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Thursday, February 02, 2006

What language is Apocalypto filmed in?

Mel Gibson has revealed that Apocalypto will be filmed in the "Mayan tongue of Yucateco."

News of this decision was first leaked shortly after production chiefs were handed a script of Apocalypto whose first page read, "The dialogue you are about to read will not be spoken in English."

What is Yucateco?

Benjamin Zimmer explains:

Yucateco, or maya yucateco, is the Spanish term for Yucatec, or Yucatec Maya, a language spoken by about a million people in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula (with some additional speakers in Belize and northern Guatemala). It's the most obvious candidate for a Mayan-language historical drama set in pre-Conquest Mexico, since modern Yucatec is still widely spoken and is a direct descendant of Classic Maya.

Read Wikipedia's stub on Yucatec.

Read "A Brief Introduction to Yucatec Maya".

Learn how to say some basic phrases in Yucatec Maya.

Why Yucateco?

Mel Gibson has filmed movies in their original historical language before (most notably in Aramaic, Latin and Hebrew for The Passion of the Christ). While many news outlets described this choice as foolish, The Passion turned out to be a worldwide success anyway.

Presumably Mel Gibson has chosen to film Apocalypto in the original language for similar reasons of historic authenticity. Further, in Mel's own words:

"It sounds beautiful, this language, and so my hope is that [the film] makes the language cool again and makes them [the native youth] proud to speak it."

As a Mayan might say, Taak tu lakin! (Until later!)