Team of Linguists Translate Rare Mayan-Language Manuscript

Team of Linguists Translate Rare Mayan-Language Manuscript

On March 13 and 14, an international team of linguists visited the Library of Congress to transcribe and translate, for the first time, the “Guatemalan Priests Handbook,” a rare and important manuscript in the Library’s Jay I. Kislak Collection.

Dating from the early 16th century, the manuscript is written in several indigenous Mayan languages. The visiting linguists, experts in the earliest Christian theologies written in the Americas, were Saqijix Candelaria Lopez Ixcoy of Guatemala’s Universidad Rafael Landivar, an authority on the manuscript’s ancient k’iche language; Sergio Romero of the University of Texas, Austin; Frauke Sachse of the University of Bonn; and Garry Sparks of George Mason University.

“They are a truly amazing group whose handle on ancient Maya languages is perhaps unparalleled,” said John Hessler, curator of the Kislak Collection. “As someone who has struggled to understand some of these indigenous languages, I am in awe.”

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