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Converting Words

Maya in the Age of the Cross

William F. Hanks (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 484 pages
ISBN: 9780520257719
March 2010
$34.95, £28.00
Other Formats Available:
This pathbreaking synthesis of history, anthropology, and linguistics gives an unprecedented view of the first two hundred years of the Spanish colonization of the Yucatec Maya. Drawing on an extraordinary range and depth of sources, William F. Hanks documents for the first time the crucial role played by language in cultural conquest: how colonial Mayan emerged in the age of the cross, how it was taken up by native writers to become the language of indigenous literature, and how it ultimately became the language of rebellion against the system that produced it. Converting Words includes original analyses of the linguistic practices of both missionaries and Mayas-as found in bilingual dictionaries, grammars, catechisms, land documents, native chronicles, petitions, and the forbidden Maya Books of Chilam Balam. Lucidly written and vividly detailed, this important work presents a new approach to the study of religious and cultural conversion that will illuminate the history of Latin America and beyond, and will be essential reading across disciplinary boundaries.
List of Illustrations
List of Tables

1. Introduction: The Field of Discourse Production
The Making of a Translanguage • The Body as Totality •
A Shifting Voice for Indian Authors

Part I. The Scope of Reduccíon

2. Perpetual Reducción in a Land of Frontiers
Notes on the Political Geography of Post-Mayapán Yucatán •
López Medel and the Spirit of the Laws • Reducción in a Regional
Perspective • A Land of Frontiers

3. To Make Themselves New Men
Governance of the Guardianía • Disciplining the Senses •
Bishop Toral’s Vision • Cogolludo’s Landscape • Guardianía
and Cofradía • Cabildos in the Mission Towns

Part II. Converting Words

4. From Field to Genre and Habitus
Metalinguistic Labeling • Production Format and Author
Position • I ndexical Centering in the Deictic Field •
Stylistic Differentiation of Genres • Multimodality:
Speech, Animation, Inscription • Iteration

5. First Words: From Spanish into Maya
Dictionaries and the Problem of Authorship • The Thematic
Scope of the Dictionaries • From Spanish into Maya •
First Principles • R eligious Practices • Pedagogy •
Language and Signs • G overnance • Marginal Practices

6. Commensuration: Maya as a Matrix Language
Commensuration and Translingual Meaning • Fray Antonio
de Ciudad Real, Exemplary Lengua

7. The Grammar of Reducción and the Art of Speaking
What Is an Arte? • The Shadow of Nebrija • Fray Juan Coronel, Arte
en lengua de maya (1620) • G abriel de San Buenaventura, Arte de la
lengua maya (1684) • Fray Pedro Beltrán de Santa Rosa María, Arte de
el Idioma Maya (1746) • Missionary Linguistics as a Hybrid System

8. The Canonical Word
The Maya Doctrinas • What Is a Doctrina Menor? praying in
maya / doctrinal dialogues / sermons

Part III. Into the Breach: The Dispersion of Maya reducido

9. The Scripted Landscape
What Is a Notarial Document? • L andscape as Text • Early
Chronicles • The Titles of Ebtun • Bills of Sale

10. Petitions as Prayers in the Field of Reducción
Letters of the Caciques to the Crown, February 11, 1567 • L etter of
the Batabs to the Crown, March 19, 1567 • Petition from Dzaptún,
July 20, 1605 • Petitions from Numkiní and Xecelchakán,
November 1669

11. Cross Talk in the Books of Chilam Balam
Doctrinal Language in the Books of Chilam Balam • True God
Comes to Yucatán • The Sadness of the Christians • The Words
of the Prophet

Epilogue: Full Circle
References Cited
William F. Hanks is Professor of Anthropology, Berkeley Distinguished Chair in Linguistic Anthropology, and Affiliated Professor of Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley. He is author of Language and Communicative Practice and Referential Practice: Language and Lived Space among the Maya, among other books.
“Anthropologist William Hanks has given us a remarkable piece of scholarly work...”—Missiology
“This book is a true landmark and we will certainly see this methodological approach used as a model for the analysis of other colonial languages in the Americas.”—Frauke Sachse Anthropos Redaktion
“A true benchmark. This work will set a new standard for the conceptualization—let alone the study—of missionization and religious conversion, colonial language policy, and language-oriented social history. Hanks provides a framework for thinking about language history that integrates language ideology, linguistic form (from phonology to speech genres), social organization, and the phenomenology of experience that goes so far beyond traditional historical, linguistic, or philological perspectives as to constitute a new paradigm for the field. Converting Words will be a classic work that will stimulate others to emulate Hanks's powerful scholarly example. The field will never be the same after this book appears.”—Richard Bauman, author of A World of Others' Words: Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Intertextuality

“Hanks's work is utterly original and unprecedented... I don't think historians of the Mesoamerican colonial regimes should write anything until they read this book; it's that important.”—Jane H. Hill, author of A Grammar of Cupeño

Edward Sapir Prize, Society for Linguistic Anthropology

2015 J. I. Staley Prize, School of Advanced Research

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