Converting Words
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Converting Words : Maya in the Age of the Cross

By (author) William F. Hanks

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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.

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  • Paperback | 472 pages
  • 152 x 224 x 32mm | 680.39g
  • 17 Mar 2010
  • University of California Press
  • Berkerley
  • English
  • 16 b/w photographs, 2 line illustrations, 17 maps, 25 tables, 41 examples
  • 0520257715
  • 9780520257719
  • 962,896

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Author Information

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.

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Review quote

"Anthropologist William Hanks has given us a remarkable piece of scholarly work..." Missiology "This book is a true landmark." -- Frauke Sachse Anthropos Redaktion

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Flap copy

A true benchmark. This work will set a new standard for the conceptualizationlet alone the studyof 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 Cupeno""

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