Lacandón is a Yucatecan dialect that further divides into mutually intelligible northern and southern regional varieties. Although the northern and southern sub-dialects are mutually intelligible, each Lacandón group considers the other’s dialect as deficient, and at times, unintelligible (Bruce, p.c., 1992). There are approximately 500 Lacandón speakers, 350 of whom speak the northern dialect (McGee, p.c., 2000)

The Lacandón language is far closer than other Yucatec dialects to the original Classic Maya, simply because the Lacandones were not subject to centuries of political, cultural, religious, and linguistic domination by the Colonial Spaniards and the Mexican State. Spanish influence is limited to isolated terms which have been incorporated into an otherwise pure Peninsular Maya system.

Lacandón remains one of the least known of the Middle American languages (Campbell 1979: 928; Andy Hofling, p.c., 2000; Nora England, p.c., 2000). A grammar (Bruce 1968) is available for northern Lacandón. Grammatical sketches of southern Lacandón can be found in Baer & Baer (1953) and in Baer & Merrifield (1971, 1972). There is also an unpublished dictionary of southern Lacandón (Canger 1969). Thompson (1977) provides a comparative study of Lacandón and Yucatec, and Swadesh (1961) gives a survey of Mayan. Comparative studies of Lacandón and other peninsular Maya languages are provided in Fisher (1973), Romero Castillo (1977), and Tozzer (1978 [1907]). Northern and southern Lacandón oral performances are examined in McGee (1997a, 1997b, 1987) and Boremanse (1981), respectively. More abundant texts from the northern Lacandón are published in Bruce (1974, 1975-1979 vol.2, 1976). view bibliography


Lacandón displays a consonant inventory similar to other Maya languages, having stops and affricates which occur in pulmonic and glottalic series. The system includes only one voiced obstruent, /b/. There are six vowel qualities. Vowel length is distinctive.

Morphology and Syntax

The clause structure is morphologically ergative; yet, the extent to which it is syntactically ergative needs yet to be determined (Christian Lehmann 2001, personal communication). Verbs take suffixes to indicate valency (especially transitivity, causation, reflexivity), tense, aspect, mood and person. Nouns take possessive suffixes. Both nouns and verbs are preceded by clitics of personal reference (possessor and subject, respectively). The verb complex is introduced by tense/aspect/mood markers that co-occur with corresponding suffixes on the verb.