Via mirabilis.ca comes a link to a story from The Independent, “‘Lost’ sacred language of the Maya is rediscovered” by David Keys:
Linguists have discovered a still-surviving version of the sacred religious language of the ancient Maya—the great pyramid-building civilisation that once dominated Central America.
For years some Maya hieroglyphic texts have defied interpretation—but now archaeologists and linguists have identified a little-known native Indian language as the descendant of the elite tongue spoken by rulers and religious leaders of the ancient Maya.
The language, Ch’orti—spoken today by just a few thousand Guatemalan Indians—will become a living “Rosetta Stone”, a key to unravelling those aspects of Maya hieroglyphic writings which have so far not been properly understood. Over the next few years dozens of linguists and anthropologists are expected to start “mining” Ch’orti language and culture for words and expressions relating to everything from blood-letting to fasting.
Sounds exciting, no? Hot new discovery has linguists and anthropologists all atwitter! But when I googled “John Robertson, Ch’orti” I got a page on The Classification of Mayan Languages, by Peter Mathews, where we find:
Generally it is agreed that there are eight major sub-groupings of the Mayan languages… A more recent proposed classification of the Ch’olan languages has been put forward by John Robertson (1992:3; 1998:10-11; see also Stuart, Houston, and Robertson 1999:II-39), who has argued that the language of the hieroglyphs (for which Robertson, David Stuart, and Stephen Houston have since proposed the label “Classic Mayan”) is the direct ancestor of Ch’olti’, which in turn is the ancestor of Ch’orti’…”
This would seem to imply that Robertson’s classification of Ch’orti as the descendant of Classic Mayan (aka “the sacred religious language of the ancient Maya”) is more than a decade old, which leads me to wonder why it is suddenly a news story. At any rate, the investigation was worth it, because the classification page turns out to be part of a site whose main feature is an online Dictionary of Maya Hieroglyphs (introduction here, search box here).