The Role of Mas (< Sp. Más) in Q'eqchi'

This essay analyzes the history and usage of degree modifiers and comparative constructions in Q'eqchi' (Maya). It focuses on the role of mas (< Sp. más) and the function of the modern comparative construction (long thought to be a calque of its Spanish equivalent). In contrast to previous analyses, it shows that Q'eqchi' mas does not function as a comparative (unlike Spanish más), but rather as a degree modifier, indefinite quantity, and differential operator (like Spanish muy and mucho). It shows that the comparative construction doesn't require mas, but only the positive form of a gradable predicate, along with the adposition chiru (before, in the face of) to mark the standard. It shows that mas came into Q'eqchi' during the late 1800s and seems to have functioned this way from the beginning. And it offers reasons for this shift in meaning, and its frequent misanalysis by linguists.