Lexical categories exhibit parametric variation across languages. Most
Indo-European languages reveal a rich pattern of derivation between nouns and verbs. Mayan languages in general have less recourse to derivational processes resulting in formal similarities between verbs and nouns at the level of morphophonology and morphosyntax. Focusing on Yukatekan languages, this book shows that these similarities occurr even at the lexical root level. This leads us to review previous root classifications and to propose a large verbonominal root class that we oppose to another main class, the nominal roots. The verbonominal class includes traditional transitive roots and intransitive roots, as well as agent-salient roots that are commonly considered to be nominal roots. Such a system can account for the categorial flexibility exhibited by Mayan roots and allows us to formulate generalizations missing in previous classifications.
A new conception of the role of phonology and of morphophonological processes in Mayan languages is proposed. We introduce the notion of instantiation, a twofold process that encompass the formation of phonological profiles (determination of the vowel in the general template CVC) and morphological profiles (inflection). Instantiation handles root-class polyvalence and subsumes the so-called voices traditionally considered to be derivational in nature. The link between the split-ergativity system exhibited in Yukatekan languages and properties of verbonominal roots is exhamined. The final part deals with the intricate categories of positionnals and affectives. Extensive lists of members of the different root classes are given in Appendices.