Ch'ol - Orientation

Identification. "Ch'ol" is a term that applies to the speakers of an American Indian language spoken in southern Mexico; they refer to it simply as lak t'an ("our language"). In colonial documents, the Ch'ol were also called "Palencanos," "Pochutlas," "Topiltepeques," and "Lacandones."

Location. The Ch'ol occupy a continuous area in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas. Population is concentrated in the municipios of Tila, Tumbala, Salto de Agua, Yajalon, Palenque, and Sabanilla but has expanded in modern times to jungle areas in Ocosingo.

Demography. The great majority of Ch'ol live in small rural settlements, but a few urban centers are dominated by Ch'ol populations, notably Tila, Tumbala, and Salto de Agua. Allowing for some undercounting, the Ch'ol-speaking population numbers about 100,000.

Linguistic Affiliation. Ch'ol is a member of the Western Branch of the Maya Family of languages, and within Western Mayan, Ch'ol belongs to a subdivision composed of Tzeltalan (Tzeltal and Tzotzil) and Cholan proper. Cholan proper includes Western Cholan (Chontal and Ch'ol) and Eastern Cholan (Ch'orti' and its colonial ancestor, Cholti). Within Ch'ol itself, there are two major dialect areas, the Tila (or Western) dialect and the Tumbala (or Eastern) dialect. There is a high degree of intelligibility between the varieties. Ch'ol has been shown to be closely related to the language transcribed in the Classic period ( A . D . 300-900) Maya hieroglyphic inscriptions.

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