Linguistics

The RQ influence can be seen in writing systems and linguistics, both pre-Hispanic and contemporary. The RQ glyph with its characteristic corona on the head appears beginning about 950 BCE with the formation of Olmec glyphs, the first known writing system of Mesoamerica. Mesoamerican glyphs from earliest times represent the quetzal with its characteristic corona. The linguistic researchers who only in the last twenty-five years have deciphered Mayan glyphs know its various representations in Olmec, Toltec, Aztec, and Mayan writing. The images below from Palenque and two separate codices exemplify the RQ glyph.

The RQ appears in numerous inscriptions at the various archaeological sites. One of the most notable is Copán, in Honduras, one of the most important in Mayan culture. It was founded by Yax K’uk’ Mo’ [Yax = first, preeminent, new, green + K’uk’ (Quetzal)+ Mo’ (Macaw)], the founder of the Copan dynasty. The presence of the quetzal in his name, and the quetzal's image in his iconographic representation provides a rich source for researching the hieroglyphic, linguistic, historical, and art historical usage of quetzals by Classic Maya nobles.

The son of and successor to K'inich Yax K'uk' Mo' commemorated his father's image in stone on the now-called Motmot marker, a ball court marker from the earliest ball court at Copán's new center, built by his fCourtship Flightather.

In Kiche’ Maya, ku’k or ku’k ku’k (an onomatopoeia for one of the characteristic sounds of the bird) stands for quetzal. Kukulkan is the semantic equivalent of Quetzalcoatl and a deity as well as a ruler brought from Toltec culture into the Maya domain. The courtship flight of the male ku’k, during which it plunges like an arrow with its tail feathers erect, evokes the concept of virility or an erection in the highland Mayan languages. The horizontal flight of the quetzal, an image used on Guatemalan bills of various denominations, symbolizes fertility and water.

Quequetz(a), reflexive verb, means for birds to copulate and by extension to trample on something. Quetza, reflexive verb, means to stand up to someone or to raise someone or something. The allusion to the male quetzal tail feathers is clear. Quetzalcoa-tl, in addition to the personal name for the major deity, is also the name associated with the office of a high priest. Ehquetzalcocoa-tl means “whirlwind.” This association is better understood by reference to the earliest interpretations of Quetzalcoatl as the god of the wind. Quetzalhuitolhu(i) is to twist, to writhe in the manner of quetzal plumes. Quetzxalilacatzihu(i) is to weave in and out in the manner of quetzal plumage. Quetzalli is plumage of the quetzal bird. Quetzalteuh means in the manner of quetzal feathers, assomething very precious. In the pre-Hispanic world, quetzal feathers were among the most precious and sacred of objects. Only rulers or nobles could wear them, and only the pochteca could trade them.

A considerable number of proper nouns are formed from quetzal such as Quetzaltenango, the gathering place of quetzals, now the second largest city in Guatemala, Quetzalpeque, meaning the hill or promontory populated by quetzals (there is an ancient town in El Salvador, called Quezaltepeque), and Quetzalpopolotl = Quetzal Butterfly. A famous palace to Quetzalpopolotl has been reconstructed in Teotihuacán and studied by archaeologists.

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