This essay provides an overview of the language attested in ancient Maya hieroglyphic writing, or what we choose to call Classic Mayan. 1 The writing system was in use for nearly two thousand years, beginning in what archaeologists call the Late Preclassic period (ca. 300 B.C.) and lasting until the time of European conquest and domination. In this period the hieroglyphic script was used throughout the region we traditionally know as the “Lowland Maya area,” concentrated mostly in the lowlands of what is today Guatemala, Belize, southern Mexico (Yucatan, Campeche, Quintana Roo, Chiapas, and Tabasco) and parts of western Honduras. Thousands of ancient texts survive on stone monuments, various portable objects such as ceramics, and in three (possibly four) screen-fold books dating to the later stages of the script’s history. These mostly record religious and historical information, although the styles and genres of such texts varied considerably over time and space. Remarkably, virtually all of the extant hieroglyphic texts seem to represent a single “prestige” language that, even at the time of its use, may have been highly formalized and even archaic in some of its features (Macri and Ford 1997; Houston et al. 2000). With the decipherment of the script in the 1980s and ’90s, specialists soon realized that many of the basic phonological, morphological, and syntactic features of this language are represented in great detail by the ancient writing system. These are now the subject of considerable study, debate, and discussion. However, as the following sections attest, in spite of a variety of confounding factors and interpretive obstacles, there is a great deal that we can say about the linguistics of ancient Maya writing