Mayan languages in the United States

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology

Publication Title

Handbook of the Changing World Language Map


The family of Mayan languages is composed of some 30 distinct languages that are natively spoken in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras. In recent years, speakers of these languages have immigrated to the United States in rapidly increasing numbers and have formed communities in rural and urban locations throughout the country. This chapter considers the place of Mayan languages in Maya communities throughout the USA from both an institutional and an interactional perspective. In schools, courts, and social services, the formal codification and informal effects of dominant language ideologies have had serious consequences for the speakers of Mayan languages. Meanwhile, ideologies and practices of language use vary across communities with different histories and different dynamics, as speakers of Mayan languages come into contact with native speakers of other Mayan languages, Spanish, or English. This chapter concludes with reflections on the implications that the growth of Maya communities in the USA has for the continued vitality of Mayan languages and their place among communities of speakers.



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