Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Journalism (MA)

Degree Level





Larry Foley

Committee Member

Kirstin Erickson

Second Committee Member

Dale Carpenter


cultural identity trends, documentary, indigenous, Kaqchikel, language attrition, language loss, linguistic diversity, marginalization


This documentary film, They Soon Forgot Their Words, is about the language issues that threaten the Kaqchikel Mayan language spoken in Guatemala. It is one of 21 Mayan languages spoken in the country and is one of the most widely used with more than 500,000 speakers. Unfortunately, however, scholars have noticed that Kaqchikel is in a state of “shift” a process where one language combines with another in speech. As is the case with many Mayan languages in Guatemala, Kaqchikel is often combined with Spanish in speech. The colloquial name used for the combining of these two languages is “kaqchinol.” Shift is considered the first step in language loss and 90 percent of the world’s languages are expected to disappear within 100 years (Nettle & Romaine, 2000). This is the focus of the film. To provide an in-depth examination of one language threatened by a global issue: language attrition. There are two sides to this story which have shaped this documentary, one of language use in rural Guatemala and one of language use in urban Guatemala. Because of this, I have focused this film on individuals from opposing communities to provide a broad scope of the current language use/disuse, circumstances and issues that affect Kaqchikel and its continued vitality as a spoken language. I also rely on history and expert commentary to provide historical and social context. The goal of this film is to shed light on the global issue of language attrition, an issue that effects most of the worlds languages, by providing an in-depth look at the unique issues threatening one language.