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Speech Carved in Stone: Language Variation among the Ancient Lowland Maya

Mary Kelly, Tulane University, Junior Fellow 2017–2018

The focus of my dissertation research is on the linguistic variation evident in Maya hieroglyphic writing during a 150-year window from 650 to 800. My fieldwork/data collection consisted of two phases: first, locating published photographs and illustrations of the monuments, and second, reading the inscriptions and tracking the variable linguistic features. The incredible depth of resources housed at the Dumbarton Oaks library has significantly aided this process—difficult-to-find published and even unpublished documents are all collected here. During this fellowship year I created a near-exhaustive database of excavated Maya inscriptions, including their dates and citations for locating images. This has allowed me to make considerable progress on the collection of linguistic data, and make some preliminary discoveries regarding linguistic variation among even closely neighboring sites. I anticipate finishing the linguistic data collection over the summer and writing my dissertation next year.