The politics of Mayan linguistics in Guatemala: Native speakers, expert analysts, and the nation

Brigittine M. French

Abstract

In this essay I examine the emergence and transformation of linguistic analysis as an authoritative field of knowledge in the context of competing nationalists agendas in Guatemala. I show how various social actors including missionary linguists, North American secular linguists, and Maya linguists are implicated in the struggle for authority in “science of language.” I argue that in these intellectual and political struggles, the awareness and participation of the “native speaker” is central to the efficacy of such analytic work and its corresponding projects of national inclusion and exclusion.

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