Chuj is a Mayan language spoken by around 40,000 members of the Chuj people in Guatemala and around 10,000 members in Mexico. Chuj is a member of the Q'anjob'alan branch along with the languages of Tojolab'al, Q'anjob'al, Akateko, Popti', and Mocho' which, together with the Ch'olan branch, 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.
The Chuj language has been influenced by Spanish, and Chuj speakers have a tendency to borrow Spanish words or code-mix. It is estimated that 70% of the Chuj language is purely Chuj. There are language conservation and revitalization efforts taking place in San Mateo Ixtatán, through groups like the Academia de Lenguas Mayas de Guatemala.
The letter 'h' is conventionally used in words with initial vowels to distinguish them from words that begin with a glottal stop.
Below is a template for the verbal stem in Chuj. Verbal predicates in Chuj appear with a status suffix: -a with transitive verbs and –i with intransitive verbs. Finite clauses inflect for Tense-Aspect, person, and number.
Non-verbal predicates are non-verbal words like adjectives, nouns, positionals, or directionals that act as the main predicate and are semantically stative. These constructions do not inflect for Tense-Aspect, but do inflect for person and number. There is no overt copula in Chuj and copula constructions are expressed through non-verbal predicates.
Chuj: a ix Malin k'ayb'um ix.
Gloss: top/foc CL Maria teacher CL
English: Maria is a teacher.
Chuj: Ay ix hin-nun niwakil ix.
Gloss: top/foc CL my-mother large CL
English: My mother is large.
Chuj is an ergative-absolutive language. The subject of an intransitive verb and the object of a transitive verb are both cross-referenced with an absolutive marker, which appears in the verbal stem. The subject of a transitive verb is cross-referenced with an ergative marker in the verbal stem.
Chuj has four attested Tense-Aspect markers. Finite clauses inflect obligatorily for Tense-Aspect.
Chuj nominal classifiers represent a closed class of approximately a dozen words. They specify gender for humans, and the base material for objects, such as wood (te') for houses and metal (k'en) for knives.
Chuj nominal classifiers have two main functions: they act as articles for referential nouns, and as pronouns. They have a lexical origin, but have undergone semantic bleaching and may therefore refer to a larger semantic field than the nominals that they are derived from.
Articles for referential nouns
Chuj: Heb‘ winh unin ix-s-lo‘ [te‘ manzan] heb‘ winh.
Gloss: Pl cl.masc child prfv-a3s-eat cl.wood apple pl cl.masc
English: As for the boys, they ate the apple.
Chuj: Ol-s-lo te’ ix.
Gloss: Prosp-b3s-a3s-eat cl.wood cl.fem
English: She (Elsa) will eat it (the apple).
San Mateo Ixtatán / San Sebastián Coatán
- Ju'un / Jun
- Cha'ab' / Cha'ab'/chab'
- Oxe' / Oxe'
- Chanhe' / Chanhe'
- Hoye' / O'e'
- Wake' / Wake'
- Huke' / Huke'
- Wajxake' / Wajxke'
- B'alunhe' / B'alnhe'
- Lajunhe' / Lajnhe'
Nok' Xankatat yet' nok'xe'en
Xenhxni xekxni xanhxni hinb'eyi
Xankatak xanhb' wek' a stixalu
Xchi nok' xankat a nok' xe'en,
Xwila xwabi, xelab'a to ojinwekla,
to jinxekla manhx ojinwekla.