By William F. Hanks
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Extra resources for Converting Words: Maya in the Age of the Cross (The Anthropology of Christianity)
16 Thus in Yucatán the lengua is always a European capable of interpreting between Maya and Spanish. 18 The same valuation is evident in the staffing of the Yucatecan missions. 19 In short, competence in Maya was a form of capital and a justification for claims to authority. Accordingly, the religious did a variety of things to demonstrate their own expertise in Maya and to use it in their writings. Missionary lenguas wrote dictionaries, vocabularies, artes (practical grammars), grammars, lexicons, in short, a whole range of linguistic studies.
This fact has consequences for historical research, of which two are worth underscoring here. First, the missionary linguistic works are far from mere descriptions; they are codifications of an ongoing process of linguistic conversion. Second, the evangelical works were far from innocent translations of doctrine. Rather, they embodied and helped propagate the emergent version of Maya that was to be the product of reducción. This new translingual Maya had a pervasive impact on written genres produced by Maya authors themselves.
In Yucatán this bore primarily on the northwestern region of the peninsula, where the resettlement was concentrated and most of the missions were established. ” 10 This consisted in the transformation of Maya language from the pagan, idolatrous code that (to Spanish ears) it had been into a revised Map 1. Colonial Yucatán (after Farriss 1984) Introduction 7 and reordered language fitted to the discursive practices of an emerging community of Christian Indios. In concrete terms, this entailed creating in Maya very powerful discourse markers such as the cross, the quadrilateral spatial grid (oriented from east to west), dates, titles, signatures, and the naming of places and persons.