Tojolab'al language

Last updated
Native to Mexico
RegionSoutheast Chiapas
Ethnicity Tojolabal
Native speakers
51,733 (2010 census) [1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 toj
Glottolog tojo1241 [2]
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Tojolabal is a Mayan language spoken in Chiapas, Mexico. It is related to the Chuj language spoken in Guatemala. Tojolabal is spoken especially in the departments of the Chiapanecan Colonia of Las Margaritas by about 20,000 people.[ when? ]

Chuj is a Mayan language spoken by around 40,000 members of the Chuj people in Guatemala and around 3,000 members in Mexico. Chuj is a member of the Qʼanjobʼalan branch along with the languages of Tojolabʼal, Qʼanjobʼal, Akateko, Poptiʼ, and Mochoʼ which, together with the Chʼolan branch, Chuj forms the Western branch of the Mayan family. The Chujean branch emerged approximately 2,000 years ago. In Guatemala, Chuj speakers mainly reside in the municipalities of San Mateo Ixtatán, San Sebastián Coatán and Nentón in the Huehuetenango Department. Some communities in Barillas and Ixcán also speak Chuj. The two main dialects of Chuj are the San Mateo Ixtatán dialect and the San Sebastián Coatán dialect.

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 16.6 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.

Las Margaritas, Chiapas Place in Chiapas, Mexico

Las Margaritas is a city, and the surrounding municipality of the same name, in the Mexican state of Chiapas. The municipal seat is located some 25 km to the northeast of Comitán de Domínguez, while the municipality extends to the east as far as the border with Guatemala. Part of the Lagunas de Montebello National Park is in the municipality's territory.

The name Tojolabal derives from the phrase [tohol aˈbal], meaning "right language". Nineteenth-century documents sometimes refer to the language and its speakers as "Chaneabal" (meaning "four languages", possibly a reference to the four Mayan languages -- Tzotzil, Tzeltal, Tojolabal, and Chuj—spoken in the Chiapas highlands and nearby lowlands along the Guatemala border).

Tzotzil language language

Tzotzil is a Maya language spoken by the indigenous Tzotzil Maya people in the Mexican state of Chiapas. Most speakers are bilingual in Spanish as a second language. In Central Chiapas, some primary schools and a secondary school are taught in Tzotzil. Tzeltal is the most closely related language to Tzotzil and together they form a Tzeltalan sub-branch of the Mayan language family. Tzeltal, Tzotzil and Chʼol are the most widely spoken languages in Chiapas.

Tzeltal language language

Tzeltal or Tsʼeltal is a Mayan language spoken in the Mexican state of Chiapas, mostly in the municipalities of Ocosingo, Altamirano, Huixtán, Tenejapa, Yajalón, Chanal, Sitalá, Amatenango del Valle, Socoltenango, Villa las Rosas, Chilón, San Juan Cancun, San Cristóbal de las Casas and Oxchuc. Tzeltal is one of many Mayan languages spoken near this eastern region of Chiapas, including Tzotzil, Chʼol, and Tojolabʼal, among others. There is also a small Tzeltal diaspora in other parts of Mexico and the United States, primarily as a result of unfavorable economic conditions in Chiapas.

Anthropologist Carlos Lenkersdorf has claimed several linguistic and cultural features of the Tojolabal, primarily the language's ergativity, show that they do not give cognitive weight to the distinctions subject/object, active/passive. This he interprets as being evidence in favor of the controversial Sapir-Worf hypothesis.

The hypothesis of linguistic relativity holds that the structure of a language affects its speakers' world view or cognition. Also known as the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, or Whorfianism, the principle is often defined to include two versions: the strong hypothesis and the weak hypothesis:

Tojolab'al-language programming is carried by the CDI's radio station XEVFS, broadcasting from Las Margaritas.

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Chiapas State of Mexico

Chiapas, officially the Free and Sovereign State of Chiapas, is one of the 31 states that along with the federal district of Mexico City make up the 32 federal entities of Mexico. It is divided into 124 municipalities as of September 2017 and its capital city is Tuxtla Gutiérrez. Other important population centers in Chiapas include Ocosingo, Tapachula, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Comitán and Arriaga. It is the southernmost state in Mexico. It is located in Southeastern Mexico, and it borders the states of Oaxaca to the west, Veracruz to the northwest and Tabasco to the north, and by the Petén, Quiché, Huehuetenango and San Marcos departments of Guatemala to the east and southeast. Chiapas has a coastline along the Pacific Ocean to the south.

Mayan languages language family spoken in Mesoamerica

The Mayan languages form a language family spoken in Mesoamerica and northern Central America. Mayan languages are spoken by at least 6 million Maya peoples, primarily in Guatemala, Mexico, Belize and Honduras. In 1996, Guatemala formally recognized 21 Mayan languages by name, and Mexico recognizes eight more within its territory.

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.

The Jakaltek (Jacaltec) language, also known as Jakalteko (Jacalteco) or Poptiʼ, is a Mayan language of Guatemala spoken by 90,000 Jakaltek people in the department of Huehuetenango, and some 500 the adjoining part of Chiapas in southern Mexico. The name Poptiʼ for the language is used by the Academia de Lenguas Mayas de Guatemala and the Guatemalan Congress.

Lacandon is a Mayan language spoken by all of the 1,000 Lacandon people in the state of Chiapas in Mexico. Within Chiapas, Lacandon is spoken in Betel, Lacanjá San Quintín, Lake Metzaboc, Metzaboc, and Najá.

The Chʼol (Chol) language is a member of the western branch of the Mayan language family used by the Chʼol people in the Mexican state of Chiapas. There are two main dialects:

Nentón Place in Huehuetenango, Guatemala

Nentón is a municipality in the Guatemalan department of Huehuetenango. Its territory extends 762.85 km2 and has 9,113 inhabitants. It became a municipality on December 5, 1876 and was formerly known as San Benito Nentón. The population here speaks Spanish and Chuj.

San Mateo Ixtatán Municipality in Huehuetenango, Guatemala

San Mateo Ixtatán is a municipality in the Guatemalan department of Huehuetenango. It is situated at 2,540 metres (8,330 ft) above sea level in the Cuchumatanes mountain range and covers 560 square kilometres (220 sq mi) of terrain. It has a cold climate and is located in a cloud forest. The temperature fluctuates between 0.5 and 20 °C. The coldest months are from November to January and the warmest months are April and May. The town has a population of about 10,000, and is the municipal center for an additional 20,000 people living in the surrounding mountain villages. It has a weekly market on Thursday and Sunday. The annual town festival takes place from September 19 to September 21 honoring their patron Saint Matthew. The residents of San Mateo belong to the Chuj Maya ethnic group and speak the Mayan Chuj language, not to be confused with Chuj baths, or wood fired steam rooms that are common throughout the central and western highlands.

Akatek (Acateco) is a Mayan language spoken by the Akatek people primarily in the Huehuetenango Department, Guatemala in and around the municipalities of Concepción Huista, Nentón, San Miguel Acatán, San Rafael La Independencia and San Sebastián Coatán. A number of speakers also live in Chiapas, Mexico. It is a living language with 58,600 speakers in 1998, of which 48,500 lived in Guatemala and the remaining in Mexico.

Languages of Mexico languages of a geographic region

Many different languages are spoken in Mexico. The indigenous languages are from eleven distinct language families, including four isolates and one that immigrated from the United States. The Mexican government recognizes 68 national languages, 63 of which are indigenous, including around 350 dialects of those languages. The large majority of the population is monolingual in Spanish. Some immigrant and indigenous populations are bilingual, while some indigenous people are monolingual in their languages. Mexican Sign Language is spoken by much of the deaf population, and there are one or two indigenous sign languages as well.

The Tojolabal are a Maya people of the Mexican state of Chiapas. They traditionally speak the Tojolabal language.

The Academia de Lenguas Mayas de Guatemala, or ALMG is a Guatemalan organisation that regulates the use of the 22 Mayan languages spoken within the borders of the republic. It has expended particular efforts on standardising the various writing systems used. Another of its functions is to promote Mayan culture, which it does by providing courses in the country's various Mayan languages and by training Spanish-Mayan interpreters.

The Chuj or Chuh are a Maya people, whose homeland is in Guatemala and Mexico. Population estimates vary between 30,000 and over 60,000. Their indigenous language is also called Chuj and belongs to the Q'anjobalan branch of Mayan languages. In Guatemala, most Chuj live in the department of Huehuetenango in the municipalities of San Mateo Ixtatán and San Sebastián Coatán.

The Tzeltal are a Maya people of Mexico, who chiefly reside in the highlands of Chiapas. The Tzeltal language belongs to the Tzeltalan subgroup of Maya languages. Most Tzeltals live in communities in about twenty municipalities, under a Mexican system called “usos y costumbres” which seeks to respect traditional indigenous authority and politics. Women are often seen wearing traditional huipils and black skirts, but men generally do not wear traditional attire. Tzeltal religion syncretically integrates traits from Catholic and native belief systems. Shamanism and traditional medicine is still practiced. Many make a living through agriculture and/or handcrafts, mostly textiles; and many also work for wages to meet family needs.

The Qʼanjobalan a.k.a. Kanjobalan–Chujean languages are a branch of the Mayan family of Guatemala.

The Spanish conquest of Chiapas was the campaign undertaken by the Spanish conquistadores against the Late Postclassic Mesoamerican polities in the territory that is now incorporated into the modern Mexican state of Chiapas. The region is physically diverse, featuring a number of highland areas, including the Sierra Madre de Chiapas and the Montañas Centrales, a southern littoral plain known as Soconusco and a central depression formed by the drainage of the Grijalva River.


Wajxaklajun is a ruin of the ancient Maya civilization situated adjacent to the modern town of San Mateo Ixtatán, in the Huehuetenango Department of Guatemala. Wajxaklajun is considered to be the most important archaeological site in the San Mateo Ixtatán area. The site has been dated to the Classic period. The Chuj Maya consider the city to have been built by their ancestors. The site has similarities with other nearby highland Maya ruins; it is unusual for the presence of a number of stelae, a feature more associated with lowland sites during the Classic period, probably indicating some level of exchange with lowland cities.

Pedro de Portocarrero (conquistador)

Pedro de Portocarrero was a Spanish conquistador who was active in the early 16th century in Guatemala, and Chiapas in southern Mexico. He was one of the few Spanish noblemen that took part in the early stages of the Spanish conquest of the Americas, and was distantly related to prominent conquistador Pedro de Alvarado, who appointed him as an official in early colonial Guatemala.


  1. INALI (2012) México: Lenguas indígenas nacionales
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Tojolabal". Glottolog 3.0 . Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
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The Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America (AILLA) is a digital repository housed in LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections at the University of Texas at Austin. AILLA is a digital language archive dedicated to the digitization and preservation of primary data, such as field notes, texts, audio and video recordings, in or about Latin American indigenous languages. AILLA's holdings are available on the Internet and are open to the public wherever privacy and intellectual property concerns are met. AILLA has access portals in both English and Spanish; all metadata are available in both languages, as well as in indigenous languages where possible.