Achi language

Achi (Achí in Spanish) is a Mayan language very closely related to Kʼicheʼ (Quiché in the older orthography). It is spoken by the Achi people, primarily in the department of Baja Verapaz in Guatemala.

Native toGuatemala
RegionBaja Verapaz
Ethnicity161,000 Achi (2019 census)
Native speakers
120,000 (2019 census)[1]
Official status
Recognised minority
language in
Regulated byAcademia de Lenguas Mayas de Guatemala
Language codes
ISO 639-3acr

There are two Achi dialects. Rabinal Achi is spoken in the Rabinal area, and Cubulco Achi is spoken in the Cubulco area west of Rabinal.

One of the masterpieces of precolumbian literature is the Rabinal Achí, a theatrical play written in the Achi language.



Labial Alveolar Post-alv./
Velar Uvular Phar./
Nasal m n
voiceless p t ts k q ʔ
ejective tsʼ tʃʼ
implosive ɓ
Fricative s ʃ χ (ʕ)
Trill r
Approximant w l j
  • Voiceless plosives can have aspirated allophones [pʰ tʰ kʰ qʰ], either when preceding a consonant or in word-final position.
  • A pharyngeal fricative sound [ʕ] can be heard before vowels or in word-initial or intervocalic environments preceding vowels.
  • A uvular consonant /χ/ can also be heard as velar [x] in some environments. /n/ when preceding a velar consonant can be heard as a velar nasal [ŋ].
  • Sonorants /l r j/ when preceding a voiceless consonant or in word-final position can occur sounding voiceless [l̥ r̥ j̊].[2]


Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid e o
Open a


Achi uses a Latin-based alphabet:[3]

Often used Also used IPA English equivalent
a /a/ Like the a in father.
e /e/ Like the Spanish e, similar to the a in English gate.
i /i/ Like the i in police.
o /o/ Like the o in note.
u v /u/ Like the u in flute.
Often used Also used IPA English equivalent
ay ai aj Like English eye.
ey ei ej Like ey in English they.
oy oi oj Like oy in English boy.
uy ui uj like the uoy in English buoy.
Often used Also used IPA English equivalent
b /ɓ/ Like b in boy, only implosive. To English speakers, it sounds as if Maya speakers are 'swallowing' the b sound, similar to the way b is pronounced in Vietnamese.
ch č /tʃ/ Like ch in chair.
chʼ čʼ, chh, ʼch /tʃʼ/ Like ch, only glottalized (pronounced with a pop of air.)
h j /h/ Like the h in hay.
j h, x /x/ Like the raspy j in Spanish jalapeño.
k c, qu /k/ Like k in key.
cʼ, qʼu, quʼ, ʼc /kʼ/ Like k, only glottalized (pronounced with a pop of air.)
l /l/ ~  /ɺ/ Like l in light. In some dialects this sound is flapped, like the ll in English bellow only pronounced more quickly (so that the tongue only flaps once against the top of the mouth.)
m /m/ Like m in moon.
n /n/ Like n in night.
p /p/ Like the p in pie.
q k /q/ Like k only pronounced further back in the throat. This is the same sound as the q in Arabic.
kʼ, ʼk /qʼ/ Like /q/, only glottalized (pronounced with a pop of air.)
r /ɾ/ Like Spanish r, somewhat like the tt in English butter.
s /s/ Like the s in sun.
t /t/ Like the t in tell.
tt /tʼ/ Like t, only glottalized (pronounced with a pop of air.)
tz ts, ¢ /t͡s/ Like ts in cats.
tzʼ tsʼ, ¢ʼ, ʼtz /tsʼ/ Like tz, only glottalized (pronounced with a pop of air.)
w /w/ Like w in way.
x š, sh /ʃ/ Like sh in shell.
y /j/ Like y in yes.
ʼ 7 /ʔ/ A pause sound, like the one in the middle of the word "uh-oh."


  1. ^ Achi at Ethnologue (24th ed., 2021)
  2. ^ Lopez, Manuel Antonio; Iboy, Juliana Sis (1993). Gramática del Idioma Achi. La Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala: Proyecto Lingüístico Francisco Marroquín.
  3. ^ "Achi Pronunciation and Spelling Guide." Verb-Based Languages,

External linksEdit