Mayan Language Poses Challenge for Outsiders
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
President Bush will also be stopping off to visit some Mayan ruins today at eh, eh - Madeleine?
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
Ah, E-X-M. Hmm. Okay, I think we need a little help on this one.
Professor WALTER LITTLE (University of Albany): Ixim che'. I-X-I-M. Ixim. C-H-E with a little apostrophe after the E. Ixim che'.
BRAND: That's Walter Little, an anthropology professor at the University of Albany. He studies Mayan languages and says what trips up travelers to the region are all those X's.
Prof. LITTLE: In Guatemala you have the X being kind of, in Maya areas, universally being pronounced as a shh sound.
CHADWICK: That's because the Spaniards who colonized the region had no letter that could express that shh sound. So they used an X.
BRAND: But, Alex, what about the X in Mexico? Why don't we say Meshico(ph)?
CHADWICK: Well, the indigenous population in the areas did call it Meshico(ph) or Meshicah(ph), actually. And in Spanish it's usually pronounced Mehico(ph).
BRAND: Okay. Alex, with an X. How do you pronounce your name? Alesh(ph)? Alehi(ph)?
CHADWICK: It's just Alex, thank you.