Chapter

Commensuration

Joel Robbins

in Converting Words

Published by University of California Press

Published in print March 2010 | ISBN: 9780520257702
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520944916 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520257702.003.0006
Commensuration

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The previous chapter showed that the process of translating Spanish into Maya was a matter of commensuration: the Spanish form and its standard meaning were brought into alignment with a Maya form and its standard meaning. The two-column format of the dictionary abbreviates this four-part construct, with the matrix language on the left and the target language on the right. The resulting apparently simple couplet aligns the forms as a way to align the meanings. When the two orders of signification are called “standard,” this means that the headword and the target language gloss are to be understood in their most normal or typical way. For the Spanish language, the sense of the standard would be based on a long tradition of latinidad, graática, doctrina, and other intellectual pursuits, as well as the native speech habits of the missionaries themselves. For Maya language, the sense of what was standard was more problematic for the dictionary makers. Not being native speakers and not having access to any tradition of linguistic description or prescription in Maya (if such a tradition existed), they were at the mercy of their observations of the usage around them, their discussions with native-speaker collaborators, and their field studies in the guardianías and pueblos.

Keywords: Maya; Spanish; language; standard

Chapter.  20197 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology

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