Linguists identify mysterious tongue
Arizona Republic
Jan. 8, 2005

University of Texas linguists have discovered the language of a 23-year-old immigrant who has sat in jail while language experts for months tried to communicate with him.

Octavio Luis Perez, accused of kidnapping and raping a 17-year-old girl in April in Mesa, speaks Northern Mam, court documents indicate. The ancient language is a Mayan dialect spoken by a few thousand people in Mexico and Guatemala, according to language experts.

Maricopa County Superior Court interpreters spent more than six months contacting linguists around the country to try to determine Perez's native tongue.

It was the first time in recent history that court interpreters could not determine a defendant's language, court officials said.

A court representative said the case will now move forward.

- Yvonne Wingett