linguistic evidence for bot’.

With its semantic range encompassing “to smash, to mash, to buckle, to dent, to make bumps”, the action of bot’ could very well apply to the context of dedication statements (Table 2).

a a-ALAY-ya PET-ta-ja bo-t’a?-ja tzi-tzi-li-le yu-xu-li-li-le u-k’a-li …
alay pet-aj-Ø boht’?-aj-Ø tzitz-il=e[’] y-uxul-il=e[’] u-k’al-Ø …
here round-INCH-3s.ABS dent.PASS-MOD.V.INTR dedicate-ABSTR=TOP 3s.ERG-carve-ABSTR=TOP 3s.ERG-bind-NMLS
here became round, was dented the dedicated, its carving, its bound …
b … a-ALAY-ya bo-t’a?-ja yu-xu-li-li u-k’a-li …
… alay boht’?-aj-Ø y-uxul-il u-k’al-Ø …
here dent.PASS-MOD.V.INTR 3s.ERG-carve-ABSTR 3s.ERG-bind-NMLS
here was dented its carving, its bound …
c bo-t’a?-ja yu-xu-li u-ja-yi ?-? …
boht’?-aj-Ø y-uxul-i[l] u-jay ? …
dent.PASS.MOD.V.INTR-3s.ABS 3s.ERG-carve-ABSTR 3s.ERG-clay.bowl
it was dented its carving, its clay bowl ? …

Table 2. Linguistic analysis of the three examples of bo-t’a?-ja. a) Xcalumkin Lintel 1 Stone I, blocks A-G; b) Jamb of unknown provenance in the Museo Amparo, blocks A3-B5; c) Ceramic vessel of unknown provenance in Dumbarton Oaks, blocks A1-B2.

b c

Figure 5. Examples of the suspected bo-t’a-ja spelling. a) Xcalumkin Lintel 1 Stone I, block C (photo by Hanns J. Prem, drawing by Sven Gronemeyer); b) Jamb of unknown provenance in the Museo Amparo, block B3 (photo by Karl Herbert Mayer, drawing by Christian Prager [Mayer 1995: pls. 233, 237]); c) Carved ceramic vessel of unknown provenance in Dumbarton Oaks (DO 114), block A1 (drawing by Sven Gronemeyer).

Clearly, the term refers to the process of carving out glyph blocks from the background. In all of these examples, the elevated glyph blocks are elaborated in a bas-relief within the text field, as made explicit by y-uxul(-il), “its carving” and further corroborated on Xcalumkin Lintel 1 Stone I by pet-aj, “it was made round”.4)The spelling yu-xu-li-li-le on Xcalumkin Lintel 1, blocks E-F provides an interesting case. Although the two li signs clearly indicate an –il abstractive (or possessive) suffix, I interpret the le sign as the topic marker =e’, discussed by Alfonso Lacadena and Søren Wichmann (2002: 287-288) in other instances as evidence for Yukatekan vernacular influence. The Xcalumkin example is an overspelling that, instead of simply applying -li-le, produces a highly analytical form using a shallow orthography. The same enclitic appears in in block D as well, likely spelling tzi-tzi-li-le for tzitz-il=e[’]. Yucatec has a variety of entries for tzitz, including “bendecir, rociar” and “escurrir el agua”, as well as tzitza’n “cosa esquinada” (Barrera Vásquez 1980: 862); Itza has tziitz “splash, flick water with fingers” (Hofling & Tesucún 1997: 629). Another related form could be Ch’orti’ tzitz “a sowing, a scattering“ (Wisdom 1950: 730). Although we cannot securely tie the Xcalumkin example semantically to the “besprinkling” of a text, it nevertheless seems likely that it represents a dedicatory context.

A graphematic argument can also be made in favour of the supposed t’a? sign in the spelling bot’? in this context, in addition to the evidence for its lexical and semantic productivity. Most passive spellings tend to alter any potential root harmonic spelling from CV1-CV1 to CV1-Ca in order to provide the vocalic onset for the –aj thematic suffix (Lacadena 2004: 166-167, Gronemeyer 2014: 251-253, 304-325).

Distinguishing the Possible <t’a> Sign from <o> Allographs

This proposal of a second context in which to apply the t’a? reading to produce a meaningful reading bot’ raises the question of graphic variability. In previous reading attempts (Lacadena 2012: 54, fn. 14), the grapheme was considered as a graphic variant of either T99o, T279o, T280o, or T296o; or T87TE’ because of its close resemblance to these signs (Figure 6).

a b c d e

Figure 6. Comparison of graphemes similar to the proposed sign. a) T99; b) T279; c) T280; d) T296; e) T87. All images from Thompson (1962).

Applying these correspondences to the aforementioned context would yield a root bo’, bo[h], or bo[j]. Of these possibilities, only boj “to nail, drill” may be a semantically viable option (cf. pCh *b’oj, “clavar, barrenar” [Kaufman & Norman 1984: 117]; CHT boho, “barrenar” [Morán 1695: 11]; boh, “golpe de madero hueco” [Barrera Vásquez 1983: 60]), showing some relationship to the affective verb baj “to hammer” (Kaufman & Norman 1984: 116, Zender 2010). Another related form is bo[j]te’ in the semantic domain “fence, hedge” (cf. Lacadena [2012: fn. 14] for lexical evidence), but none of these options seems particularly probable for graphematic, morphophonemic, and semantic reasons. Why would a scribe have then written bo-o-aj instead of bo-ja-ja or bo-jo-ja?

A brief comparison of the different graphemes in Figure 6 can further clarify why the reading bo-o-ja cannot be favoured. T279 and T280 are attested in many contexts as the syllabogram o (Figure 7), a pars pro toto derivation of the front feather of T1066o, the so-called O-Bird cited in the Ritual de los Bacabes (possibly also read O’ [cf. Fitzsimmons 2012]). Although the bulbous end and the row of circular elements are optional, the feather always features a crosshatched area at or near the tip. This feature is absent in all examples of the proposed t’a? sign.

a b c d

Figure 7. Examples of different T279 and T280 signs. a) ha-o-bo, Copan Temple 11, West Door South Panel, A4; b) MO’-o, Machaquila Structure 4, Fragment V, 3; c) o-ki-bi, Palenque Temple 19, Bench South Side, M7; d) o-OL-si, Yaxchilan Lintel 37, C7b. Drawings by Sven Gronemeyer.

In a late development, T99 appears as an o allograph in Yucatan, a pattern later preserved in the codices (Figure 8), where it diffuses in shape with T296. It consistently exhibits one bulbous end, a centre row of dots and a mirror-symmetrical array of lateral lines in its persistent part, thus still representing a feather. However, a cross-hatched area is absent.

a b c

Figure 8. Examples of different T99 signs. a) MO’-o-o, Codex Dresden 16c3, A1; b) o-chi-ya, Codex Madrid 102d2; c) K’U’-u-lu-o-to-ti, Chichen Itza Akab Dzib, Lintel Front, C2. Drawings by Sven Gronemeyer.

Although the t’a? sign bears the most graphic resemblance to T99, there are in fact significant differences. Taking a closer look, the elongated element of the former has a rather lobed outline and is not symmetrical, and the line of circles appears not to be on the central axis. These features are especially visible in the Xcalumkin example, and less elaborated in Ikil and the Museo Amparo monuments (see the photo, rather than drawing). These characteristics, together with the given contexts, clearly prove that the proposed t’a? sign constitues a distinct grapheme with a syllabic value different from the bird feather o.

Yet Another Context for the <t’a> Sign?

There is one instance of T99 where the grapheme could be read as t’a instead of the usual value o. This interpretation would contradict the principle of multiple syllabic readings for one sign (Zender 1999: 56); however, diagnostic features of two signs are amalgamated in other contexts, in a blurring of distinctions between signs also observable in several graphemes recorded at Chichen Itza.5)For example, compare the spelling of K’AK’-k’u-PAKAL-la on Chichen Itza Stela 1, C6. The spelling for PAKAL resembles more the T594 checkerboard sign from the name of GIII, rather than the standard T624a,b sign. An example of T624c, the tasselled shield outline with the checkerboard design, can for example be found on Lintel 4, F2 from the Temple of the Four Lintels.

a b

Figure 9. Chichen Itza, Temple of the Four Lintels (Str. 7B4), Lintel 2. a) Photo of the lintel (Bayer 1937: pl. 8c); b) drawing of block A8 by Sven Gronemeyer.

Block A8 of Lintel 2 of the Temple of the Four Lintels is the last constituent of a nominal phrase. Its main sign is the undeciphered crouched body sign T226 (not to be confused with T703, which has a penis in place of the head). On Tonina Monument 161, block L (Graham and Henderson 2006: 102), this sign appears suffixed by –ta-ja, indicating an inchoative derivation of a noun; thus, the sign can be classified as a logogram.

Considering the high percentage of syllabic spellings and the shallow orthography used in Chichen Itza because of the diglossia situation (cf. Lacadena 2008: 1, 18, Gronemeyer 2014: 472), it is likely that the other two signs in block A8 of Lintel 2 function as phonemic complements. When applying the proposed t’a value in this case, and also considering the eroded, but still recognisable li sign, we may propose the reading T’AL? for T226.

This relates to some interesting lexical evidence for a positional root in the Yukatekan branch: YUK t’al, “agonizante, que no se muere” and “asentado sin firmeza, ligeramente puesto” (Barrera Vásquez 1983: 832); YUK t’al, “stretch out, be in agony, unconscious” (Bricker et al. 1998: 288); ITZ t’äl, “sit” (Hofling & Tesucún 1997: 617). The representation of the crouched body would also relate to this possible reading. But as the Tonina case indicates, the root represented by this sign clearly was not positional in in this case.6)The context of the Tonina Monument 161, dedicated by K’inich Ich’ak Chapat on, 5 Eb’ 10 Yaxk’in (AD June 18, 730), is about a “fire-entering” in the tomb of K’inich Baknal Chahk (Martin & Grube 2008: 186-187). Applying the proposed T’AL? reading, we can interpret block K-P as follows: och[-i] k’a[h]k’ t’al-t-aj u-muk?-nal k’inich bak-nal cha[h]k k’uh po[po’] ajaw, “fire entered, he became seated in his tomb, K’inich Baknal Chahk, the Tonina-God-King.” This account could relate to a post-mortal treatment of the corpse, e.g. a bundling of the bones. Furthermore, in Classic Mayan, positional roots may blur with transitive verbs in their inflection (Wichmann 2002: 7-8).

However, arguing with one undeciphered sign to support another decipherment may quickly become circular. This excursus is thus nothing more than a thought experiment. And it is still far from certain that the context here indeed represents the putative t’a? sign, and not the regular T99o sign.

T66 as a Possible Allograph

Elisabeth Wagner (1995) also mentions the examples from Ikil and Uxmal in her discussion of T66 as another possible t’a syllabogram (Figure 10a). Part of her argument draws on the painted capstone from the so-called “Tomb of Unknown Location” (Figure 10b).

a b

Figure 10. a) T66 (Thompson 1962); b) Chichen Itza Painted Capstone (Beyer 1937: pl. 13a).

In block E, we find T66?-T501ba in a position and context that resembles that of Uxmal Capstone 2, which makes T66 a possible allograph of the t’a? sign discussed here, spelling t’ab?. Again, no mediopassive form is indicated, and the following ma-ka in block F is also ambiguous. Although it could be interpreted as an underspelled passive ma[h]k-a[j], interpreting these spellings as the nominalised forms t’ab? mak, “it is ascended, it is covered” would create a couplet structure. The codices provide other contexts for T66, but discussion of these would stray too far from the current case.

A short remark must also be made on sign shape. T66 is a tripartite grapheme, with each part made up of a circular and bulbous element that shows some compositional similarity to the t’a? sign discussed here. Either way, T66 could be a multiplication of the single t’a? sign, or the latter could be an abbreviated version of the former.7)Both strategies of sign manipulation are well attested with other syllabograms in the graphematic lexicon of Maya writing, e.g. T604k’u and T149k’u, or T93ch’a, T603ch’a and T634k’u.


The context of t’ab? for the original proposal of the putative t’a? syllable is potentially enhanced by another occurrence discussed in this note, in which it may function as a pre-posed phonemic complement. Although the Ikil example could be considered a full phonemic substitution, the Uxmal case would account for a full phonemic complementation, if the signs are indeed the same (acknowledging the inaccuracy of many of Blom’s glyph drawings). The latter example may also point to an allograph.

More support for the t’a? grapheme comes from the context of the proposed bot’ reading in several dedicatory phrases. These instances also provide a series of subgraphemic details that help to delimitate these graphs from other o signs and support the status of the t’a? form as a completely different syllabogram. There are potentially two additional cases, but these appear in the context of two still undeciphered logograms.

Yet we still lack conclusive evidence to add a t’a syllabogram to the grid without question mark, if strict standards are applied. Ideally, at least a third context for the sign under discussion should be found to fulfil the following premises: the sign occurs in contexts in which it 1) functions as a syllabogram, 2) proves to be distinct from the different o variants, 3) exhibits vowel harmony with known syllabograms, either within the root or with a following suffix, and 4) complements a deciphered logogram. Ideally, more evidence should be found outside Late and Post-Classic Yucatan. Nonetheless, except for the dubious case from Piedras Negras, the sign seems to be a late invention.


I would like to thank Nikolai Grube, Christian Prager, and Elisabeth Wagner for comments and suggestions on earlier drafts of this note. Mallory Matsumoto kindly corrected the English.


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1695 Arte en lengua Cholti que quiere decir lengua de milperos. Unpublished manuscript. American Philosophical Society Library, Philadelphia.
Schele, Linda, and Matthew G. Looper
1996 Notebook for the XXth Maya Hieroglyphic Workshop at Texas, March 9-10, 1996; Quiriguá and Copán. Department of Art and Art History, the College of Fine Arts, and the Institute of Latin American Studies, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX.
Stuart, David
1998 “The Fire Enters his House”: Architecture and Ritual in Classic Maya Texts. In Function and Meaning in Classic Maya Architecture: A Symposium at Dumbarton Oaks, 7th and 8th October 1994, edited by Stephen D. Houston, pp. 373–425. Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C.
Stuart, David, Stephen Houston, and John Robertson
2000 The Language of Classic Maya Inscriptions. Current Anthropology 41(3): 321–356.
Wagner, Elisabeth
1995 A Reading for T66. Unpublished Manuscript. Bonn.
Wichmann, Søren
2002 Hieroglyphic Evidence for the Historical Configuration of Eatern Ch’olan. Research Reports on Ancient Maya Writing 51. Center for Maya Research, Washington, D.C.
Wisdom, Charles
1950 Materials on the Chorti Language. Microfilm Collection of Manuscripts on Middle American Cultural Anthropology 28. University of Chicago, Chicago, IL.
Zender, Marc
1999 Diacritical Marks and Underspelling in the Classic Maya Script: Implications for Decipherment. Unpublished M.A. thesis, Department of Archaeology, University of Calgary, Calgary.
2010 Baj “Hammer” and Related Affective Verbs in Classic Maya. The PARI Journal 11(2): 1–16.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. This research paper abstains from indicating or reconstructing vowel complexity on the basis of supragraphematic vowel disharmony, as has been proposed in two studies (Houston, Stuart & Robertson 1998, Lacadena & Wichmann 2004). There are two main reasons for this approach: 1) although both proposals operate under similar premises, their conclusions are rather distinct; and 2) no consensus has yet been reached on the mechanisms of disharmonic spellings, resulting in alternative views on the reasons underlying the phenomenon of vowel disharmony (e.g. Kaufman 2003, Mora-Marín 2004, Gronemeyer 2014). We neither neglect previous research nor entirely dismiss the possibility of a quantitative Classic Mayan vowel system and its orthographic indication. Before the project has collected sufficient epigraphic data and can test previous proposals against the existing evidence or formulate new hypotheses, we prefer to pursue an unprejudiced approach in our epigraphic analysis and to be rather conservative, while also noting that the transcriptional spelling in one model may vary between authors. We therefore apply a broad transliteration and a narrow transcription, but only as far as sounds can be reconstructed using methods from historical linguistics. This last point particularly concerns the aspirated vowel nucleus, as in e.g., k’a[h]k’.
2. For example, compare the accounts of Bajlaj Chan K’awil seeking refuge in different places as mentioned on Dos Pilas Hieroglyphic Stairways 2 and 4 (cf. Guenter 2003), or its use in association with other warfare events or tribute scenes (Stuart 1998: 409-416).
3. A similar instance may appear on Uxmal Ball-court Sculpture 1, block F (Graham 1992: 119), where we might have the bulbous part of the supposed t’a? sign on top of the “step verb”. However, this occurrence cannot be confirmed because of the block’s badly weathered state and the fracture in the middle.
4. The spelling yu-xu-li-li-le on Xcalumkin Lintel 1, blocks E-F provides an interesting case. Although the two li signs clearly indicate an –il abstractive (or possessive) suffix, I interpret the le sign as the topic marker =e’, discussed by Alfonso Lacadena and Søren Wichmann (2002: 287-288) in other instances as evidence for Yukatekan vernacular influence. The Xcalumkin example is an overspelling that, instead of simply applying -li-le, produces a highly analytical form using a shallow orthography. The same enclitic appears in in block D as well, likely spelling tzi-tzi-li-le for tzitz-il=e[’]. Yucatec has a variety of entries for tzitz, including “bendecir, rociar” and “escurrir el agua”, as well as tzitza’n “cosa esquinada” (Barrera Vásquez 1980: 862); Itza has tziitz “splash, flick water with fingers” (Hofling & Tesucún 1997: 629). Another related form could be Ch’orti’ tzitz “a sowing, a scattering“ (Wisdom 1950: 730). Although we cannot securely tie the Xcalumkin example semantically to the “besprinkling” of a text, it nevertheless seems likely that it represents a dedicatory context.
5. For example, compare the spelling of K’AK’-k’u-PAKAL-la on Chichen Itza Stela 1, C6. The spelling for PAKAL resembles more the T594 checkerboard sign from the name of GIII, rather than the standard T624a,b sign. An example of T624c, the tasselled shield outline with the checkerboard design, can for example be found on Lintel 4, F2 from the Temple of the Four Lintels.
6. The context of the Tonina Monument 161, dedicated by K’inich Ich’ak Chapat on, 5 Eb’ 10 Yaxk’in (AD June 18, 730), is about a “fire-entering” in the tomb of K’inich Baknal Chahk (Martin & Grube 2008: 186-187). Applying the proposed T’AL? reading, we can interpret block K-P as follows: och[-i] k’a[h]k’ t’al-t-aj u-muk?-nal k’inich bak-nal cha[h]k k’uh po[po’] ajaw, “fire entered, he became seated in his tomb, K’inich Baknal Chahk, the Tonina-God-King.” This account could relate to a post-mortal treatment of the corpse, e.g. a bundling of the bones. Furthermore, in Classic Mayan, positional roots may blur with transitive verbs in their inflection (Wichmann 2002: 7-8).
7. Both strategies of sign manipulation are well attested with other syllabograms in the graphematic lexicon of Maya writing, e.g. T604k’u and T149k’u, or T93ch’a, T603ch’a and T634k’u.

Of Codes, Glyphs and Kings

Conference Presentation

The project will deliver a presentation at the DiXiT conference “Digital Scholarly Editing: Theory, Practice, Methods” to be held at the University of Antwerp, October 5-7, 2016.

Of Codes, Glyphs and Kings: Tasks, Limits and Approaches in the Encoding of Classic Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions

Christian Prager, Katja Diederichs, Nikolai Grube, Elisabeth Wagner (University of Bonn), Sven Gronemeyer (University of Bonn & La Trobe University), and Maximilian Brodhun, Franziska Diehr (University of Göttingen)

So far, no existing digital work environment can sufficiently represent the traditional epigraphic workflow ‘documentation, analysis, interpretation, and publication’ for texts written in complex writing systems; such as Egyptian hieroglyphs, cuneiform writing, or Classic Mayan. The project “Text Database and Dictionary of Classic Mayan” will transpose this workflow to a digital epigraphy, by the reuse and development of digital methods and tools in the Virtual Research Environment. Maya writing is a semi-deciphered logographic-syllabic system with approximately 10,000 text carriers discovered in sites throughout Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras (300 B.C. to A.D. 1500). When designing the digital epigraphic work environment, the documentation of the current state of decipherment of the script and language must to be considered. The digital decoding of undeciphered scripts requires a machine readable corpus with annotated textual data which meet technical requirements for applying corpus and computational linguistic methods. To digitally encode texts or markup linguistic information, the annotation guidelines of the TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) have become a standard. The project will therefore investigate the usability of TEI, rather designed for marking up transcriptions of fully readable texts originally written linearly and in alphabetic writing systems. A linear transcription of Maya inscriptions alone cannot represent the original spelling or primary source in its entirety, as many potentially significant details remain undocumented. Marking up the original text and its structure is therefore of great importance, particularly for partially deciphered or undeciphered scripts. We identify this issue as a significant desideratum in the TEI epigraphic research by estimating the limits as well as restating requirements for encoding standards like TEI. Our paper will not only address the tasks and limits of encoding texts in XML/TEI, but also our approaches in the study and decipherment of Classic Mayan.

Morphological Glossing of Mayan Languages under XML: Preliminary Results

Working Paper 4


Frauke Sachse1 & Michael Dürr2

1 Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, Bonn
2 Freie Universität, Berlin


This paper summarises the results of a workshop that was held at the Department for the Anthropology of the Americas of the University of Bonn between 4-6 September 2014. The workshop was a joint initiative of the research project Textdatenbank und Wörterbuch des Klassischen Maya (TWKM = Text Database and Dictionary of Classic Mayan) and the research group developing the software application Tool for Systematic Annotation of Colonial K’iche’ (TSACK) and aimed at discussing and defining standardised conventions for the linguistic description and glossing of Mayan language forms under XML1)The participants of the workshop who contributed to the discussion and examples that are used in the present paper include in alphabetical order: Katja Diederichs, Sven Gronemeyer, Christian Prager, Elisabeth Wagner (for TWKM) as well as Michael Dürr, Christian W.R. Klingler and Frauke Sachse (for TSACK)..

Grammatical descriptions of Mayan languages exhibit a plethora of descriptive standards. Produced by different linguists of different backgrounds with different research objectives, they reflect the diverse theoretical orientations of the linguistic discipline, ranging from formal descriptions of the structural or generative type to prescriptive grammars for the use in language teaching. Functionally identical forms are found to be analysed and glossed rather differently, depending on the purpose of description or the theoretical model applied. Even edited volumes usually maintain the personal preferences of authors, which may result in the ‘third person singular ergative’ being variously glossed in one and the same volume as “3erg”, “3sE”, “3SE”, “3sgE”, or –following a common standard of distinguishing pronominal sets A (ergative) and B (absolutive)– as “3a”, “3sA”, “3sg.A”, “3SG.A”, “a3S”, “A3s”, “A3” and “A.3” (see Avelino 2011 among others). Although there are justifications for maintaining different conventions, these constitute a source of potential confusion; in the case of the just mentioned example the abbreviation, “A” might be mistaken for the equally common gloss of the absolutive pronoun. Few attempts have been made to compare and integrate this material and provide a standardised and generally applicable descriptive terminology that can help to analyse grammatical development in the Mayan language family.

Any attempt to make the data of different Mayan languages comparable requires the definition of set conventions for glossing and typological description. As a prerequisite to the analysis of Classic Mayan by systematic comparison with modern and historic languages of the Mayan family, the TWKM-project will need to decide on such conventions. By choosing conventions that other corpus projects on Mayan languages operating within the same XML-based environment can share, the data would become comparable and permit comprehensive analysis of semantic and grammatical structure across corpora in the TextGrid repositories. Thus, standardising the rules for glossing would create the necessary infrastructure for a network of Mayan language database projects within the TextGrid environment.

The aim of the workshop was to identify and discuss difficulties and problems in interlinear glossing of Mayan languages and use them as a basis for defining the conventions and rules of linguistic description under XML. The languages that were primarily focused on during the workshop, thus, included K’iche’ (colonial and modern), Ch’ol, Modern Yukatek and Classic Mayan. Accordingly, the following summary presents results that are only preliminary and are not yet meant as a defined standard, but as a basis for further discussion.

Basic premises of the XML environment

Linguistic glossing is dependent on its purpose. The conventions proposed and discussed in this paper take the respective objectives of the TWKM and TSACK projects into account and conform with the restrictions imposed by the XML environment of an annotated corpus.

The main objective of the TWKM project is to build a corpus-based dictionary of Classic Mayan. Using the virtual research environment TextGrid, all Classic Maya texts will be compiled in a digital corpus and annotated to create a comprehensive database of lexical entries and morphosyntactic forms and structures. The annotation process starts with the graphemic classification of hieroglyphic signs and needs to include the phonemic transcription of sign values and their morphemic transliteration into words. The transliterated texts are then morphologically analysed and glossed, which constitutes the basis for the translation of sentence structures and the individual lexemes, from which the dictionary is built. The annotation process is complex and requires the inclusion of multiple options on all levels. An exact XML-schema and the technological infrastructure are at this stage still under construction.

The Tool for Systematic Annotation of Colonial K’iche’ (TSACK) is being developed as a software that supports the semi-automated analysis and XML-annotation of language forms in colonial documents (see Sachse et al. 2015).2)TSACK was developed in a pilot study for a project on the lexicography of colonial K’iche’ that will be undertaken by the authors of this paper. The research was funded at the University of Bonn between October 2013 and September 2014 (Maria von Linden-Programm). The programming was carried out by Christian Klingler, who was imminently involved in the theoretical development of the software. The primary objective of the research project is to define XML-based standards for corpus-oriented documentation of colonial dictionaries of the Highland Mayan language K’iche’. Colonial dictionaries do not follow common orthographic standards and exhibit inconsistencies in semantic correspondences of K’iche’ and Spanisch entries. TSACK assists in the analysis of the orthography and speeds up the XML-annotation process, which allows for the processing of larger quantities of lexicographic data. There are plans to implement this tool into the TextGrid environment and further develop and adapt it for the annotation of colonial data from other Mayan languages, which would help in processing large amounts of language data and make them available for comparative analysis.

Both projects share the objective of building databases that will serve the lexico-semantic and grammatical analysis of Mayan language data. Accordingly, linguistic glossing conventions need to be adapted to this particular purpose.

Dictionaries consist of lexical entries, or lemmata, the basic forms of lexical words. Dictionary-building thus always requires lemmatisation, i.e. the definition of the basic lexical form. The process of lemmatisation is dependent on the typology of the language. Mayan languages are primarily agglutinating. To build a dictionary from a text corpus, the words in each text need to be broken down into their morphological parts to make the lexical stems and roots retrievable within the corpus. Each of the elements that can make up a word (root, lexical stem, derivational morphemes, grammatical morphemes) need to be glossed individually. While for most cases of glossing it would suffice to break complex forms down to the lemma (1a), the compilation of lexical databases for which TSACK is being developed requires the morphological analysis of each form down to the root (1b).

(1) Glossing of stems and roots


  • k-in-b’aqir-ik
    ‘I become thin’
  • k-in-b’aq-ir-ik
    ‘I become thin’

A lemma consists of a minimum of a root and can combine a root and one or more derivational morphemes. Each derivational morpheme derives a new lemma which is annotated accordingly. The distinction of grammatical and derivational morphology and the classification of lexical categories needs to be part of the annotation scheme, as shown in the following example of a K’iche’ form. Accordingly, lexical and derivational categories need to be glossed unambiguously.

(2) XML-annotation of the entry quinbakiric from the Anonymous Franciscan K’iche’ Dictionary:

  <original_form xml:id="w1">quinbakiric</original_form>
  <ref target="w1" type="transliteration" status="certain">
   <gram_affix function="INC" affix_is="prefix">k</gram_affix>
   <gram_affix function="1s.ABS" affix_is="prefix">in</gram_affix>
    <lemma xml:id="l1" class="V.INTR">
     <lemma xml:id="l2" class="N">
      <root xml:id="r1" class="N">b'aq</root>
     <der_affix function="INTRVZ.INCH" affix_is="suffix">ir</der_affix>
    <gram_affix function="MOD.V.INTR" affix_is="suffix">ik</gram_affix>
   <ref target="l1" type="translation" status="certain">become.thin</ref>
   <ref target="l2" type="translation" status="certain">bone</ref>
   <ref target="l2" type="translation" status="certain">thin</ref>
   <ref target="r1" type="translation" status="certain">bone</ref>

In the example, grammatical morphemes are glossed in green, derivational categories in blue, and lexical classes in red. The detailed annotation allows the rebuilding of both, root-based and stem-based glossing.

(3) Root-based and stem-based glossing of annotated example

original dictionary entry quinbakiric
transcription kinb’aqirik
morphological analysis (1) k-in-b’aq-ir-ik
morphological analysis (2) k-in-b’aqir-ik
gloss (2) INC1s.ABSV.INTR:become.thinMOD.V.INTR
translation ‘I become thin’

The annotation of Classic Mayan texts has special requirements. Morphological analysis and glossing are dependent on the phonemic transcription, the transliteration of syllabic sign values and ultimately the graphemic classification. As all of these processes imply a certain level of uncertainty, annotation needs to allow for multiple interpretations. Furthermore it needs to be borne in mind that lexical and morphological analysis, and thus glossing, of Classic Mayan is still a reconstructive process that draws on evidence from modern and colonial Mayan languages in order to identify the lexical roots, grammatical markers and functions of the language depicted by the hieroglyphic script. As illustrated in the following example (4), the exact morphological analysis is not always clear and alternative glossings need to be included and retained until the grammatical patterns are better understood. It is the aim of the TWKM project to corroborate or dismiss current reconstructions and hypotheses about Classic Maya grammar based on a large annotated corpus of inscriptions. The glossing of lexical and morphological forms in the Classic Maya corpus is therefore as much an analytical result as it is an analytical tool to test and verify formal as well as functional categories.

(4) Interdependence of reconstructive sign analysis and morphological glossing in Classic Mayan

sign chumwan
(Montgomery 2002: 166, Fig. 9-8)
classification (Thompson 1962) 644°19:130.116:126
transliteration CHUM-mu-wa-ni-ya
transcription chumwaniy
morphological analysis (1) chum-wan-ø=iy
gloss (1) POS:sittingINTRVZ3s.ABSANT
morphological analysis (2) chum-wan-iy-ø
gloss (2) POS:sittingINTRVZCOM3s.ABS
translation ‘he sat down’

A note on orthographic standards

Linguistic glossing is independent from the orthographic standard used to represent the object language that is being glossed. However, for the purpose of defining standard conventions for TWKM and TSACK a common orthography needs to be used. Since the early colonial times, various orthographies have been in use, generating a significant number of potentially ambiguous characters. While in most modern orthographies the grapheme <k> represents the non-glottalised velar stop /k/, earlier (including colonial) orthographies used it either to represent the glottalised velar stop /k’/ (colonial Yukatek) or for the non-glottalised uvular stop /q/ (colonial K’iche’).

The current paper employs the phoneme-based standard alphabet defined by the Academia de las Lenguas Mayas (1988) to represent the Mayan languages of Guatemala. With the exception of grapheme <x>, the characters, or letters, of the ALMG alphabet are unambiguous and also apply to most Mayan languages in Mexico. The common Mexican conventions of using <b> instead of <b’> and <ts>/<ts’> instead of <tz>/<tz’> are not followed in here.

The orthographic conventions are shown below in integrated inventories.

  Bilabial Alveolar Alveo-palatal Retroflex Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
[- glottalised]
[+ glottalised]
[+ voiced]

[+ glottalised]
Nasal m n ñ*          
Fricative   s x, xh** x**   j   h
Lateral   l            
Vibrant   r            
Glide w         y    
* Alveopalatal ty, ty’ and ñ have not been defined in the ALMG alphabet, but have been added for Ch’ol (Mexico).
** Mamean and Q’anjob’alan only.
*** Apico-alveopalatal affricates (tch and tch’) and fricative (sh) have been excluded from this table, as they are restricted to a single variety of Mam (Todos Santos).

Table 1: Integrated consonant inventory of Mayan languages.

Vowel length is a distinctive feature in several Mayan languages, although the short vs. long distinction is quite often realised as a lax vs. tense articulation. According to the recommendations of the ALMG, vowel length will not be indicated for the K’iche’an languages.

In Modern Yukatek, tones a indicated by acute ( ´; = high) or gravis (`; = low) accent over the vocalic nucleus of a syllable.

  Front Central Back
  short long lax short long lax short long lax
High i ii ï     u uu ü
Mid e ee ë       o oo ö
Low       a aa ä      
*For Ch’ol and Chontal (both Mexico), a high central short vowel <ɨ> has been added to the ALMG alphabet.

Table 2: Integrated vowel inventory of Mayan languages.

Adaptation of the Leipzig Glossing Rules

The standard for linguistic glossing and description of Mayan languages to be developed by the current initiative follows the rules and conventions laid out in the Leipzig Glossing Rules (LGR), which are here expanded and modified to meet the specific properties of Mayan languages and the constraints imposed by the given research objectives.

The definition of the LGR was a joint effort by Linguistic departments of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig and the University of Leipzig (see LGR: 1). The rules were defined in response to the lack of a common standard for linguistic glossing and the need for such typological conventions to facilitate cross-linguistic comparison. The descriptive and comparative research disseminated by the Department of Linguistics of the MPI in Leipzig, including the World Atlas of Language Structures (, apply the LGR as a standard. The LGR were intended as a set of rules and standard conventions for the glossing of morphological categories in linguistic publications. The glossing of syntactic features has been deliberately excluded. The LGR cover the core of grammatical and functional categories and do not claim to be exhaustive; the optional need for defining and modifying the standard set of conventions is explicitly acknowledged (p. 1). A number of different initiatives have expanded the LGR. The main feature not included in the LGR are derivational categories. Since derivation is a basic principle of word formation in Mayan languages and thus essential to the analysis of lexical categories as it is required by the TWKM and TSACK projects, glosses for derivational categories need to be included.

One essential prerequisite of interlinear glossing set out in the LGR is that glosses encode functional meaning and grammatical properties of morphemes. Existing grammatical descriptions of Mayan languages do not generally observe this rule, instead morphemes are frequently glossed by their structural category or “grammatical function” is defined based on the form of a morpheme and not its context. This is in particular the case, when only the structural properties of a morpheme are known, but the functional category is not understood.

The definition of glossing rules cannot be independent of linguistic description and functional categorisation. The analyses of morphological functions can however differ quite substantially. For instance, the Yukatek aspectual prefix k- has been variously identified as an incompletive (e.g. Smailus 1989), imperfective (e.g. Verhoeven 2007: 117) or habitual (Bricker 1998). Or the K’iche’ suffix –ik that marks intransitive verbs in final position of the clause has been categorised as a modal marker (e.g. Dürr 1987), a status suffix (Kaufman 1990:71), category suffix (= sufijo de categoría) (López Domingo 1997: 84), or simply a phrase final marker (Romero 2006). The definition of a common understanding of grammatical forms is therefore a prerequisite to systematic glossing. Comparative analysis of grammatical development in Mayan languages shows that functionally identical categories can be marked by structurally rather distinct elements. The historical development of elements, however, must not be entirely disregarded, when identifying functional categories. The present summary takes basic reflections on the typology of Mayan languages into account and discusses the analyses of linguistic features, where necessary. As indicated in the LGR, glossing rules cannot solve the problem of multiple analyses. Forms that can be analysed, and thus glossed, in multiple ways are a common feature in Mayan languages, e.g. Yukatek b’ak’il waaj which can be analysed as ‘meat-bread’ or ‘meaty bread’.

Basic glossing rules

The following basic rules for glossing of functional and semantic properties in Mayan languages are restricted to linguistic glossing on the morphological level, aspects of syntactic glossing are not taken into account at this stage. The rules are taken and expanded upon from the LGR.

Word Alignment and Separation of Morphemes

The LGRs define interlinear glosses to be left-aligned vertically and word by word (see LGR, Rule 1). Morphemes are separated by hyphen (see LGR, Rule 2). No distinction is being made between grammatical and derivational morphology, both use a ‘dash’ for hyphenation.

(5) Vertical word alignment and hyphenation


  • k-e-war-ik 			ri 	ixoq-ib’
    INC-3p.ABS-sleep-MOD.V.INTR	ART	woman-PL
    ‘the women sleep’

If morphologically bound elements constitute distinct prosodic or phonological words, a hyphen and a single space may be used together in the language example, while the gloss treats the form as a single word (see LGR; Rule 2A).

(6) Prosodically separate units constituting a complex form


  • k-u-	y-il-ik-ø
    ‘s/he sees it’
  • Ch’ol

  • tzi’-	k’el-e-ø
    ‘he saw it’

While affixes are separated by hyphens, clitic boundaries are generally marked by an equals sign = (see LGR, Rule 2). The definition of clitics and their differentiation from affixes are not necessarily straightforward in Mayan languages. Within the XML-annotation scheme, clitics will be treated like affixes, in that they are marked for grammatical function and structurally specified as “enclitics”.

(7) Prosodic units consisting of more than one element (including clitics)


  • wiñik-oñ=ku
    ‘I am a man’

While in the LGR reduplication is marked separately by a tilde ~, we treat it here like affixation. In Mayan languages, reduplicated elements generally have derivational or grammatical function and can therefore be treated as morphemes. Both, partial and full reduplication are common in Mayan.

(8) Reduplication


  • le-letz’-kil
    [C1V1-V.INTR-ADVJZ]3)This line is added for explanation and not to be reproduced in the glossing.
  • Ch’ol

  • woj-woj-ña

Allomorphs and epenthetic segments

Many Mayan languages also have developed allomorphs for affixes that are sensitive to the vocalic or consonantal character of the adjacent syllable margin of the morpheme boundary. In the following example (9a) from K’iche’ the allomorphs of the second person singular possessive prefixes a- and aw- are both glossed as 2s.POSS. In example (b), k- and ka- are both glossed as INC.
(9) Allomorphs


  • a-b’i’				vs.	aw-ochoch
    2s.POSS-name				2s.POSS-home
    ‘your name’				‘your home’
  • k-at-xaj-aw-ik			vs.	ka-ø-xajawik
    INC-2s.ABS-dance-AP-MOD.V.INTR 		INC-3s.ABS-dance-AP-MOD.V.INTR
    ‘you dance’				‘s/he dances’

In a number of Mayan languages clusters of vowels or consonants in specific morphological contexts are avoided by insertion of an epenthetic vowel or consonantal glide, e.g. y in Ch’ol. Epenthetic vowels or consonants do not carry a meaning of their own and are therefore not glossed as separate elements. Epenthetic segments occurring at a morpheme boundary are therefore assigned to the preceding or following morpheme and thus treated as allomorphs in the glossing. In the following example from Ch’ol, the second person singular absolutive suffix -ety is realised as -yety, when following a vowel. In both cases the morpheme is glossed as 2s.ABS.

(10) Epenthetic segments


  • tzi’- 	y-ɨk’-e-yety 
    ‘s/he gave it to you’
  • mi’- 	y-ɨk’-e-ñ-ety 
    ‘s/he gives it to you’

Category labels

The LGR define the use of only upper case letters for the glossing of grammatical category labels. This convention is followed with only one exception, which is the glossing of singular and plural in person categories as s and p. The LGR employ “SG” and “PL” to mark number in person categories. However, to avoid confusion with the nominal plural, which in some Western Mayan languages can be structurally and formally identical with the third person plural, a different gloss is chosen here.

If a morpheme corresponds to more than one “metalanguage element”, the individual glosses for these elements are separated by periods (see LGR, Rule 4). The LGR suggest further conventions to mark such “one-to-many correspondences”, which are however not adopted here.

Bound personal pronouns are labeled with the elements ‘grammatical person’ (e.g. 1s, 3p) and pronominal category (i.e. absolutive, ergative, possessive), separated by the period. Following an option under Rule 4 of the LGR, person and number are not separated by a period, i.e. 1s instead of 1.s.

(11) Elements in person categories


  • tzi’-	tzɨñsa-yob’
    ‘s/he killed them’
  • K’iche’

  • nu-wuj
    'my book'

In some Western Mayan languages, aspectual markers and bound ergative pronouns have fused, creating portmanteau forms with multiple grammatical references that are separated by periods in the gloss, see e.g. Ch’ol tzi’ COM.3s.ERG (11a).

Most one-to-many correspondences in Mayan languages regard functional classes that are subdivided into more specific functional categories. For example, in K’iche’ modal suffixes that mark the verb category fall into different modal categories, which are specified after a period. The modal marker -ik occurs with intransitive roots and stems as is accordingly labelled as MOD.V.INTR (8a). The transitive stem tz’ib’a that is derived from the noun tz’ib’ ‘writing, script, letter’ is marked with the modal suffix -j for derived transitive verbs and accordingly glossed as MOD.V.TR.D (8b). Imperative verbs and verbs with incorporated directional verb take the same set of modal markers (i.e. -oq on intransitive and -a’ on transitive verbs), which are glossed for their respective grammatical function as MOD.IMP oder MOD.DIR (8c-d).

(12) Modal categories


  • x-oj-war-ik
    ‘we slept’
  • x-ø-in-tz’ib’-a-j
    ‘I wrote it’
  • ch-at-b’ix-o-n-oq
  • x-at-ul-inw-il-a’
    ‘I came to see you’

Another set of grammatical categories which require the marking of more than one metalanguage elements are derivational operators that derive new lexical classes. The gloss specifies the class of derivation and the semantic function. Nominalisers (NMLZ), for instance, fall into different functional categories, such as agentives (AGT), abstractives (ABSTR), instrumentals (INSTR), verbal nouns (VN), etc. The functional specification of the derivation is added after a period.

(13) Derivational operators deriving new lexical classes


  • kun-a-n-el
  • u-kem-ik
  • saq-ar-ik
    ‘turn white/bright’

Derivational operators not deriving a new lexical class are not specified as derivations and just labeled by function.

(14) Derivational operators not deriving new class


  • aj-chak
  • aq’ab’-al
  • saq-soj
    ‘moderately white’

Derivations with zero-marking.
(15) Derivations with zero-marking


  • saq-ø
  • Yukatek

  • k-in-tz’ú’utz’-ø-ik-ø
    ‘I kiss him/her’

Linguistic descriptions of Mayan languages often specify the derivational basis of a derivational operator in a gloss. For example, “INTRVZ.POS” for intransitivisers from positional roots. However, since the root/stem that functions as the derivational basis is glossed in the XML-annotation scheme for its lexical category, the overspecification is not necessary and therefore generally omitted.

(16) Overspecification of lexical basis in derivational glosses

    Classic Mayan

  • chum-wan-ø=iy 				→	chum-wan-ø=iy
    POS:sitting-INTRVZ.POS-3s.ABS=ANT 		POS:sitting-INTRVZ-3s.ABS=ANT
    ‘s/he sat down’ 				‘s/he sat down’

Semantic labeling of lexical categories

The meaning of lexical categories is glossed in English. According to the LGR, the lexical category label is not reproduced in the gloss. The XML-annotation contains that information. Multiple meanings of a root or stem are likewise annotated in the XML-scheme, however, the gloss only contains the core meaning most applicable in the context.
(17) Semantic labeling of lexical categories


  • aj-q’ij			or:	aj-q’ij
    AGT-day				AGT-N:day
    ‘diviner = day-er’		‘diviner = day-er’
<lemma xml:id="l1" class="N">q’ij</lemma>
 <ref target="l1" type="translation">sun</ref>
 <ref target="l1" type="translation">day</ref>
 <ref target="l1" type="translation">heat</ref>

If the translation of the lemma or root contains more than one lexical element, these are separated by a period.

(18) Semantic glosses consisting of more than one element


  • tza’ 	jul-i-ø 				
    ‘she arrived here’
  • tza’ 	k’ot-i-ø
    COM 	arrive.elsewhere-COM.V.INTR-3s.ABS
    ‘she arrived there’

The meanings of some verbs are formed with directionals accompanying the verb. The lexical meaning is not glossed, but expressed through the translation.

(19) Complex semantics of verbs accompanied by directionals


  • k-ø-u-k’am			uloq
    INC-3s.ABS-3s.ERG-receive	DIR:towards.speaker
    ‘he brings it’
  • k-ø-u-k’am			ub’ik
    INC-3s.ABS-3s.ERG-receive	DIR:away.from.speaker
    ‘he takes it’
  • Ch’ol

  • wol-ix 		a-ch’ɨm-ø 		majl-el 
    PROG-already 	2s.ERG-take-3s.ABS 	DIR:place.of.addressee-DIR.V.INTR
    ‘you are already taking it away
  • wol-ix 		a-ch’ɨm-ø 		sujt-el 
    PROG-already 	2s.ERG-take-3s.ABS 	DIR:place.away.from.addressee-DIR.V.INTR
    ‘you are already taking it home

In lexicalised noun phrases or lexicalised predicative expressions that consist of a verb and a specific noun in the function of direct object or subject the lexical annotation is solved under XML, but not considered in the gloss.

(20) Lexicalised phrases


  • tyoj-ø			i-pusik’al	wiñik
    POS:be.straight-3s.ABS	3s.ERG-heart	man
    ‘straight is the heart of the man’
    “the man is honest”

When the meaning of lexical roots is not known, they are glossed with “?”.

(21) Lexical roots with unknown meaning


  • u-mop-il
    ‘budding (of flowers)’

When compounds are only in part semantically transparent, the intransparent part is glossed with “?”. The meaning of the compound as a lemma is annotated in the XML-scheme and can be retrieved.

(22) Compounds with semantically intransparent parts


  • i-b’oj-tye’-lel 	 	i-b’ojtye’-lel
    3s.POSS-?-wood-RELZ 	 	3s.POSS-pole.wall-RELZ
    ‘his wall’		 	‘his wall’

Derived stems that have lexicalised by undergoing phonological change and are not morphologically transparent to the speaker are glossed with the semantic gloss of the root and the gloss of the derivational category separated by a period. Segmentable morphology is always glossed, even if derivations are non-productive.

(23) Glossing of non-segmentable morphology


  • tzɨñsa-ñ 			but:	chɨm-sa-ñ		
    ‘kill’					‘kill’
  • otzɨ-b’e-ñ			but:	och-sa-b’e-ñ	
    ‘put’					‘put’

When grammatical morphemes have grammaticalised as part of the verb stem and are non-segmentable, the semantic gloss of the lexical stem and the grammatical category are separated by a period.

(24) Non-segementable categories


  • che’eñ		but:	che’-ob’
    say.3s.ABS		say-3p.ABS
    ‘he says’		‘they say’

Non-overt elements

Non-overt elements are generally marked with ø, if they form part of a paradigm. All Mayan languages mark the third person singular absolutive as zero.

(25) Non-overt elements


  • x-ø-u-b’i-j
    ‘s/he said it’
  • ø=winaq
    ‘s/he is human’

Bipartite elements

No examples of bipartite lexemes have been analysed in Mayan languages. Bipartite grammatical morphemes are however an attested feature and marked by repetition of the gloss.

(26) Bipartite elements


  • x-tzaj-ab’
    ‘instrument for frying = pan’

Infixation and stem changes

Infixes are not marked following the LGR conventions as , since this would not only interfere with XML-annotation using -tags, but also complicate searching for the lexical root. In these cases, the stem is glossed by meaning and grammatical function and the root meaning is inserted as a separate reference into the annotation scheme. Infixation is for instance attested in a nominalisation process in Tzeltal, where h is inserted after the root vowel of transitive stems.4)”As expected, there are also infixes that occur before the final element of their hosts. In the Mayan language Tzeltal, a group of numeral classifiers is derived from verbs by infixation of h before the final consonant (when the latter is a stop or an affricate; in all other cases, h is deleted; see Kaufman 1971). Examples of this phenomenon include the following: huht ‘holes’, from hut ‘be perforated’; lihk ‘ropes, cords’, from lik ‘carry’, and peht ‘handfuls of wood’, from pet ’embrace (below the arms)’.” The following example gives both the gloss and the XML-annotation with the separate reference to the root.

(27) Infixation


  • huht
<lemma xml:id="l1" class="V.TR.NMLZ">huht</lemma>
 <ref target="l1" type="translation">hole</ref>
 <ref target="l1" type="root" function="V.TR" translation="perforate">hut</ref>

The same rule applies to grammatical changes of stems in the formation of passive and antipassive, which is a common feature in some Mayan languages. For example:

(28) Passive and antipassive stem changes


  • k-u-ko’on-ol 
    ‘it is sold’
  • Ch’ol

  • tza’ 	mɨjk-i-ø
    COM	cover.PASS-COM.V.INTR-3s.ABS
    ‘s/he was covered (wrapped, hidden)’
<lemma xml:id="l1" class="V.INTR.PASS">ko’on</lemma>
 <ref target="l1" type="translation">be.sold</ref>
 <ref target="l1" type="root" function="V.TR" translation="sell">kon</ref>

<lemma xml:id="l1" class="V.INTR.PASS">mɨjk</lemma>
 <ref target="l1" type="translation">be.covered</ref>
 <ref target="l1" type="root" function="V.TR" translation="cover">mɨk</ref>

Incorporation of verbs and adverbs

In several Mayan languages, adverbial particles can be incorporated into the verb structure. In Western Mayan languages, such adverbials occur between the aspect- and ergative-markers. In the glossing, these adverbials are treated as affixes and separated by hyphens. In the Eastern Mayan language K’iche’, the occurrence of such adverbs is only attested with incorporated directionals and indicates separate prosodic forms (30b).

(29) Incorporation of adverbs


  • tza’-ix-ab’i		i-k’uñ-chuk-u-ø-yob’
    COM-already-REPRT	3p.ERG-ADV:finally-capture-COM.V.TR-3s.ABS-3.PL
    ‘they finally captured him’

(30) Incorporation of directionals and adverbs


  • x-in-ul-r-il-a’
    ‘he came to see you’
  • x-ø-b’e-k’u-ya’-oq
    ‘s/he then went to be given’

Comments on the glossing of selected functional categories

The following section summarises the suggestions for some glossing conventions that were discussed during the workshop. The selection includes cases that require particular comment. The argument does not claim to be comprehensive in neither of the cases.

Grammatical relations

Although the present paper does not treat the glossing of syntactic features, the following abbreviations have been reserved to mark grammatical relations. The nomenclature follows Dixon (1994) and part of the general LGR.

S = subject of intransitive predicate
A = agent; subject of transitive predicate
O = object; patient of transitive predicate

Lexical classes

The lexical classes comprise root categories and closed word classes with grammatical functions. Root categories in Mayan languages include:

N = noun
V.INTR = intransitive verb
V.TR = transitive verb
ADJ = adjective
ADV = adverb
POS = positional
PART = particle
PRO = pronoun

Closed word classes include:

ART = article
CLF = classifier
CONJ = conjunction
DEM = demonstrative
EXIS = existential
INT = interrogative
NUM = numeral
PREP = preposition
RN = relational noun

Person categories

As it is the premise to gloss grammatical function, the practice of glossing pronouns by pronominal sets “A” and “B” that is common practice in Mayan linguistics is not followed here. Instead pronominal markers are glossed by person category and grammatical function.

Person-marking on verbs distinguishes absolutive pronouns (ABS) that mark S and O and ergative pronouns (ERG) that mark A. In Mayan languages with a split ergative system, ERG also marks S in a subset of intransitive verbal constructions.

Possessor-marking on nouns ist glossed separately as POSS, as not all Mayan languages employ the same sets of pronouns for this function. In most Mayan languages nominal predication (PRED) is marked with absolutive pronouns.

Person categories are glossed with numbers 1-3 and an abbreviation indicating singular or plural. The LGR use sg for singular and pl for plural. It is suggested here to gloss singular and plural person categories in Mayan languages as s and p instead.

(31) Singular and plural marking of person categories


  • k-in-war-ik
    ‘I sleep’
  • x-ø-q-eta’ma-j
    ‘we learned it = we know’

The labeling of singular and plural categories with lower case letters is inconsistent with the LGRs. However, lower case letters are chosen here to avoid confusion, as the LGR do not allow for clear distinction between nominal plural marking and plural suffixes in bipartite plural person marking as it occurs in most Western Mayan languages. In these languages, nominal plural, the third person absolutive pronoun and the plural complement of third person plural possessive/ergative marking are all marked by the same suffix. To allow for differentiation of all three functions, we suggest to gloss the plural complement as 3.PL. This solution is however not ideal and can lead to potential confusion, as the LGRs employ the same gloss to refer to the third person plural (3p). An alternative solution might still be preferable in this case.

(32) Differentiating nominal and verbal plural marking


  • iy-alob’il-ob’ 			cf.	iy-alob’il-ob’
    3s.POSS-child-PL			3p.POSS-child-3.PL
    ‘his/her children’			‘their child/ren’
  • tzi’-	tzɨñsa-yob’		cf. 	tzi’-	tzɨñsa-ø-yob’
    COM.3s.ERG-die.CAUS-3p.ABS 		COM.3p.ERG-die.CAUS-3s.ABS-3.PL
    ‘s/he killed them’			‘they killed him/her/it’
  • Yukatek

  • k-u-kíims-ik-o’ob’ 		cf.	k-u-kíims-ik-ø-o’ob’
    INC-3s.ERG-die.CAUS-INC-3p.ABS 		INC-3p.ERG-die.CAUS-INC-3s.ABS-3.PL
    ‘s/he kills them’			‘they kill him/her/it’

In Ch’ol, aspect markers or prepositions can fuse with the ergative prefix, which is analysed as a non-segmentable category. The phenomenon is also attested for other Mayan languages.

(33) Non-segmentable aspect-markers and prepositions


  • mi’-	y-ɨl-ø
  • tzi’-	mel-e-ø	
  • tyi’-	y-ity

Some Western Mayan languages have an inclusive/exclusive contrast in the first person plural. The inclusive/exclusive gloss is inserted behind the person category 1p, separated by a period.

(34) Inclusive/exclusive contrast


  • lak-ña’	
    ‘our mother (inclusive)’
  • k-ña’ 			lojoñ
    1p.EXCL.POSS-mother	1p.EXCL.POSS
    ‘our mother (exclusive)’
  • tza’	letz-i-yoñla
    COM	ascend-COM.V.INTR-1p.INCL.ABS
    ‘we (inclusive) ascended’
  • mi-j-	k’el-e-yety-lojoñ
    ‘we (exclusive) saw you’

Inclusive/exclusive marking is also attested in Tzotzil. In the following example, the inclusive is marked on the plural marker.

(35) Inclusive/exclusive contrast in Tzotzil (Vinogradov 2014:43)


  • ch-i-tzak-at-otik	
    ‘we would be caught’

K’iche’ is the only Mayan language that has a formal person, which is not marked on the reference verb/noun, but by a free pronominal particle in postposition. As a gloss for this formal person the abbreviation FORM is selected.

(36) Formal person


  • k-inw-il		la	
    INC-1s.ERG-see		2s.ABS.FORM
    ‘I see you (formal)’
  • x-oj-il			alaq	
    COM-1p.ABS-see		2p.ERG.FORM
    ‘you (pl. formal) saw us‘

Person categories are combined in the gloss with the grammatical function of the marker, i.e. ABS, ERG and POSS.

(37) Person categories and their grammatical functions


  • k-in-war-ik
    ‘I sleep’
  • k-at-in-ch’ay-o
    ‘I hit you’
  • nu-tat
    ‘my father’

Preconsonantal and prevocalic forms and other forms of phonological assimilation in bound pronouns are not distinguished by different glosses. In Ch’ol the first person singular ergative marker k- becomes j- before consonants k and k’, i.e. k-j- / _[k].

(38) Phonological change/alternation in bound pronouns


  • x-ø-a-b’an-o			~	x-ø-aw-il-o
    COM-3s.ABS-2s.ERG-make-MOD.V.TR		COM-3s.ABS-2s.ERG-see-MOD.V.TR
    ‘you made it’				‘you saw it’
  • Ch’ol

  • tza-j- 	k’el-e-yety 		~	mi-k-  	sikla-ñ-ety
    COM-1s.ERG-see-COM.V.TR-2s.ABS 		INC-1s.ERG-search-INC.V.TR.D-2s.ABS
    ‘I saw you’				‘I search (for) you’

Although most linguists gloss the person category on nominal predicates as an absolutive pronoun, this practice is inconsistent with the premise that only grammatical function glossed. We therefore suggest to use the abbreviation PRED to gloss person in these constructions (see also Vinogradov 2014).

(39) Person categories in nominal predicates


  • in	achi
    1s.PRED	man
    ‘I am a man’
  • Ch’ol

  • k-pi’il-ety 
    ‘you [are] my friend’
  • b’uch-ul-ety 
    ‘you are (in the position of) sitting’
  • kol-em-ø 		jiñi 	otyoty 
    grow-PTCP-3s.PRED	ART 	house
    ‘this house [is] big’

Independent pronouns in Mayan languages are combinations of one set of dependent pronouns and determiners in form of articles or demonstratives. In many Mayan languages these forms have fused, in some they are still separated. In K’iche’ the independent pronoun is identical with the absolutive in the first and second person, in the third there is a separate free form. The free forms can combine with articles ri or le to form or occur individually. In these cases, articles and pronouns are glossed individually. In languages where the independent pronoun is a lexicalised complex form, the entire form is glossed (e.g. in Ch’ol).

(40) Glossing of independent pronouns


  • (ri) 	in		in 		kos-inaq
    ART	1s.PRO		1s.PRED		tired-PTCP
    ‘I am tired’
  • ri 	are’ 		ø		kos-inaq
    ART	3s.PRO		3s.PRED		tired-PTCP
    ‘s/he is tired’
  • Ch’ol

  • joñoñ		k-ujil			e’tyel
    1s.PRO	work
    ‘I am able to work’

Possessive constructions

Mayan languages distinguish alienably and inalienably possessed nouns, which fall into different classes depending on their respective marking patterns. A certain set of inalienably possessed nouns are marked with an absoluble suffix, when occurring in unpossessed contexts.

(41) Absoluble suffixes on unpossessed inalienably possessed nouns


  • r-aqan 				aqan-aj
    3s.POSS-foot/leg 	→	foot/leg-ABSL
    ‘his/her foot/leg’		‘foot, leg’
  • u-k’ajol			k’ajol-axel
    3s.POSS-son.of.father	→	son.of.father-ABSL
    ‘his son’			‘son’
  • Ch’ol

  • i-chol				chol-el
    3s.POSS-maizefield	→	maizefield-ABSL
    ‘his/her maizefield’		‘maizefield (unpossessed)’
  • j-k’ɨb’ 		→	k’ɨb’-il 
    1s.POSS-arm 			arm-ABSL
    ‘my arm’			‘arm, branch (unpossessed)’
  • a-chich 		→	chich-il 
    2s.POSS-older sister 		older sister-ABSL
    ‘your older sister’		‘older sister (unpossessed)’

Inalienably possessed nouns which describe a relation to the human body or entity generally take a suffix (mostly –Vl) that marks the partitive relationship and is glossed as a relationaliser.

(42) Relationaliser suffixes on inalienably possessed nouns


  • u-b’aq 			→	u-b’aq-il		
    3s.POSS-bone			3s.POSS-bone-RELZ
    ‘his/her bone’			‘his/her bone’ 
    alienable/non-partitive 	inalienable/partitive
  • Ch’ol

  • i-k’ajk			→	i-k’ajk-al
    3s.POSS-fire			3s.POSS-fire-RELZ
    ‘fire’				‘his/her fire = his/her fever’
    alienable/non-partitive 	inalienable/partitive
  • iy-ixim 	i-tyaty		→	iy-ixim-al 		chol-el
    3s.POSS-maize	3s.POSS-father		3s.POSS-maize-RELZ    	maizefield-ABSL
    ‘the maize of his father’		‘the maize of the maizefield’
    					(inanimate possessor)

Relational nouns and complex prepositions

Relational nouns are a common feature in Mayan as well as most Mesoamerican languages, which constitute a structural as well as a functional category. The term refers to a closed class of functionally restricted, inalienably possessed nouns which reference a syntactic relation and thus have prepositional function. These nouns can be body part terms referencing clear spatial relations as well as other roots referencing a non-spatial relation (‘with’, ‘by/through/because of’, ‘for the benefit of’, ‘alone’ etc.). Under XML, the lexical roots of relational nouns are annotated for their word class (RN) and for their functional meaning (e.g. BEN, COMIT, CAUS).

(43) Relational nouns with possessive person-marking


  • are’		ajq’ij		r-ech		tinamit
    3s.PRO		diviner		3s.POSS-RN.BEN	town
    ‘he is the diviner for/of the town’
  • x-ø-b’e		k-uk’
    COM-3s.ABS-go	3p.POSS-RN.COMIT
    ‘s/he went with them’
  • k-e-kun-a-x			r-umal
    INC-3s.ABS-N:healing-TRVZ-PASS	3s.POSS-RN.CAUS
    ‘they were healed by him’

Complex prepositions are structurally distinct from relational nouns, inasmuch as they combine a basic preposition with a body part-noun (N) that is marked with a possessor.

(44) Complex prepositions with possessive person-marking


  • tyi’-pam 		mesa 
    PREP.3s.POSS-N:face 	N:table
    ‘on the face of the table = on the table’’
  • K’iche’

  • chi	u-pam			ri 	r-ochoch
    PREP	3s.POSS-N:stomach	ART	3s.POSS-N:house
    ‘inside his house’

Reflexives and indirect Objects

Reflexives are treated in some grammars as part of the set of relational nouns. Syntactically, however, they are possessed transitive complements. Their function is not to establish a relationship with a following NP, as it is the case with relational nouns/prepositions. Essentially, Mayan reflexives work the same way as in English and combine a possessor and a noun with the meaning ‘self’; they also include reciprocal readings. Reflexives are nevertheless glossed as a grammatical category.

(45) Reflexive constructions


  • k-ø-inw-il		w-ib’		→	k-ø-inw-il		w-ib’
    INC-3s.ABS-1s.ERG-see	1s.POSS-N:self		INC-3s.ABS-1s.ERG-see	1s.POSS-REFL
    ‘I see (it) my self = I see myself’		‘I see myself’
  • Yukatek

  • k-in-jatz’-ik-ø			in-b’a
    HAB-1s.ERG-beat-INC.V.TR-3s.ABS	1s.POSS-N:self/REFL
    ‘I beat (it) my self = I beat myself’
  • Ch’ol

  • tzi’-		jatz’-ɨ-ø-yob’		i-b’ɨ
    COM.3p.ERG-hit-COM.V.TR-3s.ABS-3.PL	3p.ERG-N:self/REFL
    ‘they hit their selves = they hit each other’

In most Mayan languages indirect objects are realised by oblique phrases introduced by prepositions. As grammaticalised forms they are often referred to as “dative pronouns”, which however does not adequately describe the form that is used.

(46) Indirect objects


  • k-ø-in-ya’		chi	r-ech
    INC-3s.ABS-1s.ERG-give	PREP	3s.POSS-RN.BEN
    ‘I give it to his benefit/possession = I give it to him’
  • Yukatek

  • k-in-tz’a’-ik-ø			t-eech
    HAB-1s.ERG-give-INC.V.TR-3s.ABS	PREP-2s.ABS
    ‘I give it to you’


There are different types of agentive nominalisation in Mayan languages. All Mayan languages share the feature of agentive prefixes or proclitics, which precede nominal and adjectival stems, or even nominal phrases, to derive agentive nouns.

(47) Agentive prefixes/proclitics


  • aj-chak
  • aj-r-el-ib’al 			q’ij
    AGT-3s.POSS-emerge-NMLZ-INSTR	sun
  • Yukatek

  • h-tz’óon

Yukatek seems to be the only Mayan language that distinguishes masculine and feminine agents morphologically. Masculine agents are marked with h- while feminine agents are marked with š-. The gender distinction is marked in the gloss.

(48) Gender distinction in agentive prefixes/proclitics in Yukatek


  • h-kòon-ol 				x-kòon-ol
    AGT.M-sell.AP-ABSTR 		cf.	AGT.F-sell.AP-ABSTR
    ‘salesman (= the one of selling)’	‘saleswoman (= the one of selling)’

Etymologically, h- derives from the gender-non-specific agentive aj found across the language family, while x- is clearly related to the likewise common female nominal classifier (i)x. Only in Yukatek both markers developed into a gender-based paradigm. In Classic Mayan classifier and agentive can co-occur in the same word, e.g. Ix Aj k’uhun [IX-AJ-K’UH-HU’N-(na)] ‘female venerator/keeper’ (Jackson & Stuart 2001).


Positional roots are a distinctive feature in the Mayan language family. Yet, in some cases there is no clear consensus about what constitutes a positional root. In many Mayan languages, positional roots do not occur on their own and require a derivational operator. The meaning of the positional root is glossed with an English verbal noun.

(49) Glossing of positional roots


  • k-ø-u-kotz’-ob’a’ 			ri	ab’aj
    INC-3s.ABS-3s.ERG-POS:lie.down-TRVZ	ART	stone
    ‘he laid down the stone’
  • Ch’ol

  • mi’- 	b’uch-tyɨ-l 				tyi 	lum 
    INC.3s.ERG-POS:sitting-INTRVZ-INC.V.INTR 	PREP 	earth
    ‘he sits on the ground’
  • b’uch-ul-oñ 
    ‘I am (in a) sitting (position)’ 

Preliminary list of glossing conventions

1 first person
2 second person
3 third person
A agent-like argument in canonical transitive verb
ABS absolutive
ABSL absoluble
ABSTR abstractive
ADJ adjective
ADJVZ adjectivizer
ADV adverb(ial)
ADVLZ adverbializer
AFF affirmative
AGT agentive
ANT anterior
AP antipassive
APPL applicative
ART article
ASS assertive
AUX auxiliary
BEN benefactive
CAUS causative
CLF classifier
COMIT comitative
COM completive
COND conditional
CONJ conjunction
COP copula
CVB converb
DEF definite
DEM demonstrative
DET determiner
DIM diminuitive
DIR directional
DIST distal
DISTR distributive
DU dual
DUB dubitative
DUR durative
EMPH emphasis
ERG ergative
EXCL exclusive
EXIS existential
F feminine
FOC focus
FORM formal
FREQ frequentative
FUT future
IMP imperative
INC aspect, incompletive
INCH inchoative
INCL inclusive
INDF indefinite
INSTR instrumental
INT interrogative, question markers
INTENS intensifier
INTR intransitive
INTRVZ intransitivizer
IPFV imperfective
IRR irrealis
LD left dislocation
LEN lentitive
LOC locative
M masculine
MOD modal marker
MODER moderative
N noun (lexical root category)
NEG negation, negative
NMLZ nominalizer/nominalization
NN unknown
NUM numeral
O/P patient-like argument in canonical transitive verbs
OBJ object
OBL oblique (syntactic gloss)
OPT optative
p plural in person categories
PART particle
PASS passive
PFV perfective
PL plural (on nominal categories)
POS positional (ROOT)
POSS possessive
POT potential (aspect)
PRED predicative (syntactic)
PREP preposition
PRF perfect
PRO pronoun
PROG progressive
PROH prohibitive
PROX proximal/proximate
PST past
PTCP participle
PURP purposive
QUOT quotative
RECP reciprocal
REFL reflexive
REL relative
RELZ relationalizer
REP repetitive
REPRT reportative
RES resultative
RN relational noun
SBJ subject
s singular in person categories
S single argument of canonical intransitive verb
SG singular (on nominal categories)
STAT stative
SUPER superlative
TEMP temporal
TOP topic
TR transitive
TRVZ transitivization
V verb (root)
VN verbal noun


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2011 New Perspectives in Mayan Linguistics. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
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1998 A Dictionary of the Maya Language: As Spoken in Hocabá, Yucatán. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.
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2001 The Aj K’uhun Title. Ancient Mesoamerica, 12: 217-228.
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2004 Interlinear Morphemic Glossing. In Morphologie. Ein internationales Handbuch zur Flexion und Wortbildung (= Handbücher der Sprach- und Kommunikationswissenschaft. 2. Halbband, Nr. 17/2); Geert Booij, Christian Lehmann, Joachim Mugdan & Stavros Skopeteas (eds.):1834.1857. Berlin: De Gruyter.
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2008 The Leipzig Glossing Rules: Conventions for interlinear morpheme-by-morpheme glosses. (URL:
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1997 Ri Ukemiik ri K’ichee’ Ch’ab’al: Gramática K’ichee’. Guatemala: Cholsamaj.
Montgomery, John
2002 How to Read Maya Hieroglyphs. New York: Hippocrene Books.
Romero, Sergio F.
2006 Sociolinguistic Variation and Linguistic History in Mayan: The Case of K’ichee’. PhD thesis, Department of Linguistics, University of Pennsylvania.
Sachse, Frauke, Michael Dürr & Christian W. R. Klingler
accepted Digitale Erschließung und systematische Annotation kolonialer Lexikographien am Beispiel der Mayasprache K’iche’. DARIAH Working Papers. [expected 2016]
Smailus, Ortwin
1989 Gramática del Maya Yucateco colonial. Wayasbah; 9. Hamburg: Wayasbah.
Verhoeven, Elisabeth
2007 Experiential Constructions in Yucatec Maya: A Typologically Based Analysis of a Functional Domain in a Mayan Village. Studies in Language Companion Series, 87. Amsterdam; Philadelphia: John Benjamins Pub.
Vinogradov, Igor
2014 Aspect Switching in Tzotzil (Mayan) Narratives. Oklahoma Working Papers in Indigenous Languages; 1: 39-54.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. The participants of the workshop who contributed to the discussion and examples that are used in the present paper include in alphabetical order: Katja Diederichs, Sven Gronemeyer, Christian Prager, Elisabeth Wagner (for TWKM) as well as Michael Dürr, Christian W.R. Klingler and Frauke Sachse (for TSACK).
2. TSACK was developed in a pilot study for a project on the lexicography of colonial K’iche’ that will be undertaken by the authors of this paper. The research was funded at the University of Bonn between October 2013 and September 2014 (Maria von Linden-Programm). The programming was carried out by Christian Klingler, who was imminently involved in the theoretical development of the software.
3. This line is added for explanation and not to be reproduced in the glossing.
4. ”As expected, there are also infixes that occur before the final element of their hosts. In the Mayan language Tzeltal, a group of numeral classifiers is derived from verbs by infixation of h before the final consonant (when the latter is a stop or an affricate; in all other cases, h is deleted; see Kaufman 1971). Examples of this phenomenon include the following: huht ‘holes’, from hut ‘be perforated’; lihk ‘ropes, cords’, from lik ‘carry’, and peht ‘handfuls of wood’, from pet ’embrace (below the arms)’.”

The Maya in a Digital Age


Die Maya im digitalen Zeitalter

The wooden lintels of Tikal belong to the most significant pieces of art of the ancient Maya. We will discuss the latest state of research concerning their hieroglyphic inscriptions and iconography. We will also present our new digital documentation project for the analysis of Classic Mayan texts that will enable a digital dictionary.

Christian Prager, Sven Gronemeyer and Elisabeth Wagner will deliver a presentation under the moderation of Alexander Brust at the “Museum der Kulturen” in Basel on Wednesday, the 2nd of March 2016 from 6-8 pm. An entry fee applies.

More information are available in the museum’s flyer [in German] on page 7.

The Creation of a TEI Metadata Schema for Cataloging Classic Mayan Texts

Working Paper 3


Petra Maier (translated by Mallory Matsumoto)

ULB Heinrich-Heine-Universität, Düsseldorf

The present paper was first published as DARIAH-DE Working Paper 8 under CC BY 4.0 – Petra Maier: „Die Erstellung eines TEI-Metadatenschemas für die Auszeichnung von Texten des Klassischen Maya“. DARIAH-DE Working Papers Nr. 8. Göttingen: DARIAH-DE, 2015. URN: urn:nbn:de:gbv:7-dariah-2015-1-6. The present version was translated from German, with some of the original figures replaced.

Preliminary Remark: The present report is based on a project that is being conducted as part of the extra-occupational Master’s degree program in Library and Information Science (MALIS) at the University of Applied Science in Cologne.


Early 2014 saw the initiation of the project “Textdatenbank und Wörterbuch des klassischen Maya” (TWKM, Interdisciplinary Dictionary of Classic Mayan) under the direction of Prof. Dr. Nikolai Grube (Department of Anthropology of the Americas, Faculty of Humanities, University of Bonn), with funding from the North Rhine-Westphalian Academy of Sciences, Humanities and Arts. The project, which is being conducted in cooperation with the TextGrid research group (under the direction of the Göttingen State and University Library) and the Bonn University Library, has a projected runtime of 15 years. The overarching project structure is divided into five stages of three years each. The ultimate goal of the project is to catalog all known Mayan hieroglyphic texts in a digital corpus that will serve as the foundation for future epigraphic and linguistic analysis. Over the course of the TWKM project, a dictionary – in both digital and printed format – will be compiled that will contain all known vocabulary words and also reflect their use in the written language (see Grube 2011: 13).

A partial goal of the first stage of the TWKM project is the creation of a working version of the dictionary in electronic format. One necessary component of this sub-project was the conception of a data model in an electronic research environment. The research project requires such a complex metadata design due to its comprehensiveness, as it aims to catalog all known inscribed objects and their texts, as well as to continue researching signs that have not yet been undeciphered or are polyvalent. The project had already expressed its intention to catalog the hieroglyphic texts using the standards of the TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) Consortium in its initial proposal (see Grube 2011: 13).

Brief Overview of Classic Mayan

In order that the reader may understand the project’s documentation and become acquainted with the topic of research, the following section briefly outlines the Classic Mayan language and its spatiotemporal context.

From a geographic perspective, the region of the Maya extends across an area that includes parts of what are now the Mexican states of Chiapas, Tabasco, Campeche, Quintana Roo and Yucatan, as well as the nations of Belize, Guatemala, and western portions of Honduras and El Salvador (Figure 1) (see Grube & Gaida 2006: 23).

Figure 1. Geographic Location of the Maya Region, drafted by Sven Gronemeyer after Grube & Gaida (2006: 23) with height relief by Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM), PIA03364, courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The pre-Columbian Maya used the writing system to represent rulers and their families: events such as birth and accession to the throne are frequently described in inscriptions. These events are usually associated with calendrical dates, which permit the inscriptions and the events that they record to be dated to the very day. These dates can be converted to the Gregorian calendar using a correlation that has been widely established within Maya studies (see Grube and Gaida 2006: 22-24).

The Maya writing system is a hieroglyphic script that is first attested in the third century B.C. The writing system spread throughout the Maya region beginning in the Classic Period (A.D. 250-900) (Grube 1993: 222-225). Over the course of the script’s history, it continued changing and adapting to the needs of its writers and commissioners. New signs were invented, old signs fell out of use, and the readings of other signs changed over time (Grube 1993: 225ff.).

Following the conquest of the Maya region by the Spaniards beginning in the early sixteenth century, the hieroglyphic script fell into disuse and knowledge of the writing system was lost (see Grube 1993: 215ff.).

The Maya script is a so-called logosyllabic writing system, meaning that it consists of two types of signs: logograms and syllabograms (see Gronemeyer 1999: Chapter 2.1). In most cases, a hieroglyphic block corresponds to a word and consists, on average, of three to four signs, usually a combination of logograms and syllabograms. In contemporary Maya studies, 650 distinct signs have been identified. Syllables that are frequently used have multiple variant signs, which allowed the scribe to avoid sign repetition. Most hieroglyphic texts can now be read and interpreted, although not all hieroglyphs in the writing system have been deciphered. Some sign collocations can be read phonetically, but their meaning has not (yet) been identified (see Grube 2011: 6, 11). The Classic Mayan language is thought to be related to the contemporary Ch’ol languages of the Mayan language family, which are primarily spoken in the Maya area of what is now Mexico, and to the Yukatekan languages, spoken on the Yucatan peninsula (see Grube 1993: 222). Correspondences between Classic Mayan and contemporary Mayan languages thus contribute to decipherment efforts.

Maya hieroglyphic texts and iconography have been preserved on various classes of objects. Due to the warm, humid environment of the Maya region, many of the objects which have survived are those constructed of imperishable materials, such as stone and ceramics. Such text carriers include free-standing monuments, architectural elements (e.g. lintels, hieroglyphic stairways), jewelry, ceramics, and small sculptures. Additional texts have been found in caves, either as painted murals or rock carvings (e.g. the caves of Naj Tunich). Bark-paper codices are much more rarely preserved, with only three being known today.

Current State of Research

Research into the Classic Mayan language and script has traditionally lacked comprehensive documentation. The individual vocabularies that have been published are restricted in scope to the investigation of specific research questions, or incorporate only select hieroglyphs. Since the end of the 1990’s, several lexicographic catalogs have been produced that contain commentary above and beyond a simple, alphabetic list, but documentation of the spatial distribution and of changes to the script over time is still lacking. Thus, existing hieroglyphic vocabularies do not permit investigation of current research questions concerning topics such as the development of the hieroglyphic writing system.

In Maya studies, these research deficits arise from incomplete documentation and a lack of digital editions of source materials to date. In other areas of language studies, there are existing projects that provide researchers with access to comprehensive inscription corpora in digital format; for instance, the digital corpus Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae (TLA)1)Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae. Arbeitsstelle Altägyptisches Wörterbuch. Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities. (04.08.2014). permits searching through ancient Egyptian textual materials, and thus facilitates investigation of relevant research questions by using specific analytical queries (e.g. regarding word frequencies). The corpus also contains a translation of each text. The project Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary (PSD)2)Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary. University of Pennsylvania. (04.08.2014). of the University of Pennsylvania represents another such undertaking, which has produced a comprehensive Sumerian dictionary. A unique aspect of the latter project is that the tools developed for compiling the corpus and working with the Sumerian language have been made freely available for use. As such, they may be utilized by subsequent projects.

The TEI Format

As per the specifications of the project’s original proposal, the Maya hieroglyphic texts are being cataloged using a TEI metadata schema. In this context, metadata can be generally defined as structured information concerning the Maya texts as a whole, as well as the mark-up of special features in the texts. The metadata schema thus also includes local annotations of the texts themselves.

Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) is an international organization that was founded in 1987 in order to develop guidelines for coding machine-readable texts, particularly for the social sciences and humanities3)See “TEI: Frequently Asked Questions”. TEI Consortium. (04.08.2014).. The abbreviation TEI is also used to indicate the metadata set itself, as in the following documentation of the TWKM project4)In order to more easily distinguish between the two projects, the overarching project will be denoted as the TWKM project..

TEI employs the mark-up language “Extensible Markup Language” (XML), which has established itself as the standard for digitally describing source materials in contemporary humanities research and thus permits targeted queries and further processing. Due to its standardized element set, TEI offers the advantage of long-term and clear interpretability of datasets. Furthermore, the utilization of TEI in projects such as TWKM promotes recognition of the format as the standard and thus facilitates data exchange (Rouché and Flanders 2007-2014; see Werning 2013:3).

The TEI metadata schema of the current version P 5 represents a defined quantity of XML elements. The schema is divided into various modules, each of which marks up specific elements and attributes. For example, elements are defined for coding digital dictionaries in the module “dictionaries”. An element can contain other elements or pure text. Each TEI-compliant text is introduced by the element <teiHeader>. This strategy effectively creates the title page of the electronic text file and contains the file description (required) or specifications regarding amendment of the text (optional), among other things. Within a TEI file, the header can be used repeatedly. The body text follows the header and can differ greatly according to the text that is being described.

TEI pursues two goals: firstly, to allow researchers to digitally represent their source materials using a description language; and secondly, to represent this digital information by using a shared, widely understood code. By using a comprehensive code, TEI can be very detailed and specialized for use with various source materials. Similarly, it is possible to restrict the code to essential information without specializing in particular phenomena. An advantage of the detailed code is that the described text offers more possibilities for application, such as targeted queries; however, one must keep in mind that this code also makes inputting more demanding and requires greater technical expertise. Use of TEI in various fields is also encouraged by the potential for defining the mark-up language using adaptations specific to the purposes of individual projects. This characteristic inspires the subsequent use and spread of the TEI standard, and it has the potential to facilitate mutual stimulation between different research areas, while at the same time differentiating them from one another (see Rouché & Flanders 2007-2014). The metadata schema for Classic Mayan texts thus represents a metadata set that was compiled for this purpose and that is capable of describing specific information.

Numerous projects that set out to catalog digital texts of various genres draw upon the TEI metadata schema. On the homepage of the TEI initiative, a list of selected projects is available. These projects also include projects that aim to catalog digital text versions of epigraphic source materials, such as the Inscriptions of Aphrodisias project of King’s College London5)See “Projects Using the TEI.” TEI Consortium. (04.08.2014) und Reynolds, Roueché & Godard 2007,

Project Definition and Planning


The goal of this sub-project was to develop the foundation for the TEI metadata schema for cataloging all known Classic Mayan texts. The TEI metadata schema thus constitutes a component of the metadata concept as a whole. Because the TWKM project was still in its initial phase and many questions related to the data contents remained unanswered, this TEI metadata schema was intended as a foundation that could be further adapted over the course of the TWKM project. The sub-project therefore did not aim to create a final, complete metadata schema.

General Procedures

Within the TWKM project, responsibilities are divided into two areas: specialized tasks related to Classic Mayan, and technical and computer science support.

In order to catalog the Classic Mayan texts, it is necessary to know the basic structure of the language. This prerequisites has a two-fold justification: firstly, this knowledge is a foundational requirement for cataloging the relevant data; and secondly, it is essential for communicating with scholars in order to better understand their needs. As such, it was necessary to become acquainted with the Classic Mayan language, in order to learn about its structure and become familiar the relevant technical terms.

In order to catalog information that is important to scholars, and to address various aspects of research, several levels were taken into account for the metadata schema:

  • Material object: including Maya artifacts, as well as modern documents such as rubbings, reports of discoveries, etc.
  • Inscription: cataloging the hieroglyphic texts themselves and all of the information pertaining to them
  • Place: relevant to this level are the location of discovery, as well as the current place of storage (e.g. museums)
  • “Actor”: including actors named in the text (e.g. rulers, gods) and depicted in the iconography, as well as modern actors, such as researchers participating in excavations or the museum housing the objects
  • Time: this category includes dating the objects (with the requisite conversion of Maya calendrical dates into Gregorian dates), date of discovery, etc.

Different metadata standards are drawn upon to catalog all the necessary data and information, in order to do justice to their diverse facets. As such, the text carriers are primarily described using CIDOC CRM6)The CIDOC Conceptual Reference Model (CRM) constitutes a documentation format for the field of cultural heritage and has been the official ISO Standard (ISO 21127:2006) since 2006. This format was selected in order to be able to appropriately represent the numerous aspects of the object itself, such as history of discovery, provenance, and relevant figures, such as excavators, curators, etc.. The TEI metadata schema was drawn upon in order to catalog the inscriptions themselves; later, the schema will also form for the foundation for the analysis of the Maya script and for the compilation of the dictionary. This component will be described below, given that this sub-project is related to the development of relevant metadata concerning the texts. The field descriptions of the elements, as well as the terms and definitions relating to the text structure, are in English, the preferred language of the TWKM project and also the language of the later TWKM database.

Procedures for Cataloging the Texts

The requirements of the metadata schema with respect to the texts were formulated based on the goals and conceptions of scientific experts, which had arisen from the project proposal submitted to the Academy of Sciences, Humanities and Arts and from related discussions. An assortment of modules relevant to cataloging the texts was selected, in order to limit the very extensive TEI metadata set. Given that TEI currently serves as the foundation for other epigraphic cataloging projects, inquiries were made into comparable projects with the goal of acquiring more information about their metadata structure.

Scientific Challenges

The demands of the scientific experts can be divided into two categories: 1. those relating to the metadata schema as a whole, and 2. those that need to be taken into account particularly when describing the texts.

1. General Requirements

  • All metadata elements for cataloging all texts that have been found and will be found in the future, i.e. different representations have to be taken into account.
  • Incorporation of temporal and spatial parameters, i.e. discovery location and dating must always be retrievable.
  • Script variants in correlation with the relevant time (dating) must be readable; in other words, the exact notation of hieroglyphs and signs, respectively, must be associated with the corresponding (dated) text.
  • Facilitation of a language- and script-based search function in the database, i.e. original spelling, transcription, and translation must be cataloged.
  • Accounting for undeciphered text passages with an image of the original spelling.
  • References to secondary literature (abbreviated citation with a URN linked to a bibliography).
  • The metadata schema should be able to be used by subsequent projects; in other words, the metadata schema should be as flexible as possible.

2. Text-specific Requirements

  • Representing the relationship between text and image
  • The number of text fields, and of hieroglyphic blocks and signs per text field on an individual text carrier, must be calculable.
  • Form/representation of the texts (single-/double-column, rectangular, etc.) must be apparent.
  • Ability to define colored text areas.
  • Description of difference in block size, i.e. “capital letters” and blocks that are depicted on a smaller scale must be differentiable.
  • Cataloging of the texts must be separated from their interpretations.
  • Reading order and orientation of individual signs must be indicated.

Metadata Schema for Cataloging the Texts

The TEI description language should be suitable for as many humanities fields as possible, according to the ideas originally underlying its development, and presents a very extensive element set. As such, the initial search for appropriate elements is time-consuming.

EpiDoc (Epigraphic Documents) offers a more restricted scope specific to epigraphy. EpiDoc is an international community of scholars whose research concentrates on ancient inscriptions. This community has developed recommendations for coding inscriptions with XML that constitute a subset of the TEI P5 Guidelines and are specially oriented towards working with ancient and medieval texts. By now, the recommendations have been extended from ancient Greek and Latin inscriptions to describing papyri and manuscripts (see Elliott, Bodard & Cayless et al. 2006-2013). These recommendations are advantageous because TEI elements that are inappropriate for describing inscriptions can be eliminated from the outset, and because the project provides optimal support for the description of epigraphic materials with its own amendments to definitions (see see Rouché & Flanders 2007-2014).

In order to initially select elements that could be used for professionally describing the texts, the modules of the TEI P5 Guidelines that appeared relevant were probed (see TEI Consortium 2014:2). The following areas were identified:

  • header: each TEI-compliant text must specify certain descriptions of the file itself, so that the module is relevant to each TEI file.
  • core: the module contains elements that can appear in all text genres to be described. Many of these core elements can be flexibly employed and can appear in every text passage.
  • textstructure: the elements of this module are used to describe the external text structure. Given that the texts are structured in the arrangement of the hieroglyphs, elements of this module can be relevant to the description.
  • gaiji: this module contains elements for describing unusual script types, symbols, and hieroglyphs. This module is taken into consideration because the Maya script is hieroglyphic and consists of individual signs.
  • figure: The elements for reproducing images, tables, etc. that appear in a text are defined in this module. Images are often present on objects inscribed with Classic Mayan texts. Because these images are related to the text, they must be sufficiently represented, along with the text itself.
  • transcr: This module defines elements for representing primary sources, i.e. the texts themselves. This module was taken into consideration because images of sources (e.g. digital photographs of text carriers) have to be included in the TWKM project.

The modules that appear to relate to analytical aspects or that are highly focused on individual text genres were not taken into consideration during this initial orientation.

In EpiDoc, described elements are divided into various areas that could be relevant to epigraphic publications. As in the case of the TEI modules, areas appropriate to the TWKM project were probed as well (see Rouché & Flanders 2007-2014):

  • the edition of the epigraphic text itself: instructions for describing text structure, the display format, and the transcription are provided.
  • history of the discovery, documentation, and interpretation: the code of bibliographic references is explained here. The TWKM project aims to associate particular readings with references to scientific literature in which they are mentioned.

The remaining areas specified in EpiDoc are related either to information concerning the text carrier itself (history of discovery, etc.), or to elements affecting text analysis. These areas would be redundant here, since data regarding text carriers will be contained in separate data containers within the master plan of the metadata schema.

This selection of elements was then ultimately evaluated according to scholarly requirements: what elements are available for describing text structure? Which elements are appropriate for describing the hieroglyphs?

While developing the TEI schema for representing the structure of hieroglyphic texts, it became clear that scientific terms and the scientific relevance of particular specifications needed to be clarified. What is the most useful description for the side of a text carrier, for instance; is there a front and a back side? How can the relationship between text and image be established? Which specifications belong to the factual representation of the text, and which are already on the level of interpretation? And: how can individual hieroglyphs be clearly addressed without anticipating a particular interpretation?

Representing the Structure of the Text

One of the challenges of reproducing the text structure is the large number of forms the design of a text may assume; all of these have to be represented by the metadata. The arrangement of hieroglyphic blocks varies, as does the form of the text field (Table 1).

Arrangement of Hieroglyphic Blocks Single-column
Combination of single- and double-column
Horizontal lines
Combination of columns and horizontal lines
Form of Text Fields Square
Hieroglyphic band
Cartouche (i.e. with outer frame)
“Captions” (hieroglyphs as internal components of an image)
Speech bubble

Table 1. Overview of Possible Structural Configurations of Classic Mayan Texts.

In order to account for all of these facets using the described data, the metadata schema was arranged in sections that build upon each other (Figure 2). This division is intended to facilitate selection of relevant metadata elements and to make the procedure more transparent for further use. Elements for describing the “Inscription” as well as the three sub-sections “TextDivision”, “Block”, and “Sign”, will be discussed and described below.

Figure 2. Excerpt from the Master Plan for the Metadata Schema (Colored Mark-Up: TEI as the Basis).

TEI Elements

The TEI header and a text element form the basic pair of a TEI element. The header contains metadata that describe the document as a whole and can either be very comprehensive or kept rather “narrow”. The text element contains the metadata of the document itself. The element <teiHeader>, together with its descriptive and explanatory information, constitutes the electronic title page, as it were, whereas the element <text> contains the textual content of the object with annotations that clarify its structure and additional characteristics.


According to the TEI P5 Guidelines, the element <teiHeader> must minimally contain the element <fileDesc> (file description), which describes the electronic file. This element, in turn, is assigned three obligatory components: <titleStmt>, <publicationStmt> and <sourceDesc>.

The <title> subelement @type, which can indicate alternative forms of names, is redundant here; alternative designations for the text carriers that appear in the scientific literature will be stored in a so-called vocabulary7)The vocabularies that are being compiled for the TWKM project are being coded according to the “Simple Knowledge Organisation System” (SKOS)., for which reason the conventional designation alone is considered to be sufficient.

Similarly, the representation of people who are associated with the object will be foregone here. These specifications will be stored in the CIDO CRM category “Actor” and “Appellation”, respectively, and the explicit URI of the TWKM-ID will ensure that they are connected to the object in the metadata schema. This approach offers the advantage of not having to re-develop data that are already represented elsewhere. The approach to the object data is similar: mass, context of discovery, dating, etc. can be marked appropriately and in detail using the CIDOC metadata set. As a result, only a few elements are used for the teiHeader; for instance, the specifications <extent>, <notesStmt>, <author>, and <geoDecl> for the find coordinates can be eliminated – data entry is therefore marginal and minimally taxing.

Consequently, for the TWKM project, the element <teiHeader> could be reduced to the following specifications:

   <idno type="URI">[link to object-ID]</idno>
   <p>[e.g. Copan, Stela D]</p>

The identification number within the element <publicationStmt> uses a hyperlink to connect to the corresponding object itself, and thereby to all of the metadata relating to the text carrier.

Additionally, in the TextGrid recommendations, <encodingDesc> (code description) and <editorialDecl> (description of the editorial principles) are specified with the element <normalization>, which represents the degree of standardization and normalization (see Blümm and Wegstein 2008: 22ff.). It remains to be determined whether or not these elements would be viable options for the TWKM project at this stage.


When describing the texts, the possibility that one object may contain multiple texts and that individual texts can refer to images must be representable. The text description must reflect the overall picture, i.e. the arrangement of the texts and related images.

Prior to the text description, a reference will be made to the digital facsimile (digitalization of a rubbing, drawing, or digital photograph) using the element <facsimile> and the corresponding URI of the digitalization, following the example of EpiDoc (see Bodard 2007-2014).

The text will be identified with the tag <text>. This element does not contain an individual, stand-alone text, nor a text consisting of multiple sections. In the case of multiple texts that belong together, the element <text> will be enclosed by <group> in order to represent the larger unit (see TEI Consortium 2014: 150, 1445). This strategy could prove useful for describing two corresponding fragments of a Maya inscription. The text itself is represented in the element <body>, although this element in each case only contains the stand-alone texts. In other words, from this descriptive level onward, only individual texts are addressed.

Two additional elements of the corpus are <front> and <back> : <front> serves to describe all contents that precede the actual text (e.g. title page, foreword, dedication), whereas <back> refers to all components that follow. However, it is certainly possible that introductory or even concluding formulae (e.g. the naming of the artist who created the text) could also be differentiated from the text description itself using these elements. Because this process already entails interpreting the text contents, the use of the tags <front> and <back> should be avoided. For the Maya texts, use of the element <body> is sufficient.

Due to the fact that Maya texts may appear on different areas of an object, the side will be defined next. For scholars, it is customary to speak of the front and back sides of a text carrier. The front side is identified by the image of a ruler, if present, or otherwise by the indication of the date. This distinction resulted in the descriptions of the sides: front, right, left, back. However, these descriptions should not be confused with TEI elements, which are already excluded from use. This specification is a component of the element <body>, not <text>. In the case of a cohesive text that continues across multiple sides, the specification is a component of the text division (see below).

Abbreviations for describing images that may be used analogously for describing text fields were established for the TWKM project, which permits a unified designation (Table 2):

Abbreviation for Clarification
f or b front or back The side with the image of the ruler or specification of the date is generally regarded as the front side. It remains to be clarified how objects should be handled for which these details are not known or visible.
l or r left or right The sides to the left and right of the front side.
t or u top or underside Description for the upper and lower sides of the text carrier. Texts on the bottom side include lintels and the base of ceramic vessels, for instance.
g girth Used for a running text, e.g. in the case of circular altars.

Table 2: Designations of the Specification @type of <body>.

It remains to be determined whether the designation “girth” should also be used for ceramic roll-outs and running texts, respectively. The implementation of these designations in the case of irregular objects, such as inscriptions on zoomorphs (sculptures in animal form) or in caves, remains similarly under debate.

Converting the many possible arrangements of the hieroglyphic blocks, as well as of forms of the text field, presents a particular challenge. For example, in the case of a column, it must be clearly documented where a new line begins, where the column begins, and where the reading sequence begins in the next column. This process is comparable to reading a newspaper. How can single- and double-columns be converted? A general method for representing text structure was sought based on these “simple” examples. This foundation could then be tested on further forms, such as that of a rectangular text, and expanded.


“TextDivision” constitutes the sub-section of “Inscription” and describes one text passage in particular or a text field on an object. The element <div> from the TEI Standard lends itself to description. This element can either be used in numbered or un-numbered style. The un-numbered variant reflects a hierarchy of individual text passages, in which <div1> describes the uppermost level, <div2> the following level, etc. The variant without numeration is used here, given that there is no hierarchy of individual text passages in the hieroglyphic texts and that all passages are seen as equal to each other. The text may be classified using the attributes @type and @subtype, respectively. As such, individual text components can be described separately, for instance; similar to the element <body>, “passages” can be more exactly defined using @n. Differentiation according to arrangement type is useful for classification (see Table 2). However, an explicit vocabulary would have to be compiled, indicating for instance the possible arrangements of hieroglyphic blocks as a value of the attribute @type and the form description as a value of @subtype:

<div type="combination-column-line" subtype="right-angled">

By expanding a numeration, the corresponding text field within the side of the inscription can be more exactly described:

<div n="B1-D3" type=“combination-column-line" subtype="right-angled">

Figure 3: Maya Inscription with Pictorial Representation and Labeling of the Hieroglyphs (Matrix). Yaxchilan Lintel 8.8)After Maler 1903: pl. 52, the block designations are added after the CMHI.

Frequently, only fragments of inscriptions are available in archaeological research. For such cases, the EpiDoc recommendations provide the @type “fragment”, which is positioned before the corresponding description of the text passage:

<div type="fragment">

The end of a column is tagged with <cb> (column break). In addition, description of change in sides is necessary to account for the three extant codices. The beginning of a new page is indicated using <pb> (page break).

In scholarly research, individual hieroglyphic blocks are referred to using a grating similar to that used to partition a chess board. This denotation must be reflected in the TEI elements. Under “Inscription”, the entire grating of the inscription is represented, permitting each individual hieroglyph to be specifically referenced, e.g. the identity of block D3 of Fig. 3 is clearly established. Nonetheless, in some instances, the position of a block relative to the coordinates of the grating is not clear, or two blocks are located at the same coordinates. In this case, a sub-classification is employed, so that the “sub-blocks” are designated “A2a” and “A2b”, for example. The basic structure of the inscription can be described using the “coordinates”.

The relationship between text and image is relevant not only at the level of the text passage, but also at the level of individual block. Different combinations exist: the text passage as a whole can refer to a pictorial representation, the text passage serves as a “speech bubble” of an actor, or one or more blocks are positioned on an actor or an object. A controlled vocabulary will be compiled for unambiguous designation of these variants.

A comparison with the “comic” genre came to mind when considering how to describe relationship between text and image. A search indicated the existence of the TEI-based Comic Book Markup Language (CBML; Walsh 2012). The tag <balloon>9)„<balloon>“. In: Walsh 2012, (10.08.2014). is introduced into a distinct CBML module to mark “speech bubbles”, and <caption>10)„<caption>“. In: Walsh 2012, (10.08.2014). to indicate text belonging to an image. Whether or not the description of inscriptions and pictorial representations can be conducted analogously is still under debate. For this purpose, the CBML module would have to be integrated or a distinct typification would have to be defined. However, <caption> is also defined in TEI, meaning that the TEI elements alone may be sufficient.

According to the TEI P5 Guidelines, the representation of text-image relationships is realized using <figure>. The pictorial representation is defined using <graphic> and a URL. A description of the image using the element <figDesc> is not required, because it is already included in the CIDOC CRM.

For Example:

 <graphic url="..."/>
 <ab type="caption">[signs with relation to an image]</ab>

Signs are frequently depicted on images of individuals (people, gods, animals) or objects. The results of a discussion indicated that the location of the segment of text is significant within the context of the representation: a sign indicating the ruler is found on the headdress, and signs represented on the thighs of individuals are exclusively associated with social subordinates (see Fig. 4). The script thus expresses sociocultural structure, and thereby provides important information to researchers. In order to describe the distinction using metadata, the scholars in Bonn compiled an additional vocabulary to facilitate specification by the type-attribute.

Figure 4: Hieroglyphs on Individuals as an Expression of Social Status (excerpt from Yaxchilan Lintel 8).


An attempt to address the problem of describing the blocks resulted in a subdivision of the <div> element using a defined attribute that specifies the exact block coordinates (e.g. A1), whereby a block would be described as follows: <div type="block" n="coordinates">. According to the same schema, individual logograms or syllabograms would be defined as @subtype=sign. This approach already proved to be unusable during the development of additional, relevant descriptive criteria, such as highlighting individual signs. According to the TEI P5 Guidelines, very few core elements such as <gap> are permitted within the element <div>. The tag <hi> (highlighted) required for identifying colored blocks, however, is not allowed. Thus, another solution had to be found.

After examining the elements and searching for comparable cases in the EpiDoc guidelines, the solution appeared to be to insert an element in between. <l> (line) or <ab> (anonymous block) would come into consideration for this purpose, although <l> serves to describe verses according to the TEI P5 Guidelines. In contrast to <l>, <ab> can be more freely used , for which reason this element was selected (see TEI Consortium 2014:508):

<div n=A type="column">
 <ab type="Block" n=A1>

An alternative representation of the blocks enables the element <milestone>:

<milestone unit="block" n=A1>T1:257.1:624:178
<milestone unit="block" n=A2>...

However, use of the <milestone> tag should be discussed before it is used. “Since it is not structural, validation of a reference system based on milestones cannot readily be checked by an XML parser, so it will be the responsibility of the encoder or the application software to ensure that they are given in the correct order” (TEI Consortium 2014: 114 ff.).

In order to achieve a clearer description of the structure, it would be wise to mark line breaks. For this purpose, the element <lb> (line break) is used in place of “end-of-line”, i.e. after the second hieroglyphic block in a double-column structure.

A variant of the TEI metadata schema for a double column whose first block is represented as larger than the others could thus appear as follows:

 <body type="front">
  <div type="column" n=A>
   <ab type="block" n=A1.B1>
    <hi rend="tall">[grapheme]</hi>
   <ab type="block" n=A2>
   <ab type="block" n=B2>
   </ab> ...

A hieroglyphic block usually consists of three to four (maximally five) signs in different combinations. Thus, it is important to be able to reproduce the reading order. For this procedure, scholars have established a standard according to which adjacent signs are separated by a period, for example, and signs that are stacked atop each other are separated by a colon. This convention also indicates whether an individual sign is vertically or horizontally oriented within the block. Thus, this standard can be used for indicating sign order11)The reading order typification that had been included in the proposal was not pursued. See Grube 2011: Attachment 11..

Figure 5: Representation of the Reading Order of Individual Signs within a Hieroglyphic Block (see Grube 2011: 7).

The representation of Classic Mayan hieroglyphic signs is diverse, and also varies and develops across time and space. For this reason, it was necessary to link each hieroglyph with its original spelling. Only thus could the development and variants of each sign be made tangible. In order to reproduce the inscription, the signs were represented using a classification, according common scientific methods: for example, T178 would represent the syllable la according to Thompson’s classification. This procedure already represents a step towards interpretation of the signs and therefore must be regarded critically.

There are other classification systems in addition to Thompson’s, which will be combined and supplemented to create a unique sign concordance for the TWKM project. Each sign will receive a unique identification number that will later be used as its primary reference. The concordance will be compiled over the course of the TWKM project and expanded as needed. Uninterpretable signs will not be indicated with a question mark, but instead will receive their own unique number within the concordance; the reading, transcription, etc. can then be updated to reflect the current state of knowledge. Because concordance numbers will be allotted to the standardized form of each sign, each variant form must also be given a unique ID, in order to be able to trace the geographic and temporal distribution of the variants’ use. This method allows a unique number to always be used in the metadata description; thus, undeciphered texts can be taken into account by referring to the original spelling, as per the project requirements. No solution was yet available for representing numbers, which constitute a separate sign category within the Maya hieroglyphic script; as such, not all dates in the inscriptions could be represented according to the current state of research.

It would be possible to describe the concordance according to TEI, for example in accordance with a taxonomy (see TEI Consortium 2014: 46ff.). The individual signs could thus be the referenced using an ID. Then, for instance, the attribute xml:id="I156" would be synonymous with a TWKM number in the description.

The TEI elements <g> and <glyph> (reference to <g>), respectively, could potentially be used to describe signs according to their original manifestation, particularly in the case of signs for which no Unicode exists (see TEI Consortium 2014:181). The EpiDoc recommendations restrict themselves to using <g> only “where a symbol is non-meaning-bearing”; the symbol, such as a crucifix12)“Symbol (Non meaning-bearing)”. In: EpiDoc-Guidelines. (22.07.2014)., is described in a subsequent @type attribute. It would be conceivable to create a TWKM project-specific module for the concordance that would be structured similarly to the XML schema for describing the tag <glyph>.

Because representing a sign entails an interpretation, it is important to document each reading with references to secondary literature. A bibliography will be generated using the open-source reference management software program Zotero, which additionally allows data to be exported in TEI format. References to a particular entry are realized using the <ref> tag, which links to the corresponding entry in the bibliography:

<ref target="#Stuart 2008">158-159</ref>

Missing and Illegible Text Passages, Hieroglyphs, and Signs

Lacunae can be represented in all three subsections in the text, depending on the extent of the missing text passage, i.e. as part of the descriptions of <div>, <block>, and <sign>. In each case, they are introduced by the element <gap> and more exactly defined by an attribute. According to the TEI P5 Guidelines, the attributes are optional; nonetheless, it is wise in this case to follow the EpiDoc recommendations, according to which the attribute @reason is mandatory. ‘Lost’, ‘illegible’, ‘omitted’, and ‘elipsis’ are intended as values13)“<gap>”. In: EpiDoc-Guidelines. (15.08.2014).. EpiDoc offers very comprehensive specifications for describing text passages that cannot be represented. Among other options, it is possible to also indicate the size of a gap, at least to the extent that this information is known:

<gap reason="illegible" quantity="1" unit="block"/>

The so-called Leiden Conventions are also used in Maya studies to convert the original inscriptions, whereby lacunae and their respective sizes can be represented. Thus, the implementation of EpiDoc lends itself to the process of utilizing the Leiden Conventions.

Critical Evaluation of the Metadata Schema

The danger of dividing the inscription into so many small components is that the TEI structure becomes confusing—as such, one should considered whether some elements can be omitted while still producing the same result. Another consideration is whether an individually adapted selection of elements should be defined for the each of the various possible arrangements (single-, double-column, etc.), comparable to the TEI P5 Guidelines in their subdivision according to genre. It is wise to define multiple optional elements, in order that they may be selected from the available set as needed.

Comparison of the element set with the demands that researchers have formulated over the course of the project indicates that the demands are largely accounted for in the element set. The problem of clearly identifying the signs as individual components of the hieroglyphic blocks remained unsolved. According to the current mark-up, the signs are written one after another, as in a running text. A remedy to this problem may be provided by the sign concordance, which uses an xml:id to mark individual signs and their variants. Using this, it would also be possible to calculate the number of signs preserved in an inscription. There are various possibilities for describing the signs: at the conclusion of this sub-project, it could not yet be determined whether the element <g> / <glyph> or <milestone>, respectively, was appropriate for marking individual signs. It is possible that a viable solution may be identified after the concordance has been compiled. It was not possible to divide pure description from interpretation of the texts as was demanded of the project, because no clearly coded language is available for the individual signs. To some degree, explicit assignments were not possible, because the Classic Mayan script and language have not yet been completely investigated.

Another question was whether or not representing the arrangement of the hieroglyphs within a block using the previous standard (period for two adjacent signs, etc.) was sufficient for research purposes, or whether a precise mark-up that permits targeted queries would be necessary. It is also possible that the sign arrangement typification mentioned in the TWKM project proposal could offer a satisfactory solution (see Grube 2011: Attachment 11).

Given that many texts include iconography that is highly relevant to analyzing, and thereby interpreting, the content of the text, too few elements were used for marking pictorial representations. Representing the relative proportions of images and indicating their precise position were not possible at that stage. An additional raster would have to be defined in order to describe the exact position and also to indicate empty spaces. The raster would not only locate the hieroglyphs using coordinates, but also employ the same aspect ratio for all inscriptions. As such, it would be possible to clearly describe the pictorial representations and potentially to thereby convey the images’ proportions.

The selection of the elements can serve as the foundation for further elaboration. Over the course of the project, even more issues will have to be taken into account – new demands and challenges are constantly being identified in project discussions. Furthermore, one should reconsider whether this metadata schema will also be able to describe unusual inscription forms that have not been accounted for in the extant examples. As soon as the optimal representation has been determined this working base, the transcription and transliteration of the signs may be carried out. These later processes are also supposed to be described in TEI.

The metadata schema indicates that the attributes of the TEI P5 Guidelines require additional adjustments for cataloging the texts, for example with regard to attribute values. The specifications of the EpiDoc Guidelines were consulted frequently. However, TWKM-specific adjustments proved to be necessary, particularly as regards descriptions of the relationship between text and image. The selection of elements also indicates that the schema consists of a mix of various TEI modules, which was necessary in order to take into account the different aspects of the inscriptions.


Familiarizing oneself with this project entails two very complex goals. A basic understanding of Classic Maya is a prerequisite to be able to follow scientific discussions in this field and to understand the demands of the project. In addition, it is essential to have a (basic) knowledge of the TEI format. In this respect, preselection according to module was helpful for attaining an initial overview. The TEI modules, as well as sections of the EpiDoc recommendations, facilitate examination of these hitherto unfamiliar materials. The TEI P5 Guidelines provide a quick introduction and, in the online version, allow rapid searches for individual elements whose possible applications are always indicated in examples. However, it was difficult to identify obligatory elements of a module: it is not apparent from the survey of the individual elements which element in the hierarchy is obligatory and which is optional. These distinctions are indicated only in the explanation of the Guidelines. Thus, it is always necessary to check the corresponding chapter of the selected elements14)When using an XML editor such as that of oXygen, the data can be easily checked for validity and well-formedness.. Inquiries into other projects that are digitally cataloging inscriptions also failed to produce further information in the case of problems for which the EpiDoc recommendations do not offer a solution, such as when converting individual signs. Nonetheless, the example of “Comic book markup language” indicates that possible approaches may not only be found in epigraphic projects.

Regular exchange between all project contributors was a basic prerequisite for the success of a project such as this – requirements that are not accounted for in the metadata schema or the technical infrastructure (layout, search functions, etc.) would otherwise require great effort to correct. Thus, precise and diligent collaboration was important from the beginning. In meetings between the TWKM project teams, it became apparent which data and information were significant for executing the TWKM project.

In summary, the process of developing the metadata concept indicates that this field greatly resembles to that of library cataloging: the processes of preparing of standardized data for names, compiling of controlled vocabularies, and recognizing common structures within the data are visible in descriptive and subject cataloguing in scientific libraries, as well as in the preparation of authority control – even if the mark-up language for the TWKM project presumably hardly plays a role in scientific universal libraries15)According to the German Research Foundation’s 2009 Practical Guidelines for Digitalization, the TEI format should be used for cataloging medieval manuscripts (q.v. pg. 18). The Herzog August Library in Wolfenbüttel and the University Library of Heidelberg, among others, are following these recommendations.. Thinking outside of the box is also worthwhile for librarians, as their expertise allows them to provide meaningful support to research projects in the field of so-called Digital Humanities.


Arbeitsstelle Altägyptisches Wörterbuch
n.d. Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae. Berlin Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften.
Blümm, Mirjam, and Werner Wegstein
2008 The TEI header for Texts in Baseline Encoding. In TextGrid’s Baseline Encoding for Text Data in TEI P5 (2007-2009), edited by Mirjam Blümm et al., pp. 19–27.
Bodard, Gabriel
2007 Structure of an EpiDoc Edition. In EpiDoc Guidelines: Ancient documents in TEI XML (Version 8), edited by Tom Elliott, Gabriel Bodard, and Hugh Cayless.
Elliott, Tom, Gabriel Bodard, and Hugh Cayless
2006 EpiDoc: Epigraphic Documents in TEI XML.
Gronemeyer, Sven
1999 Das Schriftsystem der Maya. Hausarbeit im Rahmen des Proseminars „Schriftsysteme Amerikas“.
Grube, Nikolai
1993 Schrift und Sprache der Maya. In Die Welt der Maya, edited by Reiss-Museum der Stadt Mannheim. 3rd ed. Zabern, Mainz.
2011 Textdatenbank und Wörterbuch des Klassischen Maya (TWKM). Antrag für ein Forschungsprojekt im Rahmen des Forschungsprogramms der Deutschen Akademien der Wissenschaften (Akademieprogramm) für 2013. Bonn.
Grube, Nikolai, and Maria Gaida
2006 Die Maya: Schrift und Kunst. SMB-DuMont, Berlin & Köln.
Maler, Teobert
1903 Researches in the Central Portion of the Usumatsintla Valley: Reports of Explorations for the Museum. Vol. 2. Memoirs of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University 2. Peabody Museum, Cambridge, MA.
Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary
n.d. The Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary. University of Pennsylvania.
Reynolds, Joyce, Charlotte Roueché, and Gabriel Bodard
2007 Inscriptions of Aphrodisias (2007).
Roueché, Charlotte, and Julia Flanders
2007 Gentle Introduction to Mark-up for Epigraphers. In EpiDoc Guidelines: Ancient documents in TEI XML (Version 8), edited by Tom Elliott, Gabriel Bodard, and Hugh Cayless.
TEI Consortium
n.d. Projects Using the TEI.
n.d. TEI: Frequently Asked Questions.
2014 TEI P5: Guidelines for Electronic Text Encoding and Interchange. Version 2.6.0., 20.01.2014.
Walsh, John A.
2012 Comic book markup language. School of Library and Information Science, Indiana University.
Werning, Daniel A.
2013 Datenkodierung in TEI XML im Rubensohn-Projekt (Arbeitsbericht).

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae. Arbeitsstelle Altägyptisches Wörterbuch. Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities. (04.08.2014).
2. Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary. University of Pennsylvania. (04.08.2014).
3. See “TEI: Frequently Asked Questions”. TEI Consortium. (04.08.2014).
4. In order to more easily distinguish between the two projects, the overarching project will be denoted as the TWKM project.
5. See “Projects Using the TEI.” TEI Consortium. (04.08.2014) und Reynolds, Roueché & Godard 2007,
6. The CIDOC Conceptual Reference Model (CRM) constitutes a documentation format for the field of cultural heritage and has been the official ISO Standard (ISO 21127:2006) since 2006. This format was selected in order to be able to appropriately represent the numerous aspects of the object itself, such as history of discovery, provenance, and relevant figures, such as excavators, curators, etc.
7. The vocabularies that are being compiled for the TWKM project are being coded according to the “Simple Knowledge Organisation System” (SKOS).
8. After Maler 1903: pl. 52, the block designations are added after the CMHI.
9. „<balloon>“. In: Walsh 2012, (10.08.2014).
10. „<caption>“. In: Walsh 2012, (10.08.2014).
11. The reading order typification that had been included in the proposal was not pursued. See Grube 2011: Attachment 11.
12. “Symbol (Non meaning-bearing)”. In: EpiDoc-Guidelines. (22.07.2014).
13. “<gap>”. In: EpiDoc-Guidelines. (15.08.2014).
14. When using an XML editor such as that of oXygen, the data can be easily checked for validity and well-formedness.
15. According to the German Research Foundation’s 2009 Practical Guidelines for Digitalization, the TEI format should be used for cataloging medieval manuscripts (q.v. pg. 18). The Herzog August Library in Wolfenbüttel and the University Library of Heidelberg, among others, are following these recommendations.

Evaluating the Digital Documentation Process from 3D Scan to Drawing

Working Paper 2


Sven Gronemeyer1,2, Christian Prager1 & Elisabeth Wagner1

1 Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, Bonn
2 La Trobe University, Melbourne

The “Text Database and Dictionary of Classic Mayan” project acquired a Breuckmann smartSCAN C5 structured-light scanner for high-resolution and three-dimensional documentation of Maya artefacts with inscriptions. Renderings of the stereolithographic mesh can be used to create (digital) line drawings for the project’s repository. This working paper exemplifies the workflow of creating a drawing on the basis of a mesh (rather than describing the scanning and mesh generation process themselves) in order to evaluate a best practice and define standards for the project.

Scanning and 3D Mesh Rendering

A fibre glass replica of the left slab of the Tablet of the Sun from Palenque was used as a case study for the documentation process. This cast is part of the collection of the Bonner Altamerika-Sammlung (BASA) at the University of Bonn. It was made from the same mould that was previously used for the cast made by Maudslay (1889: pl. 87). To imitate the original surface, the replica was coated with a yellow-brownish paint mixed with small particles, imitating a surface of porous stone. The scanner’s M-850 sensor was used for the scanning process. It has a field of view size of 650 x 560 mm with a 27° triangulation angle. The lateral resolution (X,Y) is 265 µm and the depth resolution (Z) is 15 µm. A series of 17 raw shots was assembled into a merged mesh, with a total of nearly 6.55 million vertices and 13.06 million faces, and saved in the binary polygon file format (PLY) in Breuckmann’s Optocat software.

In the next step, the mesh was processed with the Open Source software Meshlab to produce a rendering suitable as a basis for the line drawing. After aligning the model to an isometric view of the relief, the colour information was deactivated, leaving the mesh un-textured. This makes the outlines of the surface more visible, but a Phong illumination (Phong 1975) still retains shadows and the plasticity of the original surface. As a last step, a Lambertian radiance scaling (Vergne et al. 2011) shader was applied with maximum enhancement to reduce specular lights for a matte surface, to highlight and “flatten” relief contours, and to provide a rendering with sufficient contrast to facilitate tracing of carved outlines. The rendering was then exported as a high-resolution snapshot.

Figure 1. Courtesy Bonner Altamerika-Sammlung (BASA) – Meshes by Sven Gronemeyer, 2015 – left: Textured full-colour Phong rendering, center: Uncoloured Phong rendering, right: Lambertian radiance scaled rendering

Image Processing

The snapshot can, of course, be printed out in a preferable size and the line drawing then completed using ink and paper, but a more desirable option is further digital processing and drawing. For this purpose, the project offers each epigraphic team member a Wacom Cintiq 24″ HD interactive pen display and a variety of graphic suites as per individual preference. One of the major advantages of an image editing software is the possibility of creating multiple layers for the mesh, the drawing, and the background. This leaves the artist the freedom to divide the drawing into custom segments of various granularity, e.g. creating layers for each individual glyph block or iconographic feature. For the Tablet of the Sun showpiece, it was decided to arrange layers for (a) the mesh rendering, (b) the feature outlines of thicker line width, (c) the inner contours of thinner line width, and (d) the background(s) of blank spaces in the relief. The drawing thus follows the technique established as the standard for the Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions (Graham 1975: fn. 4).

Figure 2. Different Drawing Layers of the Palenque Tablet of the Sun – Drawings by Sven Gronemeyer, 2015 – left: mesh and outline drawing, center: drawing without background, right: drawing with background stippling

The layer organisation does not only facilitate the drawing process. Within the team, layers can also help team members discuss interpretations in the drawing process and propose corrections or amendments. Layers additionally ensure stringent quality control in a collaborative work flow. But, above all, a drawing layer on top of the mesh rendering provides more transparency to other colleagues by allowing direct comparison between the rendering of the scanned object and the artist’s treatment of surface features, at least by using the radiance scaled image in the background. While tracing on this basis, the artist still has the possibility to simultaneously view the 3D mesh from different angles with different illumination settings and shaders, and to dynamically inspect surface features that become fixed in the snapshot.

A final comment can be made on the background filling. The method of stippling the background to highlight the carved areas was of course necessary when using ink and paper. In digital image processing, however, a mask of the outlines can easily be produced and filled with a range of uniform, grey colours. A major argument in favour of this method is time: in the present example, the stippling required about 20 hours of work, although it is admittedly rather dense. Filling the mask, in contrast, took only about 30 minutes. A grey background is also not expected to be problematic for modern print technologies, and layers furthermore allow different output options to suit any reproduction requirement, whether online or in print. In total, about 50 hours were needed to finalise the drawing.


Based on the experience working with the Tablet of the Sun showpiece, the project proposes the following guidelines for generating line drawings based on 3D scans:

  • Create a high-resolution snapshot of the prepared mesh rendering; its physical dimensions depend on the size of the object
  • Assign a layer to the rendering, making it the lowest level on top of a white background
  • Assign each major feature (e.g. glyph block or figure) different layers for outer and inner lines; the thinnest line width should be no less than 5 pixels
  • Create a mask to contain the background filling: 20% black is recommended (= Hex #CCCCCC = RGB 204)
  • Leave the interior of glyph blocks, iconographic features, frames, and eroded/destroyed areas white

Figure 3. Final Drawing of the Palenque Tablet of the Sun – Drawing by Sven Gronemeyer, 2015

The proposals are based on a stone monument in low relief, and different shades of grey may be introduced to represent different levels of background (as on e.g. Yaxchilan Lintel 14), similar to how the density of stippling was used in the past. The same recommendation may apply for tracing erosion or damage to the relief ground.


The scanning and subsequent mesh rendering revealed that the fibre glass replica still yields a considerable level of detail that may not be initially apparent on the actual physical object (partly because of the paint coating). Comparison with existing line drawings made from the original object now in the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City shows great similarities, but also reveals features not previously recognised by other artists.

Figure 4. Comparison between previous drawings – left: Drawing by Annie Hunter (Maudslay 1889: pl. 88), center: Drawing by Linda Schele (Schele 1976: fig. 12), right: Drawing by Merle Greene Robertson (Robertson 1991: fig. 95)

One example is the correction of a grapheme that appears twice on the monument, as well as in block I1 in the secondary text on the left slab. While previous artists rendered the collocation as ko-bu-yi, a close inspection of the scan reveals ju-bu-yi, which is, of course, the spelling of the mediopassive form jub-uy-i “it gets down”, an interpretation which had already been applied to this phrase in the past based on the context (e.g. Stuart 2006: 171).

Figure 5. Comparison between photo and 3D scan, blocks C1-D6

The advantages of a detailed, isometric rendering of a 3D scan can be seen in directly comparing a photo of the plaster cast (Maudslay 1889: pl. 87) and a Lambertian radiance scaling rendering of the fibre glass replica produced from the same mould. In contrast to the photo, the rendering is matte and shows no shadows. Together with the contour highlighting, it allows a more precise tracing of the carved outlines in the drawing process. In fact, the radiance scaling of the scan of the cast also led to a new reading and interpretation (Wagner, Gronemeyer & Prager 2015) of a crucial text passage.


Graham, Ian
1975 Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions, Volume 1: Introduction to the Corpus. Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.
Maudslay, Alfred P.
1889 Biologia Centrali-Americana, or, Contributions to the Knowledge of the Fauna and Flora of Mexico and Central America. Archaeology. R. H. Porter and Dulau & co., London.
Phong, Bui Thuong
1975 Illumination for Computer Generated Pictures. Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery 18(6): 311–317.
Robertson, Merle G.
1991 The Cross Group, the North Group, the Olvidado, and Other Pieces. The Sculpture of Palenque 4. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J.
Schele, Linda
1976 Accession Iconography of Chan-Bahlum in the Group of the Cross at Palenque. In The Art, Iconography and Dynastic History of Palenque, Part III, edited by Merle G. Robertson, pp. 9–34. The Proceedings of the Segunda Mesa Redonda de Palenque. Pre-Columbian Art Research, Robert Louis Stevenson School, Pebble Beach, CA.
Stuart, David S.
2006 Sourcebook for the 30th Maya Hieroglyphic Forum at Texas. Department of Art and Art History, the College of Fine Arts, and the Institute of Latin American Studies, Austin.
Vergne, Romain, Romain Pacanowski, Pascal Barla, Pascal Granier, and Christophe Schlick
2011 Radiance Scaling for Versatile Surface Enhancement. In Proceedings of the Symposium on Interactive 3D Graphics and Games, February 2010, Boston, United States, edited by I3D ’10. Boston, MA.
Wagner, Elisabeth, Sven Gronemeyer, and Christian M. Prager
2015 Tz’atz’ Nah, a “New” Term in the Classic Maya Lexicon. Vol. 2. Textdatenbank und Wörterbuch des Klassischen Maya Research Note. Nordrhein-Westfälische Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Künste & Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn, Bonn.

Resumen de la Documentación


Para llegar al objetivo de crear una base de datos léxica del maya clásico el proyecto no solo documenta las informaciones textuales, sino también otros parámetros que forman parte de la base de datos de corpus. Estos incluyen, entre otros, sitios arqueológicos y colecciones museales con portadores de texto, una concordancia de cátalogos de los signos jeroglíficos mayas, una bibliografía epigráfica e arqueológica y otros recursos.

Las listas correspondientes se harán accesibles en línea y serán completadas y actualizadas en el transcurso del proyecto para facilitar el acceso abierto (Open Access) al conjunto de los datos de investigación. Además de una cómoda función de búsqueda también ofrecemos la exportación de datos en diferentes formatos.

Historia del Desciframiento

Los principios

Aunque el desciframiento fonético de la escritura maya tuvo lugar en los años 50 del siglo XX, no fue hasta principios de 1980 que esta aproximación logró la amplia aceptación por parte de investigadores y se estableció como paradigma dominante de la epigrafía maya contemporánea. No obstante, la base para el entendimiento de la escritura maya fue establecida en el siglo XVI, cuando el obispo franciscano Diego de Landa redactó el informe Relación de las cosas de Yucatán para defenderse en un juicio por lo ocurrido durante el Auto de Fe de Maní en 1562.

Después del juicio, esta etnografía, cuya redacción se sitúa hacia 1566, terminó perdida en los archivos de la administración colonial. Una copia abreviada del manuscrito fue descubierta por el teólogo francés Charles Étienne Brasseur de Bourbourg en 1862. Con la ayuda de sus informadores principales, Juan Cocom y Gaspar Antonio Chi que fueron descendientes de la nobleza maya, de Landa describió el funcionamiento del calendario y del sistema de escritura. Por primera vez fueron revelados los signos calendáricos más sus valores fonéticos (en maya yucateco) y Brasseur consiguió descifrar el sistema numeral de puntos y barras que había sido reconocido por Constantine Samuel Rafinesque-Schmaltz treinta años antes.

Landa Alphabet after Brasseur 1869

El “Alfabeto de Landa” adaptado por Brasseur de Bourbourg (1869)

Fray Diego de Landa no solo añadió varios ejemplos, sino también un “alfabeto” de la escritura maya que no tenía equivalente. Contenía tres signos para la letra “A”, dos para las letras “B”, “L”, “O”, “X” y “U” y varios signos con valores silábicos como “CA”, “CU” o “KU”. Sin embargo, los intentos de Brasseur de usar el alfabeto para leer los textos jeroglíficos en los códices mayas fracasaron, puesto que interpretaba los signos sin conocimiento del orden de lectura. Aunque estudiosos tempranos como Rafinesque-Schmaltz o el explorador John Lloyd Stephens ya habían expresado la idea de que la escritura maya estaba estrechamente vinculada a los idiomas mayas, Brasseur ignoraba el hecho que su lectura de muchos signos resultaba incomprensible. No obstante, la aportación más importante de Brasseur a los estudios epigráficos ha sido el descubrimiento de varios diccionarios coloniales, gramáticas y textos en diferentes idiomas mayas, tanto en archivos como en colecciones privadas, y haberlos hecho accesibles al público a través de diferentes publicaciones.

Aunque se obtuvieron lecturas aisladas en los años siguientes, como por ejemplo el desciframiento de los jeroglí¬ficos que designan los puntos cardinales por Léon de Rosny en 1876, los investigadores de la escritura maya se dividían en dos campos. El primer grupo perseguía una aproximación fonética utilizando el alfabeto de Landa. El segundo grupo suponía que el sistema de escritura maya era logográfico. Sin embargo, otros investigadores, como por ejemplo Rosny y el antropólogo estadounidense Cyrus Thomas, opinaban que la escritura maya era una combinación de ambos sistemas; una hipótesis que no logró imponerse. Además, había investigadores, como el antropólogo estadounidense Daniel Brinton, que sostenían que la escritura maya fuera una “escritura rebus” comparándola con la escritura náhuatl (que representa otro sistema escriturario fonético). Léon de Rosny y Cyrus Thomas dos representantes claves de la aproximación fonética. Sus publicaciones contienen desciframientos, como, por ejemplo, la lectura de la sequencia jeroglífica ku–tzu como “pavo” (tabla II, 34-35), moo como “guacamaya” (tabla I, 37), kuch como “zopilote” (tabla I, 34) o la lectura del logograma KAB como “tierra, miel” (tabla II, 8), que, cuarenta años después, fueron retomadas por Yuri Knorosov y siguen siendo válidas hasta hoy.

Rosny Study

Tabla I y II de la obra “Are the Maya Hieroglyphs Phonetic” de Cyrus Thomas (1893)

El calendario

Mientras que el contenido de los textos jeroglíficos seguía siendo enigmático, se dieron avances rápidos en el campo de la aritmética calendárica. Siguiendo los trabajos iniciales de Charles Brasseur de Bourbourg y de Léon de Rosny, el germanista y bibliotecario alemán Ernst Förstemann logró comprender el contenido calendárico-astronómico de los textos jeroglíficos. En su función de conservador, Förstemann no sólo publicó la primera edición facsimilar del Códice Dresden en 1882, sino que hasta 1893 también descubrió los siguientes mecanismos: el sistema de datación lineal a partir de un punto cero (Cuenta Larga), la estructura del almanaque de 260 días, las calculaciones del ciclo de Venus de 584 días y los principios básicos de la calculación de las eclipses lunares (resumen y traducción inglés de sus investigaciones).

Finalmente, en 1905, el editor estadounidense John Goodman propuso la correlación entre la Cuenta Larga y el calendario gregoriano que fue comprobada por el investigador mexicano Juan Martínez Hernández en 1926. En 1935 el estudioso británico Eric J. Thompson corrigió la correlación por tres días llegando a una constante de 584.285 días que vincula el punto cero del calendario maya con el del calendario juliano. La correlación GTM (Goodman-Thompson-Martínez) ha sido aceptada generalmente por la comunidad científica.

Los estudios calendáricos-astronómicos dominaron la epigrafía maya hasta los años 50 del siglo XX, culminando en la obra Maya Hieroglyphic Writing de Thompson publicada en 1950, en donde el autor detalla con amplitud los ciclos calendáricos conocidos. Con su resumen de los principios básicos del funcionamiento de la escritura maya y su catálogo de glifos mayas (1962), Thompson logró establecer nuevos estándares en estudio de los jeroglíficos mayas. A diferencia de sus colegas Floyd Lounsbury y David Kelley que realizaron aportaciones importantes para la comprensión del calendario y la astronomía, rechazó la interpretación fonética de la escritura maya hasta su muerte en 1975.

La aproximación fonética

La perspectiva comparativa de un egiptólogo finalmente reforzó la idea de un desciframiento fonético de la escritura maya. El investigador ruso Yuri Knorosov publicó varios artículos sobre su método entre 1952 y 1955. Él fue el primero en reconocer que la escritura maya contaba con casi el mismo número de signos como los jeroglíficos egipcios que habían sido descifrados por Jean-François Champollion en 1823. El hecho que la escritura maya empleaba más signos que una escritura alfabética, pero menos que una escritura logográfica (como la china), le llevó a la conclusión de que representaba un tipo de sistema mixto logosilábico.

Según su punto de vista, Landa había malinterpretado los signos silábicos de estructura CV (consonante-vocal). Knorosov señaló dos rasgos que él consideraba como “indicios” del malentendido: a) la existencia de múltiples signos para una “letra” y b) el número reducido de signos CV, como por ejemplo “CU”. Basándose en el estudio de Paul Schellhas sobre las deidades en los códices mayas publicado en 1897, Knorosov empezó a correlacionar imágenes y textos y a explicar léxicamente sus observaciones. En una viñeta del Códice Madrid se muestra un pavo que en maya yucateco se denomina kutz. En el texto correspondiente aparece el signo “CU” del alfabeto de Landa (= ku según la ortografía colonial) más un segundo signo de valor fonético desconocido. Tomando en cuenta la supuesta sinarmonía con ku, Knorosov supuso que el segundo signo debería leerse tzu para representar la consonante en posición final de kutz. Verificó su hipótesis en un bloque jeroglífico del Códice Dresden que muestra un perro (la palabra para denominar un perro en maya yucateco es tzul). El primer signo del compuesto jeroglífico para “perro” era el mismo que la segunda sílaba de kutz. Por lo tanto, Knorosov dedujo que el segundo signo debería leerse lu. Efectivamente, este signo aparece en el alfabeto de Landa como una versión de la letra “L”. Aplicando este método comparativo, Knorosov continuó a identificar varios otros signos silábicos.

Codex Madrid & Dresden

Las viñetas 91ª3 del Códice Madrid y 7a2 del Códice Dresden con las lecturas ku-tzu y tzu-lu. (versión original del Códice Dresden, versión facsímil del Códice Madrid)

A través de comparaciónes iconográficas Knorosov hasta logró aislar logogramas y presentar descripciones lingüísticas basadas en los diccionarios del maya yucateco. También descubrió el principio de la complementación fonética que sirve como ayuda para la lectura de un logograma (p.ej. CHAN-na para chan, “cielo”).

No obstante, su método también presentaba problemas: en la escritura maya no solo se observan casos de ortografía armónica (CV1-CV1), sino también de ortografía disarmónica (CV1-CV2). A pesar de haber publicado sus resultados en revistas nortemanericanas, el trabajo de Knorosov no obtuvo la atención que merecía durante muchos años. Esto se debe a los muros reales y mentales erigidos entre Oriente y Occidente y a la fuerte oposición de Thompson.

La aproximación histórica

La científica rusa exiliada Tatiana Proskouriakoff que trabajaba para el museo de Peabody de la Universidad de Harvard propuso una aproximación alternativa. En 1960 publicó un artículo, en el cual demostró por primera vez que las inscripciones de monumentos tallados en piedra contenían datos históricos de la vida de los gobernadores mayas. Aunque núnca aceptó la perspectiva fonética de Knorosov, hasta Thompson tuvo que reconocer que su idea de que las inscripciones no contenían más que datos astronómicos era falsa.

A través del análisis de grupos de estelas en Piedras Negras que retratan la vida de diferentes gobernadores, Proskouriakoff logró identificar un patrón de fechas y aislar dos glifos claves. Utilizando la técnica de seriación demostró que el primer glifo asociado con un gobernador siempre es el más temprano, mientras que el segundo glifo es más tardío (entre 10 y 30 años). Por lo tanto, dedujo que se trataba de los glifo de nacimiento y de entronización, aunque no se conocían sus valores fonéticos en aquel tiempo.

Proskouriakoff precisó la aproximación histórica en sus siguientes trabajos, apoyándose en los trabajos de otros investigadores. En 1958 el alemán-mexicano Heinrich Berlin publicó un estudio en el cual presentó evidencias de una categoría de jeroglíficos que nombró “glifos-emblema”.

Las frutas de una nueva generación

Mientras se dieron a conocer los descubrimientos de Knorosov en Occidente, se formó un grupo de jovenes estudiosos en la Universidad de Harvard abierto a nuevas ideas. Entre esta nueva generación de epigrafistas destacan David Kelley y Michael Coe. El primero logró descifrar una serie de signos aplicando la aproximación fonética a las inscripciones jeroglíficas grabadas en piedra. Su estudio finalmente culminó en la publicación de la obra Deciphering the Maya Script (1976) que llegó a cambiar el paradigma epigráfico.

Otro paso importante para el desarrollo de la investigación de la escritura maya fue la Primera Mesa Redonda de Palenque (1973) organizada por la maestra de arte Merle Green Robertson que llevaba varios años documentando las inscripciones del sitio arqueológico del mismo nombre. Por primera vez se reunieron arqueólogos, epigrafistas, historiadores de arte e interesados no profesionales para discutir resultados e intercambiar ideas. Aparte del matemático y lingüísta Floyd Lounsbury, cuya aportación a la mitología de Palenque y al desciframiento de los “glifos-emblema” fue sumamente valiosa, también participaron Linda Schele y Peter Matthews, un estudiante de David Kelley. En el marco de la conferencia no solo presentaron la sucesión dinástica de Palenque, sino también los nombres y datos biográficos de seis gobernadores subsiguientes. Poco después este grupo sacó a la luz la historia de Palenque.

Poco a poco los estudios empezaron a proporcionar nuevas expresiones biográficas complementándo los “glifos de sucesos” de Proskouriakoff, terminos de parentesco y otro tipo de información. Además permitieron vincular la historia de los seres humanos con la de las deidades. Sin embargo, mucho más importante fue la conclusión de que los textos jeroglíficos deberían ser analizados en forma integral; una propuesta que finalmente dio paso a la investigación de la retórica, sintaxis y morfología del Maya Clásico. Desde 1978 los investigadores se reunen en los Maya Meetings, una conferencia anual iniciada por Linda Schele.

El proceso de desciframiento avanzó velozmente a finales de 1970. Un hito importante durante este tiempo fue la conferencia Phoneticism in Maya Hieroglyphic Writing en Albany (1979) donde se reunieron epigrafistas e lingüístas. Ahí se aplicaron por primera vez métodos de la Lingüística histórica, de la Lingüística comparativa y de la Grafemática a la escritura maya. Un resultado de la conferencia fue la elaboración de un silabario de signos de estructura CV que sigue siendo ampliado hasta el presente. En 1987 por ejemplo, David Steward lo amplió por diez signos (y sus variantes) usando el método de Knorosov.

La epigrafía en la era moderna

Hoy en día, la mayoría de los glifos pueden ser leídos. Los desciframientos actuales no solo extienden nuestra comprensión textual, sino también nuestros conocimientos sobre la cultura de los mayas clásicos. Aunque la tarea del desciframiento sigue siendo importante, el foco de atención de la epigrafía ha cambiado.

Un mejor entendimiento de la escritura y el lenguage permite profundizar nuestros conocimientos sobre diferentes temas como, por ejemplo, el desarrollo lingüístico, la geografía lingüística, las características fonológicas de la lengua escrita y los mecanismos ortográficos con los procesos cognitivos subyacentes. Los estudios de investigadores como Nikolai Grube, Stephen Houston, Alfonso Lacadena, John Robertson, David Stuart o Søren Wichmann han demostrado que el Maya Clásico no es un bloque monolítico. Sobre todo los estudios The Language of Classic Maya Inscriptions y Quality and Quantity in Glyphic Nouns and Adjectives, ambos publicados a principios de 2000, así como la obra colectiva The Linguistics of Maya Writing han proporcionado información valiosa, abriendo el camino para investigaciones futuras.

Durante los 1500 años de utilización, la escritura maya ha producido nuevos signos mientras que otros cayeron en desuso. La lengua escrita estaba sujeta a cambios constantes, y, hoy en día, estos cambios pueden ser estimados temporal y genéticamente a través del los fechamientos de las inscripciones jeroglíficas. Los resultados de estudios epigráficos y lingüísticos están vinculados y se fecundan mutuamente. Muchas preguntas de investigación todavía están por aclarar; algunas de ellas tal vez nunca tendrán respuestas.

Cyrus Thomas, un adelantado a su tiempo, escribió en 1892: “Is the Maya writing phonetic? […] This statement I firmly believe I can maintain […].” Esta proposición es corroborada por cada nuevo resultado.

Cuestiones de Investigación

Los problemas de investigación guían la formulación de preguntas acerca de la gramatología y otros aspectos lingüísticos de la escritura jeroglífica maya. Otros factores importantes relacionados con el trabajo epigráfico son los estudios comparativos con otros sistemas de escritura, así como un enfoque interdisciplinario que emplea métodos cuantitativos y que considera aportaciones de la Lingüística psicológica, la Lingüística social y la Tipología lingüística.

Tipología de escritura

La clave para cada pregunta de investigación dentro del campo de la epigrafía es el entendimiento no contradictorio de la naturaleza y la función de un sistema de escritura. Por medio de estudios comparativos recientes se ha logrado elaborar una tipología de sistemas de escritura más detallada y comprensiva. La grafemática comparativa no es un enfoque nuevo en la epigrafía maya, pero debería ser utilizada de manera diferenciada en vez de recurrir a otros sistemas de escritura solamente para sostener argumentos en favor o en contra de una hipótesis. Por ejemplo, la escritura maya, egipcia y cuneiforme difieren en la realización grafemática de la homofonía y de determinativos, por tratarse de tres diferentes representaciones de un sistema de escritura de carácter logo-silábico. El estudio comparativo, por lo tanto, nos lleva no solo a un mejor entendimiento de las similtudes y diferencias entre estos tres sistemas, sino también a una tipología más precisa.

Propiedades de signos

El establecimiento de una tipología de escrituras no es posible sin una definición exacta del lexicón grafémico, es decir, de las propiedades funcionales de los signos. Aunque la dicotomía entre signos plerémicos (representan unidades de significado, e.d. logográficos) y cenémicos (representan unidades fonológicas, e. d. silábicos) está fuera de duda, aún existen problemas que no han sido resueltos. Uno de ellos es el problema de la existencia de otras clases de signos, como por ejemplo morfosílabas (silabás que transmiten significados) o clasificadores semánticos (indican dominios semánticos). Las propiedades de los signos están estrechamente vinculadas con la ortografía, por lo tanto sustentan el trabajo del epigrafista en la lectura y reconstrucción de secuencias de signos. De ahí que el estudio del lexicón mental no pueda ser completo sin aclarar la profundidad ortográfica y las convergencias en la utilización de signos.

Reglas de armonía vocálica

La cuestión de la profundidad ortográfica tiene implicaciones no solo para el lexicón grafémico y otros fenómenos, como elipsis o metátesis, sino también para un tema que ha causado mayor controversia: el principio de la sinarmonía. En cuanto al último, todavía no se ha aclarado definitivamente si el Maya Clásico contaba con un sistema vocálico cuantitativo (e. d. con función fonémica) o cualitativo (e. d. la entonación no afecta el significado léxico). Mucho menos se sabe de las “reglas” que regían el sistema vocálico; los dos modelos más importantes se excluyen mutuamente.

Afiliación lingüística

La propuesta que el “Ch’olti’an clásico” era usado como lingua franca en el contexto aristocrático tiene un cierto atractivo, sobre todo en comparación con el egipcio medio fosilizado que era la lengua sacral del Nuevo Imperio: ambos eran lenguas vernáculas escritas en situación de diglosia. Lo mismo se puede aplicar al latín clásico cicerónico que era la lengua culta del Imperio romano y, posteriormente, de la intelectualidad europea. No obstante, tanto este punto de vista, como el establecimiento de una conexión genética resultan problemáticos, puesto que no explican las influencias vernáculas en la escritura que se hacen cada vez más visibles. Los datos epigráficos demuestran una situación lingüística mucho más compleja y diversificada, lejos de una lengua culta uniforme, especialmente en discursos y géneros literarios menos formales. Datos recientes además apuntan hacia correspondencias con el desarrollo del Proto-Cholan, tal como fue reconstruido por la Lingüística histórica desde hace más de 20 años. La existencia de diglosia e influencias vernáculas, por lo tanto, afectan las prácticas escribales y la profundidad ortográfica.


La Biblioteca Estatal y Universitaria de Gotinga / TextGrid

Para la creación, administración y el almacenamiento del corpus de datos se empleará el entorno de investigación virtual TextGrid que permite el trabajo colaborativo integrado en red y el uso y aprovechamiento de tecnologías computacionales de variada índole útiles para el análisis de textos y la compilación del diccionario del maya clásico. En TextGrid también se incluirán datos gráficos junto con sus metadatos. Para cumplir las exigencias del proyecto están previstas amplias modificaciones y ampliaciones del entorno virtual, por lo tanto se emprendió una cooperación con la Biblioteca Estatal y Universitaria de Gotinga.

La Biblioteca Universitaria de Bonn

La cooperación con la Biblioteca Universitaria de Bonn (ULB) enfoca la presentación de los datos en internet. El archivo virtual de inscripciones será integrado en la plataforma Visual Library de sus Colecciones Digitales donde los portadores de texto se presentarán en forma digitalizada, junto con metadatos, análisis epigráficos y traducciones. La cooperación con la ULB garantiza que los datos digitales del inventario estarán disponibles permanentemente para consulta libre y abierta tanto a un público especializado como a un público general.

Archivos de inscripciones

El registro de todos portadores de textos jeroglíficos mayas a través de una base de datos forma la base del proyecto y sus objetivos. Para ello, se creará un archivo digital y físico que no solo contiene imágenes en forma de fotografías y dibujos, sino también los datos descriptivos de los portadores de texto. Le damos las gracias al Prof. em. Dr. Berthold Riese (Universidad de Bonn), al Prof. Dr. Karl Herbert Mayer y al Du. Hasso Holzmann (Grupo transdisciplinario para la investigación de la cultura maya, Graz, Austria) por proporcionarnos acceso a sus archivos.

Esquema de codificación

El esquema de codificación aplicado al corpus emplea TEI (Text Encoding Initiative), un estándar internacional ampliamente adoptado por la investigación lingüística para formatos y aplicaciones basadas en XLM. El asesor del proyecto en cuestiones del esquema de codificación TEI es Dr. Thomas Kollatz (Instituto Salomon Ludwig Steinheim, Essen).

Consejo Científico Asesor

El trabajo del proyecto es apoyado y evaluado por un consejo científico asesor de cuatro cabezas que participa en las conferencias del proyecto y en las discusiones científicas. De tal manera, se asegura que las convenciones propuestas por el proyecto en cuanto a la transcripción de las fuentes, al análisis y a la presentación de los datos sean desarrolladas a través del diálogo con la comunidad académica.

Prof. em. Dr. Peter Mathews La Trobe University, Melbourne
Prof. Dr. David Stuart University of Texas, Austin
Prof. Dr. Gordon Whittaker Georg-August Universität, Göttingen
Dr. Marc Uwe Zender Tulane University, New Orleans

Sven Gronemeyer


Currículum vitae

A partir de 1998 estudios de Maestría en Antropología de las Américas, Pre y Protohistoria y Egiptología en la Universidad de Bonn. En 2004 obtiene el grado de Maestría con un estudio epigráfico sobre las inscripciones de Tortuguero, México. De 2011 a 2014 becario doctoral en la Universidad La Trobe en Melbourne, Australia. En 2015 obtiene el doctorado con un estudio sobre las convenciones ortográficas de la escritura jeroglífica maya y la reconstrucción fonémica del Maya Clásico. De 2010 a 2012 colaborador en el Proyecto Arqueológico Tamarindito. De 2014 a 2016 vicepresidente de Wayeb (Asociación Europea de Mayistas). Desde 2015 asociado honorado de la Universidad La Trobe y galardonado de la medalla Nancy Millis en 2015.

Campos de investigación

La cultura de los mayas clásicos. Desde la perspectiva de la epigrafía interesan, sobre todo, aspectos historiográficos, sistemas de organización políticos y territoriales, así como estudios tipológicos del sistema de escritura maya. Desde la perspectiva de la lingüística centra su atención en métodos comparativos y cuantitativos de la Lingüística histórica, especialmente en la fonología y morfología.

Entre sus publicaciones destacamos:


Gronemeyer, Sven

  • 2016 The Linguistics of Toponymy in Maya Hieroglyphic Writing. En: Places of Power and Memory in Mesoamerica‘s Past and Present: How Sites, Toponyms and Landscapes Shape History and Remembrance [Estudios Indiana, 9], editado por Daniel Graña-Behrens: 85-122. Berlin: Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut – Preußischer Kulturbesitz & Gebr. Mann Verlag.
  • 2016 Textos jeroglíficos de Tamarindito. En: Entre reyes y campesinos: investigaciones recientes en la antigua capital maya de Tamarindito [Paris Monographs in American Archaeology, 45], edito por Markus Eberl y Claudia Vela González: 107-122. Oxford: Archaeopress.
  • 2015 Class Struggle: Towards a Better Understanding of Maya Writing Using Comparative Graphematics. In: On Methods: How We Know what We Think We Know about the Maya [Acta Mesoamericana, 28], editado por Harri Kettunen y Christophe Helmke: 101-117. Markt Schwaben: Verlag Anton Saurwein.
  • 2014 E pluribus unum: Embracing Vernacular Influences in a Classic Mayan Scribal Tradition. In: A Celebration of the Life and Work of Pierre Robert Colas [Acta Mesoamericana, 27], editado por Christophe Helmke y Frauke Sachse: 147-162. Markt Schwaben: Verlag Anton Saurwein.
  • 2013 The Monuments and Inscriptions of Tamarindito, Petén, Guatemala (Acta Mesoamericana, 25). Markt Schwaben: Verlag Anton Saurwein.
  • 2012 Statements of Identity: Emblem Glyphs in the Nexus of Political Relations. In: Proceedings of the 14th European Maya Conference: Maya Political Relations and Strategies [Contributions in New World Archaeology, 4], editado por Jarosław Źrałka, Wiesław Koszkul y Beata Golińska: 13-40. Cracovia: Polska Akademia Umiejętności und Uniwersytet Jagielloński.
  • 2011 Evoking the Dualism of Sign Classes: A Critique on the Existence of Morphosyllabic Signs in Maya Hieroglyphic Writing. Indiana 28: 315-337.
  • 2010 A Painted Ceramic Vessel from San Miguel Tayasal, El Petén, Guatemala. Mexicon XXXII(6): 145-147.
  • 2006 The Maya Site of Tortuguero, Tabasco, Mexico. Its History and Inscriptions (Acta Mesoamericana, 17). Markt Schwaben: Verlag Anton Saurwein.
  • 2006 Glyphs G and F: Identified as Aspects of the Maize God. Wayeb Notes 22.
  • 2004 A Preliminary Ruling Sequence of Cobá, Quintana Roo. Wayeb Notes 14.
  • 2003 Bloodletting and Vision Quest among the Ancient Maya: A Medical and Iconographic Re-evalution. Human Mosaic 34 (1-2): 5-14.
  • 2003 Beobachtungen zur possessiven Morphologie von Glyphe F. Wayeb Notes 1.

Gronemeyer, Sven & Markus Eberl

  • 2012 Recent Archaeological and Epigraphic Investigations in Tamarindito, Petén. In: Proceedings of the 1st Cracow Maya Conference: Archaeology and Epigraphy of the Eastern Central Maya Lowlands [Contributions in New World Archaeology, 3], editado por Christophe Helmke, Jarosław Źrałka y Monika Banach: 65-89. Cracovia: Polska Akademia Umiejętności und Uniwersytet Jagielloński.

Gronemeyer, Sven & Barbara MacLeod

  • 2010 What Could Happen in 2012: A Re-Analysis of the 13-Bak’tun Prophecy on Tortuguero Monument 6. Wayeb Notes 34.

Benavides Castillo, Antonio & Sven Gronemeyer

  • 2005 A Ballgame Stone Ring Fragment from Edzna, Campeche. Mexicon XXVII(6): 107-108.

Eberl, Markus & Sven Gronemeyer

  • 2016 Organización política y social. En: Entre reyes y campesinos: investigaciones recientes en la antigua capital maya de Tamarindito [Paris Monographs in American Archaeology, 45], editado por Markus Eberl y Claudia Vela González: 137-146. Oxford: Archaeopress.

Eberl, Markus, Claudia Vela González & Sven Gronemeyer

  • 2011 Investigaciones recientes del proyecto Tamarindito: la temporada 2010. In: XXIV Simposio de investigaciones arqueológicas en Guatemala, 2010, editado por Bárbara Arroyo, Lorena Paiz Aragón, Adriana Linares Palma y Ana Lucia Arroyave: 237-246. Guatemala-Stadt: Instituto de Antropología e Historia, Ministerio de Cultura y Deportes und Asociación Tikal.

Vela González, Claudia, Sarah Levithol, Andrea Díaz, Sven Gronemeyer & Markus Eberl

  • 2016 Excavaciones extensivas. En: Entre reyes y campesinos: investigaciones recientes en la antigua capital maya de Tamarindito [Paris Monographs in American Archaeology, 45], edito por Markus Eberl y Claudia Vela González: 79-106. Oxford: Archaeopress.

Vela González, Claudia, Sarah Levithol, Laura Velásquez, Andrea Díaz, Juan Manuel Palomo, Sven Gronemeyer & Markus Eberl

  • 2016 Excavaciones de pozos de sondeo. En: Entre reyes y campesinos: investigaciones recientes en la antigua capital maya de Tamarindito [Paris Monographs in American Archaeology, 45], edito por Markus Eberl y Claudia Vela González: 21-77. Oxford: Archaeopress.


Ein Maya-Wörterbuch aus Bonn

Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung

Forscher der Universität Bonn wollen in einem 15 Jahre dauernden Projekt die Hieroglyphen der Maya erforschen und ein „Wörterbuch des Klassischen Maya erstellen“. Eine ziemliche Sisyphos-Arbeit. Denn um das Ziel zu erreichen, will ein zehnköpfiges Wissenschaftlerteam rund 10 000 Inschriften aus der Zeit von 250 v. Chr. bis 900 n. Chr. in den nächsten Jahren erschließen und digitalisieren, wie der Leiter des Projekts Nikolai Grube sagt.

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Der Maya-Code wird ausgerechnet in Bonn geknackt

Hamburger Abendblatt

Wenn die Maya heute wissen wollen, wie ihre Vorfahren geschrieben und gesprochen haben, dann fragen sie in Bonn nach. Denn am Rhein entsteht das erste Wörterbuch der altamerikanischen Zivilisation.

Der 12. Juli des Jahres 1561 war der Tag, an dem das kulturelle Gedächtnis eines Volkes verglühen sollte. Diego de Landa, der von den spanischen Eroberern eingesetzte Bischof und Inquisitor der Halbinsel Yukatan die heute zu Mexiko, Guatemala und Belize gehört), ließ auf dem Platz vor dem Konvent des Franziskaner-Mönchsordens in dem Dorf Maní einen riesigen Scheiterhaufen aufschichten, der von Kreuzen eingerahmt wurde.

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Trabajan en Alemania en el primer diccionario jeroglífico maya

Deutsche Welle

Los mayas dejaron como testimonio conocimientos matemáticos, pirámides y unos 15.000 jeroglíficos, en los que trabajan investigadores de Bonn para conformar el primer diccionario maya.

Investigadores de la Universidad de Bonn comenzaron un proyecto de quince años de duración que descifrará los jeroglíficos mayas y su evolución durante más de mil años para conformar el primer diccionario maya. El equipo bajo la dirección del epigrafista alemán Nikolai Grube digitalizará todos los textos jeroglíficos y ‘lexemas’ para construir un archivo completo de todas las inscripciones. A través de un software diseñado en colaboración con científicos de la Universidad de Göttingen, serán analizadas las concordancias de las palabras mayas en los distintos textos disponibles. El resultado estará disponible para todos los interesados en esta cultura a través de una página web. La cultura maya existió desde el 2000 a.C. hasta la conquista, sin embargo el auge, de donde surgieron la mayor parte de los textos jeroglíficos, fue entre el 250 y 900 d.C.

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Der geheime Code hinter den 800 Schriftzeichen

Sächsische Zeitung

Bonner Forscher arbeiten an einem Maya-Wörterbuch. Doch jetzt müssen sie erkennen, dass es auch noch Dialekte gibt.

Die Maya bauten gigantische Pyramiden, waren Meister im Rechnen, und sie hinterließen rund 800 rätselhafte Schriftzeichen. Deren Entzifferung dauert nun bereits fünf Jahrhunderte. Forscher der Universität Bonn wollen nun in einem 15 Jahre dauernden Projekt die Hieroglyphen der Maya neu erforschen und ein komplettes „Wörterbuch des Klassischen Maya“ erstellen.

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Rätselhafte Maya-Hieroglyphen


Neben beeindruckenden Ruinen haben die Maya uns auch 800 Schriftzeichen hinterlassen. Nur ein Teil konnte bislang entziffert werden. Forscher wollen die Hieroglyphen nun entschlüsseln – eine Sisyphos-Arbeit.

Düsseldorf. Die Maya bauten gigantische Pyramiden, waren Meister im Rechnen – und sie hinterließen rund 800 rätselhafte Schriftzeichen. Jetzt wollen Forscher der Universität Bonn die Hieroglyphen der Maya erforschen und ein „Wörterbuch des Klassischen Maya erstellen“. Auf 15 Jahre ist das Forschungsprojekt terminiert.

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Mit Wörterbuch die Maya-Sprache erwecken

20 Minuten

Die Maya bauten gigantische Pyramiden, waren Meister im Rechnen und hinterliessen 800 rätselhafte Schriftzeichen. Forscher wollen diese untersuchen und ein Wörterbuch erstellen.

Ein «Wörterbuch des Klassischen Maya» möchte ein deutsches Forscherteam produzieren. Um das Ziel zu erreichen, will es rund 10’000 Inschriften aus der Zeit von 250 v. Chr. bis 900 n. Chr. erschliessen und digitalisieren, wie Projektleiter Nikolai Grube von der Universität Bonn am Mittwoch bekannt gab.

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Geld für Merowinger und Maya

Rheinische Post

Die NRW-Akademie unterstützt zwei Forschungsprojekte für 15 Jahre

Wie funktionieren soziale Systeme? Wie organisieren sich die Menschen in Schrift und Sprache? Fragen, die hinter zwei Forschungsprojekten stehen, die in den nächsten Jahren in Köln und Bonn aufwändige Recherche und Edition verlangen. Dank der Förderung der NRW-Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Künste können die Mitarbeiter bis 2029 ihrer Forschung nachgehen. Der “Edition der fränkischen Herrscherklasse” widmet sich das Kölner Team unter der Leitung von Karl Ubl, an “Textdatenbank und Wörterbuch des klassischen Maya” arbeitet in Bonn eine Gruppe von Wissenschaftlern im Team von Nikolai Grube.

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Investigadores alemanes buscan crear un diccionario de maya clásico

La Prensa Gráfica

Para descodificar los jeroglíficos los expertos analizarán y digitalizarán cerca de 10,000 inscripiciones de la época

Los mayas construyeron pirámides gigantes, fueron maestros del cálculo y dejaron tras de sí cerca de 800 misteriosos caracteres. Ahora un equipo de diez investigadores de la Universidad de Bonn busca desentrañarlo y crear un diccionario de maya clásico. Sólo una parte ha sido descifrada hasta el momento.

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Die Welt

Bonner Forscher wollen Maya-Zeichenbuch erstellen

Rund 800 Schriftzeichen hatten die Maya. Nur ein Teil wurde bislang entziffert. Forscher aus Nordrhein-Westfalen wollen die Hieroglyphen nun entschlüsseln. Das kann viele Jahre dauern. Die Maya bauten gigantische Pyramiden, waren Meister im Rechnen, und sie hinterließen rund 800 rätselhafte Schriftzeichen. Forscher der Universität Bonn wollen in einem 15 Jahre dauernden Projekt die Hieroglyphen der Maya erforschen und ein “Wörterbuch des Klassischen Maya erstellen”.

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Bonner Forscher wollen Maya-Wörterbuch erstellen


Die Maya bauten gigantische Pyramiden, waren Meister im Rechnen, und sie hinterließen rund 800 rätselhafte Schriftzeichen. Forscher der Universität Bonn wollen in einem 15 Jahre dauernden Projekt die Hieroglyphen der Maya erforschen und ein „Wörterbuch des Klassischen Maya erstellen“.

Das ist eine ziemliche Sisyphos-Arbeit. Denn um das Ziel zu erreichen, will ein zehnköpfiges Forscherteam rund 10 000 Inschriften aus der Zeit von 250 v. Chr. bis 900 n. Chr. in den nächsten Jahren erschließen und digitalisieren, wie der Leiter des Projekts, Professor Nikolai Grube, am Mittwoch in Düsseldorf sagte. Darauf basierend soll dann das Wörterbuch als Datenbank und in gedruckter Form erstellt werden. Es soll den gesamten Sprachschatz der Maya abbilden. „Der Schlüssel für die Schrift muss noch gefunden werden, um einen Einblick in die alte indianische Kultur vor der Ankunft der europäischen Eroberer zu bekommen“, sagte Grube.

Investigadores buscan crear un diccionario de cultura Maya

Vanguardia / La Jornada

“Todavía hay que encontrar la clave de esta escritura para tener una visión de esa cultura antes de la llegada de los conquistadores europeos”, indicó el profesor Nikolai Grube.

Düsseldorf.- Los mayas construyeron pirámides gigantes, fueron maestros del cálculo y dejaron tras de sí cerca de 800 misteriosos caracteres. Ahora un equipo de diez investigadores de la Universidad de Bonn busca desentrañarlo y crear un diccionario de maya clásico.

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Forscher planen umfassendes Wörterbuch der klassischen Maya-Sprache

Der Standard

Sämtliche bekannten Texte in Hieroglyphenschrift der Maya sollen dafür erschlossen werden.

Göttingen – Schrift und Sprache der klassischen Mayakultur sind Gegenstand eines neuen Langzeitforschungsprojekts der Nordrhein-Westfälischen Akademie der Wissenschaften und Künste (AWK-NRW). Ein umfangreiches Forscherteam soll in den kommenden 15 Jahren sämtliche Texte der Hieroglyphenschrift der Maya zwischen 500 v. u. Z. und 1500 n. u. Z. erschließen und auf dieser Grundlage ein umfassendes Wörterbuch der klassischen Mayasprache erstellen. Finanziert wird das Vorhaben mit rund 5,4 Millionen Euro von der AWK-NRW.

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Langzeitforschung: Schrift und Sprache der Mayakultur

SUB Göttingen

Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen ist Partner in neuem Projekt – Gesamtlaufzeit von 15 Jahren

Die Schrift und Sprache der klassischen Mayakultur sind der Gegenstand eines neuen Langzeitforschungsprojekts der Nordrhein-Westfälischen Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Künste mit Beteiligung der Niedersächsischen Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen (SUB). Die Wissenschaftlerinnen und Wissenschaftler wollen in den kommenden 15 Jahren zunächst sämtliche Texte der Hieroglyphenschrift der Maya zwischen 500 vor Christus und 1500 nach Christus erschließen.

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Erstes Gesamt-Wörterbuch der Maya-Sprache


Großprojekt der Universität Bonn

Jahrhundertelang galten die Schriftzeichen als unentschlüsselbar: In den nächsten 15 Jahren wird die Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in Bonn das erste Gesamt-Wörterbuch der klassischen Maya-Sprache herausgeben, inklusive einer Online-Datenbank aller Hieroglyphentexte. Die Printversion des “Wörterbuchs des klassischen Maya” soll drei Bände umfassen.

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Aus dem Regenwald in den Computer

Universität Bonn

An der Universität Bonn entsteht ab 2014 eine Online-Datenbank für Sprache und Schrift der Maya-Kultur

Die Universität Bonn festigt ihre Position als weltweit führendes Zentrum für Sprache und Schrift der Maya-Kultur. Prof. Dr. Nikolai Grube von der Abteilung für Altamerikanistik und sein Team beginnen ein neues Großprojekt ihrer Disziplin: eine umfassende Gesamtdarstellung der klassischen Maya-Sprache samt Online-Datenbank aller Hieroglypheninschriften. Die Nordrhein-Westfälische Akademie der Wissenschaften und Künste unterstützt das 15-Jahres-Projekt mit 5,4 Millionen Euro.

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Über 12 Millionen Euro für Düsseldorfer Forscher

Aachener Zeitung

DÜSSELDORF. Mit mehr als 12 Millionen Euro fördert die Union der deutschen Akademien der Wissenschaften zwei Forschungsprojekte in NRW. Ab 2014 unterstützt die Union die Arbeit des Bonner Professors Nikolai Grube an einem Wörterbuch der alten Maya-Sprache und des Kölner Professors Karl Ubl an der Edition fränkischer Herrschererlasse aus dem Frühmittelalter, teilte die Akademieunion am Dienstag mit.

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Über 12 Millionen Euro für Düsseldorfer Forscher

Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger

Düsseldorf. Mit mehr als 12 Millionen Euro fördert die Union der deutschen Akademien der Wissenschaften zwei Forschungsprojekte in NRW. Ab 2014 unterstützt die Union die Arbeit des Bonner Professors Nikolai Grube an einem Wörterbuch der alten Maya-Sprache und des Kölner Professors Karl Ubl an der Edition fränkischer Herrschererlasse aus dem Frühmittelalter, teilte die Akademieunion am Dienstag mit.

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