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Mirrored Poeticity: Chiastic Structuring in Mayan Languages

TitleMirrored Poeticity: Chiastic Structuring in Mayan Languages
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsHull, Kerry M.
Book TitleChiasmus: The State of the Art
PublisherBYU Studies/Book of Mormon Central
CityProvo, UT/Springville, UT
KeywordsAncient America – Mesoamerica; Chiasmus; Language – Mayan; Native Americans – Maya; Parallelism; Poetry

Kerry Hull, “Mirrored Poeticity: Chiastic Structuring in Mayan Languages,” demonstrates that Mayan hieroglyphic texts feature various poetic devices, including parallelisms and coupleted forms. According to Hull, “parallelism forms the rhetorical backbone for Mesoamerican indigenous poetry.” Ancient, indigenous Maya authors and scribes also employed chiasmus, a form that features parallel lines. Hull establishes that “ancient Maya scribes incorporated chiasmus into hieroglyphic texts and particular moments of emphasis as a means of highlighting key narrative events.” In fact, these scribes engaged in “rhetorical stacking,” meaning they employed multiple rhetorical components into larger poetic units, including large, developed chiastic structures. Poetic devices and rhetorical forms that are attested in the Late Classic period, circa 250 to 900 CE, continued to thrive during the colonial period, and these forms persisted into Modern Mayan writings and languages.