Paya language

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Native to Honduras
Region North central coast (Olancho Department)
Ethnicity 2,600 Pech (1993)[1]
Native speakers
990 (1993)[1]
  • Pech
Language codes
ISO 639-3 pay
Glottolog pech1241[2]

Pech or Paya is a Chibchan language spoken in Honduras. According to Ethnologue there were a thousand speakers in 1993. It has also been referred to as Seco and Bayano.[1] It is spoken near the north-central coast of Honduras, in the Dulce Nombre de Culmí municipality of Olancho Department.


According to Dennis Holt (1999), Pech is spoken by perhaps around 600 people in Olancho Department and Colón Department of Honduras. Pech used to be spoken in the town of Dulce Nombre de Culmí in the Río Guampú watershed, but Pech speakers moved out of the town due to the influx of Ladino migrants. The three primary Pech settlements are as follows.

  • Vallecito, about 5 km northwest of Dulce Nombre de Culmí. It had 120 inhabitants in 1975.
  • Marañones, also known as Pueblo Nuevo Subirana or Kahã Wayka (New Town). This town is about 15 km north of Dulce Nombre de Culmí. It had 150 inhabitants in 1975.
  • El Carbón, originally known as Santa María del Carbón. It is located near the Quebrada Agua Amarilla in a higher mountain valley in the upper Río Seco watershed, and is about 35 km north of Culmí and about 30 km northeast of San Esteban. It had about 300 inhabitants in 1975.

Vallecito and Marañones are both located in the foothills of the Sierra de Agalta.

Other smaller Pech settlements which have at most several ethnic Pech families are scattered around northern Olancho Department, including the following (Holt 1999).

At the time of initial Spanish contact, Pech was most likely spoken from Trujillo in the west to Cabo Gracias a Dios in the east, and as far south as the upper Patuca River (Holt 1999). Tol (Jicaque) would have been spoken just to the west.


Pech is a tonal language with 16 consonants and 10 vowels (Holt 1999). There are two tones, namely a high tone and a low tone. Vowels display length contrast and nasalization.


Pech is an SOV (subject–object–verb) language (Holt 1999). It is a synthetic language which uses mostly suffixes, but also prefixes, vocalic ablaut, and reduplication as well.


  1. ^ a b c Pech at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Pech". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  • Holt, Dennis Graham. (1986).The Development of the Paya Sound-System. Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Linguistics, University of California, Los Angeles.
  • Holt, Dennis Graham. (1989). "On Paya Causatives." Estudios de Lingüística Chibcha 8: 7-15. San José: Editorial de la Universidad de Costa Rica.
  • Holt, Dennis Graham. (1999). Pech (Paya). Languages of the World/Materials 366. Munich: LincomEuropa.