THE MAYA LINGUISTIC MYTHOLOGY
A WORK IN PROGRESS
I have been working on many languages in my long life, and I learned the language of my passport at the age of six at school. I still use my old creolized version of Occitan when I am “home” and I left that home definitely in 1976, but I went there a couple of times for short visits or a vacation.
I crashed Pali in two weeks, the basics, in Sri Lanka in 2005 to be able to read the Dhammapada since I discovered when I arrived in Sigiriya that I was supposed to teach the English of Buddhism to young Buddhist monks in Pidurangala Monastery.
I have been working on the emergence of Homo Sapiens in Black Africa and then their migrations out of Black Africa starting with their first migration to Northern Africa, mainly. And then the other migrations out of Black Africa to the whole world, which is slightly more than what Homo Erectus did in his own days. And I followed the phylogenetic emergence of human articulated language and came to the idea that the three vast migrations out of Black Africa correspond to the three vast families of languages based respectively on the first articulation first, on the second articulation second, and on the third articulation third.
That led me to the idea that Cro-Magnon spoke a Turkic language that is today surviving in Basque. Theo Vennemann came to that idea first though I worked on Basque with my first Research Director Jacques Teyssier in 1973, before leaving to go to Davis, California.
The mystery of the arrival of Homo Sapiens in the Americas led me to enter the field of South America and there I found a vast, rich, and ancient civilization based on stone, carving and cutting stones, and building monumental structures with stone. And the same way as Cro-Magnon and many others in all continents painted, carved and decorated their caves, and probably many other surfaces and materials with drawings and geometric forms whose meaning we ignore still completely because Deep Learning has not yet been used on these symbols, the Maya, before them the Toltec, after them the Incas and the Aztec and many other groups still not acknowledged, have painted, carved their stone constructions and developed, in what I consider must have been a good 5,000 years (BCE), a writing system that is still mysterious.
My hypothesis is that the people followed the same route as culture and language that developed along the way. Now it has been proved cacao had been developed in Bolivia at least 3,000 years before it was certified among the Mayas, the migration of the people and their culture came from the south. I am a phylogenic linguist and have always worked on old languages like Old Anglo-Saxon, Old Norse and a few more in the Germanic field, not to mention Sanskrit and Indo-European. I state from the start that we cannot go back and as Darwin proved with his theory of evolution we cannot reconstruct the past from the present we can only follow the same route as our ancestors and reconstruct the present from the past. We have to start with the need to communicate among Hominins, then what it became with Homo Sapiens who found himself, due to mutations that were selected for him to become a long-distance fast bipedal runner in the savanna when he came out of the primeval forest; who inherited from his Hominin ancestors some already developed first articulation enabling a larger lexicon than just nine to twelve calls like apes before them; who, from this first articulation founded on the rotation of consonants and vowels, was able to do a lot more because of the mutations I have just said that amplified the larynx, multiplied the flexibility of the subglottal zone and the articulatory apparatus, plus the deep sinuses. Then Homo Sapiens developed the second and then the third articulations. At each stage migrations happened and we thus have the three vast families of languages based on the phylogenic evolution of man’s speaking capability and of a language based on vowels and consonants, then on spatial and temporal categorizations, then on syntactic functions, the whole architecture being the result of the projection of the basic communicational situation into the linguistic means we are speaking of. The matrix of our syntax is always the basic communicational situation.
Maya became then a new challenge because the old writing system was all but originally arbitrary, like the Sumerian Cuneiform writing system. It was phylogenetically both representational and phonological (based on a syllabary, the simplest form of the first articulation, based on the rotation of vowels and consonants) symbolism. This written language, being integrated into vast paintings and sculptures, is quite obvious even the most realistic glyphs are symbolical of the meaning, and of the sounds going along with their referential meaning. I can even say that we will be able to understand the written language of Cro-Magnon when we are able to accept the simple idea that the geometric forms are symbolical of words and referents and that the realistic paintings are part of the symbolic process. So far, the paintings are on one side and the symbols on the other. Maya tells us that it is false: first of all these symbolical representations are based on a story, a language, communication, and the language itself when written finds its meaning in the rich, deep and extremely composite symbolical architecture of this written language that the transliteration of the last six or maybe seven centuries has brutally rejected. Only Marshall McLuhan has properly shown how writing is a tremendous loss on the basis of a phenomenal gain.
My idea then is that, if we want to fully enjoy the old Maya writing system, we have to get Deep Learning into the picture and identify all the recurrent symbolical elements that are used to build first the simple glyphs and then the composite glyphs, just like the strokes of the Chinese characters.
You will find in the seventy-odd pages below the review of a few books, including one on Celtic henges in Europe (starting in Gobekli Tepe in Turkey) that brings me to the idea that we have two human architectures, one based on circles, one based on squares, both targeting elevation, hence standing stones on circles and pyramids on squares. The two are not reciprocally exclusive, but they can work together. My idea is that the architecture of Maya written language is pyramidal, whereas oral language is always continuous, hence circular. This is the central working hypothesis of the third volume of my research on “The Language of Cro-Magnon.” The first volume was published as a Kindle book a couple of years ago. The second volume is ready to be laid out for publication, but this work will take some time still, and the third volume is how cultures evolve phylogenetically from one to the other, always in that descending temporal direction (even if borrowing may at times twist the connections). And that’s the only way to understand the link in Maya old culture and writing system of the number three and the concept of blood sacrifice, self-sacrifice as well as human-sacrifice. And that should make us think because the trinity of the Christians is the recuperation of the ternary pattern from “pagan” religions and the third character is the son (God and his Spirit are in the first verse of Genesis) and it is a blood sacrifice, both self-sacrifice for the Christians, and human-sacrifice for the Romans and I could add the High Priest of the Temple of Jerusalem.
Just enjoy the seventy-odd pages.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1- LINDA SCHELE — MARY ALLEN MILLER
THE BLOOD OF KINGS, DYNASTY AND RITUALS IN MAYA ART — 1986
2- DENNIS TEDLOCK — RABINAL ACHI, A MAYAN DRAMA OF WAR AND SACRIFICE — OXFORD UP — 2003
3- WOODEN BOOKS (EIGHT DIFFERENT AUTHORS) — GLASTONBURY, UK — MEGALITH STUDIES IN STONE — 2018
4- CONCLUDING HYPOTHESES
6- APPENDIX — ANDREA STONE & MARC ZENDER — READING MAYA ART, A HIEROGLYPHIC GUIDE TO ANCIENT MAYA PAINTING AND SCULPTURE — 2011
THE MAYA LINGUISTIC MYTHOLOGY
Editions La Dondaine, 1979
Linguists have to realize language is a living mental organism. It does not have chromosomes and it does not have any biological genetic history. But it has a phylogenetic history.
The main engine that creates and develops language is the specific and unique human communicational situation in which Homo Sapiens found himself 300,000 years ago. This is still true and this communicational situation provides the language it develops with a dynamic that is inescapable.
The second engine of language is its inner architecture that can only be what it is: three articulations in a precise order, phonology (rotation of vowels and consonants), morphology (spatial and temporal categorizations) and syntax (functional relations between the various categorized elements.
The third level is in fact the articulation between these first two and it creates discourse. No matter what level of phylogenetic development a language has reached, the discourse it will produce will take from the communicational situation what it needs to produce a full discourse at the three levels of phonology, morphology and syntax.
That creates and founds three vast families of languages and my main objective is to position Maya in this model and then to study how the written system they used went a lot deeper than just phonology but integrated a lot of cultural elements that have disappeared from the written language when transliteration finally became dominant. The cultural and mental loss is enormous, but at the same time, the educational and longer-distance communicational gain is enormous.
Then we have to recapture the cultural part that has been lost and we have to develop traditional and modern cultural products, including linguistic and anthropological analyses to provide rebirth and a second life to that distant culture.
Of course, the objective is not to reintroduce blood-sacrifice, but the objective is to understand how this practice of blood-sacrifice over more than one millennium has guided the Maya culture and civilization into development and in the end, has misguided it into extinction, at least on the surface of things, and into its perduration in deeper layers of mental and psychic architecture and creativity. In fact, this blood-sacrifice culture has inspired the resistance of the Maya against all colonializations from the Aztec and then from the Spaniards.
I here present where I stand as for the language right now. In two or three years I will be far ahead of this, if Jun Nal Ye, the Maize God, lends me some more years of life.
The center of this research is the written language of the pre-Classic and Classic periods.
Publication Date: 1979
Publication Name: Editions La Dondaine