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Yucatec Maya Pronunciation and Spelling Guide

Welcome to our Yucatec Maya alphabet page! The following charts show the pronunciation for the Yucatec Maya orthography we have used on our site, as well as some alternate spellings that you may find in other books and websites.

Maya Vowels

Character
We Use:
Sometimes
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Maya pronunciation:
a    a Like the a in father.
aa  a·  a Like a only held longer.
e    e Like the Spanish e, similar to the a in English gate.
ee  e·  e Like e only held longer.
i    i Like the i in police.
ii  i·  i Like i only held longer.
o    o Like the o in note.
oo  o·  o Like o only held longer.
u   u Like the u in flute.
uu  u·  u Like u only held longer.

Maya Diphthongs

Character
We Use:
Sometimes
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Maya pronunciation:
ay ai  aj Like English eye.
ey ei  ej Like ey in English they.
oy oi  oj Like oy in English boy.

Maya Consonants

Character
We Use:
Sometimes
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Maya pronunciation:
b  b'  b ~ б Like b in boy. Many Maya speakers pronounce this sound implosively, as if they were 'swallowing' the b sound, similar to the way b is pronounced in Vietnamese. At the end of a word this sound often is not pronounced at all.
ch    t Like ch in chair.
ch'  chh, cħ  t Like ch, only glottalized (pronounced with a pop of air.)
h  j  h Like h in hay.
k  c, qu  k Like k in key.
k'  k, , c', q'u, 'c   Like k, only glottalized (pronounced with a pop of air.)
l    l Like l in light.
m    m Like m in moon.
n    n Like n in night.
p    p Like the p in pie.
p'  pp, p, ph   Like p, only glottalized (pronounced with a pop of air.)
s  z, ç, c  s Like the s in sun.
t    t Like the t in tell.
t'  tt, th, tħ, td, dt   Like t, only glottalized (pronounced with a pop of air.)
tz  ts, ¢, z  ts Like ts in cats.
tz'  ts', ¢', dz, ,  t Like tz, only glottalized (pronounced with a pop of air.)
w  u, hu, v, vu, gu, gü  w Like w in way.
x  š, sh, $   Like sh in shell.
y  ll  j Like y in yes.
 7   A pause sound, like the one in the middle of the word "uh-oh."

Maya Tone

Yucatec Maya is a tone language. Some Maya syllables are pronounced with higher pitch than others. In English, the last syllable of a question is pronounced with high pitch, so you can hear the difference between sentences like "You see a man." and "You see a man?" In Maya pronunciation, such high and low tones are used in many words, giving the language a musical sound. For example, eek' means "star" in Maya, but éek' means "dirty."

There are two Yucatec Maya tones: high and low. Some writers, especially linguists, use an acute accent (like á) to represent a high tone and a grave accent (like à) to represent a low tone. Many Maya people do not represent tones in their writing at all, so that the words for "star" and "dirty" are spelled the same way (just as "wind" as in "wind a clock" and "wind" as in "blowing in the wind" are pronounced differently but spelled the same in English.) But most writers leave low tones blank and use the acute accent (like á) to represent high tones. This is the method we have used on our site.

Maya Indian Pronunciation and Vocabulary Resources

   Maya words
   Maya animals
   Maya body words
   Maya colors
   Maya numbers
   Yucatec Maya alphabet and pronunciation
   Mayan peoples
   Native languages of Mexico
   Maya legends



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