Versión en español

Carlos Montemayor
Preface to the Tzeltal Dictionary (translation)

Some time ago Marianna Slocum published a Tzeltal Vocabulary in this series. Now, with the important collaboration of Manuel Cruz Aguilar, she has completed a Tzeltal Dictionary. The distinction between a vocabulary and a dictionary is neither numerical nor quantitative. A vocabulary is an initial linguistic tool with which to understand a people. On the other hand, a dictionary is not a preliminary approximation but a fully developed, coherent presentation; a dictionary requires knowledge of the culture of the people who speak the language under consideration.


Indeed, it is impossible to separate knowledge of a language from the culture it illuminates. Languages are not machines whose parts can be interchanged automatically. Each language reflects the world-view of the speakers. Therefore, each language and its speakers can teach us to understand the world from a fresh perspective. It is impossible to understand humanity through only one language; likewise, it is impossible to understand Mexico from only one perspective. One cannot respect a human being, a village or a country unless one respects and values their language.


At this point in history the appearance of the Tzeltal Dictionary by Marianna Slocum. It is a true symbol of communication with is of significant importance the indigenous people of Chiapas. It is the extension of a bridge of communication facilitating a rapprochement and dialogue between two languages. In these days, the work of anthropologists, historians, teachers, writers and linguists such as Marianna Slocum and Manuel Cruz Aguilar are forces for peace. Thanks to efforts such as these, it is possible to approach hitherto unknown depths of Mexican culture. It is very appropriate to draw near to this deeper Mexico of which we are a part.


December 1998