Jakaltek language

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jabʼ xubʼal
Native toGuatemala, Mexico
RegionHuehuetenango, Chiapas
Ethnicity54,200 Jakaltek in Guatemala (2019 census)
Native speakers
33,000 (2019 census)[1]
Official status
Recognised minority
language in
Regulated byAcademia de Lenguas Mayas de Guatemala
Language codes
ISO 639-3jac
Glottologpopt1235  Poptiʼ
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The Jakaltek /hɑːkəlˈtɛk/[2] (Jacaltec) language , also known as Jakalteko (Jacalteco) or Poptiʼ,[3] 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.


Municipalities where Jakaltek is spoken include the following (Variación Dialectal en Poptiʼ, 2000).


The Eastern Jakaltek language includes the following phonemes. The orthography used by the Academia de Lenguas Mayas de Guatemala is on the left, the other main orthography is on the right.

Bilabial Alveolar Post-
Retroflex Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Stop p /p/ t /t/ k or c/qu/k/ q or k /q/ ʼ /ʔ/
Implosive /ɓ/
Ejective stop // or /qʼu // or //
Affricate tz /ts/ ch // tx //
Ejective affricate tzʼ /tsʼ/ chʼ /tʃʼ/ txʼ /tʂʼ/
Fricative s /s/ x /ʃ/ xh or /ʂ/ j /h/
Nasal m /m/ n /n/ nh or /ŋ /ŋ/
Approximant w /w/ l /l/ y /j/
Trill r /r/

It also has the vowels a /a/, e /e/, i /i/, o /o/, u /u/

Eastern Jakaltek is one of the few languages besides the Malagasy language of Madagascar to make use of an n-trema character in its alphabet. In both languages, the n-trema represents a velar nasal consonant [ŋ] (like "ng" in "bang").

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


The Jakaltek language has a verb–subject–object syntax. Like many Native American languages, Jakaltek has complex agglutinative morphology and uses ergative–absolutive case alignment. It is divided in two dialects, Eastern and Western Jakalteko. "Eastern and Western Jakalteko understand each other's spoken languages, but not written text."[4]

Jakaltek is unusual in that it has four systems of noun and numeral classifiers.[5]

Owing to Jakaltek's dissimilarity with Indo-European languages, the reasonably healthy linguistic population and the relative ease of access to Guatemala, Jakaltek has become a favorite of students of linguistic typology.


  1. ^ Jakaltek at Ethnologue (24th ed., 2021)
  2. ^ Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student's Handbook, Edinburgh
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forke, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2020). "Popti'". Glottolog 4.3.
  4. ^ Gordon, Raymond G, ed. "Jakalteko, Western." Ethnologue: Languages of the World. 15th ed. Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2005. 254. Print.
  5. ^ Craig, Colette G. (1986). "Jacaltec Noun Classifiers: A Study in Grammaticalization" (PDF). Lingua (70 ed.). North-Holland: Elsevier Science Publishers B.V.: 241–284. doi:10.1016/0024-3841(86)90046-X. ISSN 0024-3841.

External links[edit]

Jacalteco Collection of Colette Grinevald -- Collection of audio recordings in Jakaltek at the Archive of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas