Awakatek language

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Native to Guatemala and Mexico
Region Huehuetenango Chiapas Veracruz
Ethnicity Awakatek
Native speakers
9,610 in Guatemala; 1,997 in Mexico (2003 census) [1]
Official status
Recognised minority
language in
Regulated by Academia de Lenguas Mayas de Guatemala
Language codes
ISO 639-3 agu
Glottolog agua1252 [2]

Awakatek (also known as Aguateco, Awaketec, Coyotin, Chalchitec, [3] and Balamiha, and natively as Qa'yol) is a Mayan language spoken in Guatemala, primarily in Huehuetenango and around Aguacatán. [4] [5] The language only has fewer than 10,000 speakers, and is considered vulnerable by UNESCO. In addition, the language in Mexico is at high risk of endangerment, with fewer than 2,000 speakers in the state of Campeche in 2010 [6] (although the number of speakers was only 3 as of 2000 [7] [8] ).

Guatemala Republic in Central America

Guatemala, officially the Republic of Guatemala, is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, Belize and the Caribbean to the northeast, Honduras to the east, El Salvador to the southeast and the Pacific Ocean to the south. With an estimated population of around 17.2 million, it is the most populated country in Central America. Guatemala is a representative democracy; its capital and largest city is Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, also known as Guatemala City.

Huehuetenango Department Department of Guatemala

Huehuetenango is one of the 22 departments of Guatemala. It is situated in the western highlands and shares borders with Mexico in the north and west; with El Quiché in the east, with Totonicapán, Quetzaltenango, and San Marcos to the south. The capital is the city of Huehuetenango.

Aguacatán Municipality in Huehuetenango, Guatemala

Aguacatán is a municipality in the Guatemalan department of Huehuetenango. It is situated at 1,670 metres (5,480 ft) above sea level. It has a population of 41,000. It covers an area of 300 km².


Awakatek is closely related to Ixil and the two languages together form the sub-branch Ixilean, which together with the Mamean languages, Mam and Tektitek, form a sub-branch Greater-Mamean, which again, together with the Greater-Quichean languages, ten Mayan languages, including Kʼicheʼ, form the branch Quichean–Mamean.

Ixil (Ixhil) is one of the 21 different Mayan languages spoken in Guatemala. According to historical linguistic studies Ixil emerged as a separate language sometime around the year 500AD. It is the primary language of the Ixil people, which comprises the three towns of San Juan Cotzal, Santa Maria Nebaj, and San Gaspar Chajul in the Guatemalan highlands. There is also an Ixil speaking migrant population in Guatemala City and the United States. Although there are slight differences in vocabulary in the dialects spoken by people in the three different Ixil towns, they are all mutually intelligible and should be considered dialects of a single language.

Mam is a Mayan language spoken by about half a million Mam people in the Guatemalan departments of Quetzaltenango, Huehuetenango, San Marcos, and Retalhuleu, and the Mexican state of Chiapas. Thousands more make up a Mam diaspora throughout the United States and Mexico, with notable populations living in Oakland, California and Washington, D.C.

Classified under the Mamean branch family of languages, Tektitek is a Mayan language spoken by the Tektitan people of Huehuetenango, Guatemala. It is very closely related to the Mam language. A number of Tektitek speakers have settled in Mexico. Due to the close proximity of Huehuetenango to the Mexican border the speakers of the language have appropriated aspects of Mexican Spanish into the language. While 4,900 speakers were recorded in 2010 by Ethnologue, Juventino de Jesus Perez Alonzo estimated that there were just 2,000 speakers of the language left at that time. He noted however, that measures are being taken to teach the children in Huehuetenango the Tekitek language. According to the Endangered Languages Project, the language is currently threatened. Little is known about the culture, but there are resources that provide vocabulary as well as other educational tools.


The Awakatek people themselves refer to their language as qaʼyol, literally meaning 'our word'. They also call themselves qatanum, which means 'our people' and is distinct from the word Awakatec, which is used in Spanish in reference to the municipality of Aguacatán (which means place of abundant avocados and refers to agricultural production and not specifically to the indigenous people). [9] [10] [11]



Front Back
Close i/i/ii/iː/u/u/uu/uː/
Mid e/e/ee/eː/o/o/oo/oː/
Open a/a/aa/aː/


There are four diphthongs: ay/aj/, ey/ej/, oy/oj/, uy/uj/.


Bilabial Alveolar Postalveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Normal Palatalized
Plosive Normalp/pʰ/t/tʰ/k/kʰ/ky/kʰʲ/q/qʰ/'/ʲʔ/
Ejective /pʼ/ /tʼ//kʼ/kyʼ/kʼʲ/
Implosive /ɓ//ʛ/
Nasal m/m/n/n/nh/ŋ/
Fricative w /v~f/s/s/xh/ʃ/x/ʂ/j/χ/h/ʜ/
Affricate Normalp/ɸʰ/tz/t͡sʰ/ch/t͡ʃʰ/tx/ʈ͡ʂʰ/
Ejective tzʼ/t͡sʼ/chʼ/t͡ʃʼ/txʼ/ʈ͡ʂʼ/
Flap r/ɾ/
Approximant l/l~ɺ/y/j/w/ʍ/

The coronal ejectives may be allophonically pre-voiced.[ citation needed ]

Coronal consonants are consonants articulated with the flexible front part of the tongue. Among places of articulation, only the coronal consonants can be divided into as many articulation types: apical, laminal, domed, or subapical as well as different postalveolar articulations : palato-alveolar, alveolo-palatal and retroflex. Only the front of the tongue (coronal) has such dexterity among the major places of articulation, allowing such variety of distinctions. Coronals have another dimension, grooved, to make sibilants in combination with the orientations above.

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  1. Awakatek at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Aguacateco". Glottolog 3.0 . Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. "Global Recordings Network: Aguateco language". Global Recordings Network. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  4. Cabral, Ernesto Díaz Couder (2001). "Culturas e interculturalidad en Guatemala". Archived from the original on 2010-02-15.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. Brintnall, Douglas E., 1946- (1979). Revolt against the dead : the modernization of a Mayan community in the highlands of Guatemala. New York: Gordon and Breach. ISBN   0677051700. OCLC   4638179.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. "Awakatecos - Lengua". Atlas de los Pueblos Indígenas de México. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  7. "UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in danger". Retrieved 2017-10-11.
  8. Aridjis, H. (22 February 2009). "Homero aridjis / reír en 7 mil lenguas". Reforma: 14.
  9. Meyer, Evan. "Evan Meyer served in Guatemala" . Retrieved 27 June 2007.
  10. "Comunidad Lingüística Awakateka" (PDF). Retrieved 17 February 2010.
  11. Meyer, Evan. "CU Peace Corps volunteers offer vignettes from their lives abroad - Evan Meyer" . Retrieved 27 June 2007.