What Language Did the Mayans Speak?

language-did-mayans-speak Credit: Steve Sutherland/CC-BY 2.0

The Mayan language family is composed of Mesoamerican Indian languages derived from the ancestral language Proto-Mayan, which was spoken thousands of years ago by inhabitants of the Mayan empire. The empire thrived for hundreds of years from 1,500 B.C., but it collapsed during the period from 800 to 900 A.D.

In 2014, the most important Eastern Maya languages are Quiché and Cakchiquel. The largest Western Maya language is Tzeltal, and it is spoken in Chiapas, Mexico. The Yucatec languages, Yucatec, Lacandón, Itzá and Mopán, are also classified as Western Maya languages, with Yucatec being the most important, spoken in Yucatán, Mexico, northern Guatemala and Belize.