The Verb Bix, “Go, Go Away”

Back in 1996 I made notes about an interesting substitution set that pointed to a reading BIX for a logogram shown here, which makes an appearance in a few inscriptions from Yaxchilan, La Corona, Dos Pilas, Coba, as well as a few others. This value may well have been noted by others back around the same time, if not before, but I thought I would post my old hand-written note summarizing the evidence (having just now found them in an old notebook).

The sign was used to write the intransitive verb bix, “to go,” in a small variety of settings. This verb root can be traced historically to proto-Ch’olan *bix (Kaufman and Norman 1980) and in ancient texts it appears on Dos Pilas HS 4 (see page bottom) as BIX-ya, for bix-iiy, “he went” (in reference to the fleeing of the local ruler Bahlaj Chan K’awiil from Dos Pilas). Spelled BIX-ya or bi-xi-ya, the same verb was used in temporal expressions ho’ bix-iiy, “five days ago” or wuk bix-iiy, “seven days ago” (see top examples on page below). A variant form of  this verb is bix-Vn, “to go, go away,” which appears in Colonial Ch’olti’ and in the glyphs as well. Several examples occur in the texts of La Corona (spelled BIX-na 0r, for the compl,tive, BIX-ni-ya), where they refer to the journeys of the young noble K’inich ? Yook from his home to Calakmul (Chihknahb). A related example turned up long after I wrote those original old notes, on Panel 1 from La Corona (at right), discovered in 2005 by Marcello Canuto.  There we read bix-Vn chihknahb, “he goes to Chihknahb” (the same expression appears on Panel 2, but with a different date — see “Site Q” examples illustrated at the middle of the page).

My favorite example of these “go” verbs comes from Altar de Sacrificios, where on Panel 2 we have bi-xi-ni-ya, for bix-Vn-iiy, “he went away.” Rather than referring to a journey in the real world, this is a citation of a local ruler’s death (cited in more conventional terms on Stela 4, an associated inscription).

I’m as yet unsure what if any semantic distinction existed between between the verbs bix and bix-Vn, and they may just be regional variants.  The bix root is likely based on the noun *bih, “road,” and I find it interesting that this etymology is graphically reflected in the logogram sign itself, which incorporates an infixed BIH/bi element.

Here are my old scribbles on this stuff from 1996:

4 thoughts on “The Verb Bix, “Go, Go Away”

  1. Memo Kantun January 24, 2012 / 11:48 AM

    In Yukatek Maya there is a word for “to go” and that is /bin/ funny is that doesn’t follow the kind of expected /e/ from Yukateck word for “road” /beh/, instead there is an /i/ expected from the Cholan languages /bih/ for “road”. Perhaps this is a borrowing of the Yukatek from the Classic Mayan that only has survived in Yukatek and is now lost on the Cholan languages. ¿Can we think that the “to go” logogram perhaps works like bix or bin depending on the linguistic context of the scribe? ¿Could be possible that some logograms are bilingual in the Maya writing system?

    • David Stuart January 26, 2012 / 4:13 AM

      Hi Memo. Yes, Yuketek bin is basically the same verb as Ch’olan bix and bix-Vn, and in fact a much older, more conservative form, as revealed by Kiche’an bihn, “caminar.” So it’s not really a loan from Ch’olan into Yukatekan. Kaufman reconstructs all of these as deriving from proto-Mayan *b’eh.i.n “go, walk,” which is basically a simple intransitive derivation from the noun for “road.” I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this sign could at times be BIN in Yukatekan settings, but given that we have the substitutions with bi-xi and bi-xi-ni forms, I prefer for now to give it a “core” BIX value. And sure, other logograms could probably take on slightly different word values as long as they were known cognates. A good example might be the deer’s head, read CHIJ in the southern lowlands(substituted by chi-ji), yet probably KEH in some Yukatekan texts, as in the toponym glyph AKAN-KEH.

  2. Yuriy Polyukhovych February 4, 2012 / 1:19 PM

    Hi Dave, hi Memo!

    David wrote: A good example might be the deer’s head, read CHIJ in the southern lowlands(substituted by chi-ji), yet probably KEH in some Yukatekan texts, as in the toponym glyph AKAN-KEH.

    On my Facebook page (album named “Epigraphy”) I have put a photo of one of “Chochola-Maxcanu” vases where we can easily read AKAN-na ke-je AJAW-wa so I guess it is 100% proof for KEJ reading (or KEEJ).

    Best, Yuriy

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