Political correctness presupposes some linguistic awareness. It is therefore little wonder that linguists are especially susceptible to its temptations.

In 1988, an alphabet was published for the Mayan languages of Guatemala (Instituto Indigenista Nacional 1988). In the 1990s, some mayanists adopted that alphabet for the Mayan languages of Mexico. In particular, they changed the orthography of the glossonyms (language names). What used to be called maya yucateco “Yucatec Maya” was now called yukateko and Yukatek Maya, and similarly for Lacandón, which became Lakantun. There was apparently a supposition that the new alphabet was more native and less colonial (reminiscent of Spanish) and should therefore be used by foreigners.

Now it so happens that the speech communities of these languages do not care at all. The Mayas of Yucatán and the Lacandones call their language simply maya. They do the same when they speak Spanish. Those who have some linguistic knowledge (requiring differentiation among Mayan languages) would call these languages maya yucateco and lacandón. They would not dream of calling them maya yukateko and lakantun, among other things because they want to speak and write correct Spanish and because they do not even know those Guatemaltecan orthographic regulations. Thus, that move of political correctness is directed against those people who are allegedly its beneficiaries.


Instituto Indigenista Nacional 1988, Lenguas mayas de Guatemala. Documento de referencia para la pronunciación de los nuevos alfabetos oficiales. Guatemala: Ministerio de Cultura y Deportes.