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Section of stucco frieze with a prominent human face in the centre, surrounded by elaborate decoration. Mayan writing system is not at all related. However, if other languages were written, they may have been written by Ch’olti’ scribes, and therefore have Ch’olti’ elements. Carved and molded glyphs were painted, but the paint has rarely survived. It is customary to write logographic readings in all capitals and phonetic readings in italics. There was polyvalence in the other direction as well: different glyphs could be read the same way. Mayan was usually written in blocks arranged in columns two blocks wide.
In place of the standard block configuration, Mayan was also sometimes written in a single row or column, ‘L’, or ‘T’ shapes. These variations most often appeared when they would better fit the surface being inscribed. Mayan glyphs were fundamentally logographic. Phonetic glyphs stood for simple consonant-vowel or bare-vowel syllables.
Vowel length and glottalization are not always indicated in common words like ‘they are’. An “emblem glyph” is a kind of royal title. An expression “Boston lord” would be a perfect English analogy. Emblem glyph” simply reflects the time when Mayanists could not read Classic Maya inscriptions and used a term isolating specific recurrent structural components of the written narratives . Berlin also noticed that while the smaller elements remained relatively constant, the main sign changed from site to site.