Modern Mayan languages, especially in Guatemala, are now written using a Latin alphabet which was first standardized by the Guatemalan Academy of Mayan Languages in 1986. Although the Mayan languages are largely mutually unintelligible, they all share some common features that distinguish them from other language groups. An interesting feature of Mayan languages is that they are ergative. Ergative languages are characterized by complex verb systems that treat the subjects of intransitive verbs differently from the subjects of transitive verbs. In this dictionary I have provided some convenient verb lists categorized by verb endings based on their base infinitive (or unconjugated) form, but generally do not further classify verbs by their transitive, intransitive, and reflexive forms—this information will be found in any good Q’eqchi’ grammar.
In terms of sounds, Mayan languages have several glottalized or ejective consonants, and they also make distinctions between short and long vowels; these sound features are often the most difficult thing for new learners of Q’eqchi’ to pick up, but they are essential in that they distinguish meaning.
The standard modern Q’eqchi’ alphabet uses the following letters and symbols:
Upper case letters: A AA B’ CH CH’ E EE H I II J K K’ L M N O OO P Q Q’ R S T T’ TZ TZ’ U UU W X Y ’
Lower case letters: a aa b’ ch ch’ e ee h i ii j k k’ l m n o oo p q q’ r s t t’ tz tz’ u uu w x y ’
Unused letters: Letters in the English and Spanish alphabets not typically used in Q’eqchi’ orthography: C c, D d, F f, G g, LL ll, Ññ, RR rr, V v, Z z.
Note: The letter B’ in Q’eqchi’ is always accompanied by the glottalization symbol ( ‘ ), and all vowels can also be glottalized.