NAHUATL (English: /ˈnɑːwɑːtəl/ ;
Nahuatl pronunciation: (
listen ) ), known historically as AZTEC, is a language or group of
languages of the Uto-Aztecan language family . Varieties of Nahuatl
are spoken by an estimated 1.5 million
Nahua peoples , most of whom
live in central
Mexico . All
Nahuan languages are indigenous to
Nahuatl has been spoken in central
Mexico since at least the seventh
century CE. It was the language of the Aztecs who dominated what is
Mexico during the Late Postclassic period of Mesoamerican
history . During the centuries preceding the Spanish conquest of the
Aztec Empire , the Aztecs had expanded to incorporate a large part of
central Mexico, and its influence caused the variety of
by the residents of
Tenochtitlan to become a prestige language in
Mesoamerica. At the conquest, with the introduction of the Latin
Nahuatl also became a literary language , and many
chronicles , grammars , works of poetry , administrative documents and
codices were written in it during the 16th and 17th centuries. This
early literary language based on the
Tenochtitlan variety has been
Nahuatl , and is among the most studied and
best-documented languages of America.
Nahuan languages are spoken in scattered communities, mostly
in rural areas throughout central
Mexico and along the coastline.
There are considerable differences among varieties, and some are
mutually unintelligible .
Huasteca Nahuatl , with over one million
speakers, is the most-spoken variety. They all have been subject to
varying degrees of influence from Spanish. No modern Nahuan languages
are identical to Classical Nahuatl, but those spoken in and around the
Mexico are generally more closely related to it than those
on the periphery. Under Mexico's Ley General de Derechos
Lingüísticos de los Pueblos Indígenas ("General Law on the
Linguistic Rights of Indigenous Peoples") promulgated in 2003,
Nahuatl and the other 63 indigenous languages of
Mexico are recognized
as lenguas nacionales ("national languages") in the regions where they
are spoken, enjoying the same status as Spanish within their region.
Nahuan languages exhibit a complex morphology characterized by
polysynthesis and agglutination . Through a very long period of
coexistence with the other indigenous
Mesoamerican languages , they
have absorbed many influences, coming to form part of the Mesoamerican
language area . Many words from
Nahuatl have been borrowed into
Spanish, and since diffused into hundreds of other languages. Most of
these loanwords denote things indigenous to central
Mexico which the
Spanish heard mentioned for the first time by their
English words of
Nahuatl origin include "avocado ", "chayote ", "chili
", "chocolate ", "atlatl ", "coyote ", "peyote ", "axolotl " and
* 1 Classification
* 1.1 Terminology
* 2 History
* 2.1 Pre-Columbian period
* 2.2 Colonial period
* 2.3 Modern period
* 3 Demography and distribution
* 4 Phonology
* 4.1 Phonemes
* 4.2 Allophony
* 4.3 Phonotactics
* 4.4 Stress
* 5 Morphology and syntax
* 5.1 Nouns
* 5.2 Pronouns
* 5.3 Verbs
* 5.5 Syntax
* 6 Contact phenomena
* 7 Vocabulary
* 8 Writing and literature
* 8.1 Writing
* 8.2 Literature
* 8.3 Stylistics
* 9 Sample text
* 10 See also
* 11 Notes
* 11.1 Content notes
* 11.2 Citations
* 12 Bibliography
* 13 Further reading
* 13.1 Dictionaries of Classical
* 13.2 Grammars of Classical
* 13.3 Modern Dialects
* 13.4 Miscellaneous
* 14 External links
Nahuan languages Tree diagram of the relation
Nahuan languages and the rest of the Uto-Aztecan language
family, based on the internal classification of Nahuan given by
Terrence Kaufman (2001)
As a language label, the term "Nahuatl" encompasses a group of
closely related languages or divergent dialects within the Nahuan
branch of the Uto-Aztecan language family. The Mexican Instituto
Nacional de Lenguas Indígenas (National Institute of Indigenous
Languages) recognize 30 different individual varieties within the
"language group" labeled Nahuatl. The
Ethnologue recognizes 28
varieties with separate ISO codes. Sometimes the label also is used to
Pipil language (Nawat) of El Salvador. Regardless of
Nahuatl is considered to label a dialect continuum or a
group of separate languages, the varieties form a single branch within
the Uto-Aztecan family, descended from a single Proto-Nahuan language
Mexico the question of whether to consider individual
varieties to be languages or dialects of a single language is highly
political. This article focuses on describing the general history of
the group and on giving an overview of the diversity it encompasses.
For details on individual varieties or subgroups, see the individual
In the past, the branch of Uto-Aztecan to which
Nahuatl belongs has
been called "Aztecan". From the 1990s onward, the alternative
designation "Nahuan" has been frequently used as a replacement
especially in Spanish-language publications. The Nahuan (Aztecan)
branch of Uto-Aztecan is widely accepted as having two divisions:
"General Aztec" and Pochutec.
Aztec encompasses the
Nahuatl and Pipil languages. Pochutec
is a scantily attested language, which became extinct in the 20th
century, and which Campbell and Langacker classify as being outside
of general Aztec. Other researchers have argued that Pochutec should
be considered a divergent variant of the western periphery.
"Nahuatl" denotes at least Classical
Nahuatl together with related
modern languages spoken in Mexico. The inclusion of Pipil into the
group is debated.
Lyle Campbell (1997) classified Pipil as separate
Nahuatl branch within general Aztecan, whereas
Una Canger , Karen Dakin,
Yolanda Lastra and
Terrence Kaufman have preferred to include Pipil within General
Aztecan branch, citing close historical ties with the eastern
peripheral dialects of General Aztec.
Current subclassification of
Nahuatl rests on research by Canger
(1980) , Canger (1988) and Lastra de Suárez (1986) . Canger
introduced the scheme of a Central grouping and two Peripheral groups,
and Lastra confirmed this notion, differing in some details. Canger ">
Page 51 of Book IX from the
Florentine Codex . The text is in
Nahuatl written in the Latin alphabet.
As a part of their missionary efforts, members of various religious
Franciscan and Dominican friars and Jesuits)
Latin alphabet to the Nahuas. Within the first twenty
years after the Spanish arrival, texts were being prepared in the
Nahuatl language written in Latin characters. Simultaneously, schools
were founded, such as the
Colegio de Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco in 1536,
which taught both indigenous and classical European languages to both
Indians and priests . Missionary grammarians undertook the writing of
grammars , also called artes, of indigenous languages for use by
priests. The first
Nahuatl grammar, written by
Andrés de Olmos
Andrés de Olmos , was
published in 1547—three years before the first French grammar. By
1645 four more had been published, authored respectively by Alonso de
Antonio del Rincón (1595), Diego de Galdo Guzmán
Horacio Carochi (1645). Carochi's is today considered the
most important of the colonial era grammars of Nahuatl. Carochi has
been particularly important for scholars working in the New Philology,
such that there is a 2001 English translation of Carochi's 1645
grammar by James Lockhart . Through contact with Spanish the Nahuatl
language adopted many loan words, and as bilingualism intensified,
even began changing the grammatical structure under influence by
Spanish. Text about the language by Fray Joseph de Carranza,
second half of the 18th century (click to read)
In 1570 King
Philip II of Spain
Philip II of Spain decreed that
Nahuatl should become
the official language of the colonies of
New Spain in order to
facilitate communication between the Spanish and natives of the
colonies. This led to the Spanish missionaries teaching
Indians living as far south as
El Salvador . During the
16th and 17th centuries, Classical
Nahuatl was used as a literary
language, and a large corpus of texts from that period exists today.
Texts from this period include histories, chronicles, poetry,
theatrical works, Christian canonical works, ethnographic
descriptions, and administrative documents. The Spanish permitted a
great deal of autonomy in the local administration of indigenous towns
during this period, and in many
Nahuatl speaking towns the language
was the de facto administrative language both in writing and speech. A
large body of
Nahuatl literature was composed during this period,
Florentine Codex , a twelve-volume compendium of Aztec
culture compiled by
Bernardino de Sahagún
Bernardino de Sahagún ; Crónica
Mexicayotl , a chronicle of the royal lineage of
Fernando Alvarado Tezozómoc ;
Cantares Mexicanos , a collection of
songs in Nahuatl; a Nahuatl-Spanish/Spanish-
Alonso de Molina ; and the
Huei tlamahuiçoltica , a
Nahuatl of the apparition of the Our Lady of Guadalupe
Grammars and dictionaries of indigenous languages were composed
throughout the colonial period, but their quality was highest in the
initial period. The friars found that learning all the indigenous
languages was impossible in practice, so they concentrated on Nahuatl.
For a time, the linguistic situation in
relatively stable, but in 1696,
Charles II of Spain issued a decree
banning the use of any language other than Spanish throughout the
Spanish Empire . In 1770 another decree, calling for the elimination
of the indigenous languages, did away with Classical
Nahuatl as a
literary language. Until Mexican Independence in 1821, the Spanish
Nahuatl testimony and documentation as evidence in
lawsuits, with court translators rendering it in Spanish.
Throughout the modern period the situation of indigenous languages
has grown increasingly precarious in Mexico, and the numbers of
speakers of virtually all indigenous languages have dwindled. Although
the absolute number of
Nahuatl speakers has actually risen over the
past century, indigenous populations have become increasingly
marginalized in Mexican society. In 1895,
Nahuatl was spoken by over
5% of the population. By 2000, this proportion had fallen to 1.49%.
Given the process of marginalization combined with the trend of
migration to urban areas and to the
United States , some linguists are
warning of impending language death . At present
Nahuatl is mostly
spoken in rural areas by an impoverished class of indigenous
subsistence agriculturists. According to the Mexican national
statistics institute, INEGI , 51% of
Nahuatl speakers are involved in
the farming sector and 6 in 10 receive no wages or less than the
From the early 20th century to at least the mid-1980s, educational
Mexico focused on the hispanicization (castellanización)
of indigenous communities, teaching only Spanish and discouraging the
use of indigenous languages. As a result, today there is no group of
Nahuatl speakers having attained general literacy in Nahuatl; while
their literacy rate in Spanish also remains much lower than the
national average. Even so,
Nahuatl is still spoken by well over a
million people, of whom around 10% are monolingual . The survival of
Nahuatl as a whole is not imminently endangered, but the survival of
certain dialects is, and some dialects have already become extinct
within the last few decades of the 20th century.
The 1990s saw the onset of diametric changes in official Mexican
government policies towards indigenous and linguistic rights.
Developments of accords in the international rights arena combined
with domestic pressures (such as social and political agitation by the
Zapatista Army of National Liberation
Zapatista Army of National Liberation and indigenous social movements)
led to legislative reforms and the creation of decentralized
government agencies like National Commission for the Development of
Indigenous Peoples (CDI) and Instituto Nacional de Lenguas Indígenas
(INALI) with responsibilities for the promotion and protection of
indigenous communities and languages. In particular, the federal Ley
General de Derechos Lingüísticos de los Pueblos Indígenas
recognizes all the country's indigenous languages, including Nahuatl,
as "national languages " and gives indigenous people the right to use
them in all spheres of public and private life. In Article 11, it
grants access to compulsory, bilingual and intercultural education .
Nonetheless, progress towards institutionalizing
Nahuatl and securing
linguistic rights for its speakers has been slow.
DEMOGRAPHY AND DISTRIBUTION
Nahuan languages and
Nahua peoples Map showing
the areas of
Nahuatl is spoken today (in White) and
where it is known to have been spoken historically (Grey)
Nahuatl speakers over 5 years of age in the ten states with most
speakers (2000 census data ). Absolute and relative numbers.
Percentages given are in comparison to the total population of the
corresponding state. INEGI (2005) :4
San Luis Potosí
San Luis Potosí
Rest of Mexico
Today, a spectrum of
Nahuan languages are spoken in an scattered
areas stretching from the northern state of
Tabasco in the
southeast. Pipil, the southernmost Nahuan language, is spoken in El
Salvador by a small number of speakers. According to
IRIN-International, the Nawat Language Recovery Initiative project,
there are no reliable figures for the contemporary numbers of speakers
of Pipil. Numbers may range anywhere from "perhaps a few hundred
people, perhaps only a few dozen".
According to the 2000 census by INEGI,
Nahuatl is spoken by an
estimated 1.45 million people, some 198,000 (14.9%) of whom are
monolingual. There are many more female than male monolinguals, and
females represent nearly two thirds of the total number. The states of
Guerrero and Hidalgo have the highest rates of monolingual Nahuatl
speakers relative to the total
Nahuatl speaking population, at 24.2%
and 22.6%, respectively. For most other states the percentage of
monolinguals among the speakers is less than 5%. This means that in
most states more than 95% of the
Nahuatl speaking population are
bilingual in Spanish.
The largest concentrations of
Nahuatl speakers are found in the
Veracruz , Hidalgo ,
San Luis Potosí
San Luis Potosí , and
Guerrero . Significant populations are also found in the State of
Morelos , and the Federal District , with smaller communities
Nahuatl became extinct in the states of
Colima during the 20th century. As a result of internal
migration within the country,
Nahuatl speaking communities exist in
all states in Mexico. The modern influx of Mexican workers and
families into the
United States has resulted in the establishment of a
Nahuatl speaking communities in that country, particularly
California , New York ,
Texas , New
Nahuan languages are defined as a subgroup of Uto-Aztecan by having
undergone a number of shared changes from the Uto-Aztecan
protolanguage (PUA). The table below shows the phonemic inventory of
Nahuatl as an example of a typical Nahuan language. In some
dialects, the /t͡ɬ/ phoneme, so common in Classical Nahuatl, has
changed into either /t/, as in
Isthmus Nahuatl ,
Mexicanero and Pipil
, or into /l/, as in
Nahuatl of Pómaro ,
Michoacán . Many dialects
no longer distinguish between short and long vowels . Some have
introduced completely new vowel qualities to compensate, as is the
Nahuatl . Others have developed a pitch accent ,
Nahuatl of Oapan ,
Guerrero . Many modern dialects have also
borrowed phonemes from Spanish, such as /b, d, ɡ, f/.
* The glottal phoneme, called the "saltillo ," occurs only after
vowels. In many modern dialects it is realized as an , but in others,
as in Classical Nahuatl, it is a glottal stop .
Nahuatl dialects vowel length contrast is vague, and in
others it has become lost entirely. The dialect of
developed the vowel length into a difference in quality: long /iː eː
aː oː/ to tense /i ʲe ɔ u/ and short /i e a o/ to lax /ɪ e a o/.
Most varieties have relatively simple patterns of sound alternation
(allophony) . In many dialects, the voiced consonants are devoiced in
word-final position and in consonant clusters: /j/ devoices to a
voiceless palato-alveolar sibilant /ʃ/, /w/ devoices to a voiceless
glottal fricative or to a voiceless labialized velar approximant ,
and /l/ devoices to voiceless alveolar lateral fricative . In some
dialects, the first consonant in almost any consonant cluster becomes
. Some dialects have productive lenition of voiceless consonants into
their voiced counterparts between vowels. The nasals are normally
assimilated to the place of articulation of a following consonant. The
voiceless alveolar lateral affricate is assimilated after /l/ and
Nahuatl and most of the modern varieties have fairly simple
phonological systems. They allow only syllables with maximally one
initial and one final consonant. Consonant clusters occur only
word-medially and over syllable boundaries. Some morphemes have two
alternating forms: one with a vowel i to prevent consonant clusters
and one without it. For example, the absolutive suffix has the variant
forms -tli (used after consonants) and -tl (used after vowels). Some
modern varieties, however, have formed complex clusters from vowel
loss. Others have contracted syllable sequences, causing accents to
shift or vowels to become long.
Nahuatl dialects have stress on the penultimate syllable of a
Mexicanero from Durango, many unstressed syllables have
disappeared from words, and the placement of syllable stress has
MORPHOLOGY AND SYNTAX
For details, see
Classical Nahuatl grammar .
Nahuatl languages are agglutinative , polysynthetic languages
that make extensive use of compounding, incorporation and derivation.
That is, they can add many different prefixes and suffixes to a root
until very long words are formed, and a single word can constitute an
The following verb shows how the verb is marked for subject , patient
, object , and indirect object: /ni-mits-teː-tla-makiː-ltiː-s/
I-you-someone-something-give-CAUSATIVE-FUTURE "I shall make somebody
give something to you" (Classical Nahuatl)
Nahuatl noun has a relatively complex structure. The only
obligatory inflections are for number (singular and plural) and
possession (whether the noun is possessed, as is indicated by a prefix
meaning 'my', 'your', etc.).
Nahuatl has neither case nor gender , but
Nahuatl and some modern dialects distinguish between animate
and inanimate nouns. In Classical
Nahuatl the animacy distinction
manifested with respect to pluralization, as only animate nouns could
take a plural form, and all inanimate nouns were uncountable (as the
words "bread" and "money" are uncountable in English). Now, many
speakers do not maintain this distinction and all nouns may take the
plural inflection. One dialect, that of the Eastern Huasteca, has a
distinction between two different plural suffixes for animate and
In most varieties of Nahuatl, nouns in the unpossessed singular form
generally take an "absolutive" suffix. The most common forms of the
absolutive are -tl after vowels, -tli after consonants other than l,
and -li after l. Nouns that take the plural usually form the plural by
adding one of the plural absolutive suffixes -tin or -meh, but some
plural forms are irregular or formed by reduplication . Some nouns
have competing plural forms.
Singular noun: /kojo-tl/ coyote-ABSOLUTIVE "coyote" (Classical
Plural animate noun: /kojo-meʔ/ coyote-PLURAL "coyotes" (Classical
Plural animate noun w. reduplication: /koː~kojo-ʔ/
PLURAL~coyote-PLURAL "coyotes" (Classical Nahuatl)
Nahuatl distinguishes between possessed and unpossessed forms of
nouns. The absolutive suffix is not used on possessed nouns. In all
dialects, possessed nouns take a prefix agreeing with number and
person of its possessor. Possessed plural nouns take the ending
Absolutive noun: /kal-li/ house-ABSOLUTIVE "house" (Classical
Possessed noun: /no-kal/ my-house "my house" (Classical Nahuatl)
Possessed plural: /no-kal-waːn/ my-house-PLURAL "my houses"
Nahuatl does not have grammatical case but uses what is sometimes
called a relational noun to describe spatial (and other) relations.
These morphemes cannot appear alone but must occur after a noun or a
possessive prefix. They are also often called postpositions or
locative suffixes. in some ways these locative constructions resemble
and can be thought of as locative case constructions. Most modern
dialects have incorporated prepositions from Spanish that are
competing with or that have completely replaced relational nouns.
Uses of relational noun/postposition/locative -pan with a possessive
prefix: no-pan my-in/on "in/on me" (Classical Nahuatl) iː-pan
its-in/on "in/on it" (Classical Nahuatl) iː-pan kal-li its-in
house-ABSOLUTIVE "in the house" (Classical Nahuatl)
Use with a preceding noun stem: kal-pan house-in "in the house"
Noun compounds are commonly formed by combining two or more nominal
stems or combining a nominal stem with an adjectival or verbal stem.
Nahuatl generally distinguishes three persons, both in the singular
and plural numbers. In at least one modern dialect, the
Isthmus-Mecayapan variety, there has come to be a distinction between
inclusive (I/we and you) and exclusive (we but not you) forms of the
first person plural:
First person plural pronoun in Classical Nahuatl: tehwaːntin "we"
First person plural pronouns in Isthmus-Mecayapan Nahuat: nejamēn
() "We, but not you" (= me & them) tejamēn () "We along with you" (=
me & you text-align:left; vertical-align:top;">
Non-honorific forms: tehwaːtl "you sg." amehwaːntin "you pl."
Honorific forms tehwaːtzin "you sg. honorific" amehwaːntzitzin
"you pl. honorific" yehwaːtzin "he/she honorific"
Nahuatl verb is quite complex and inflects for many grammatical
categories. The verb is composed of a root, prefixes , and suffixes .
The prefixes indicate the person of the subject , and person and
number of the object and indirect object, whereas the suffixes
indicate tense , aspect , mood and subject number.
Nahuatl dialects distinguish three tenses: present, past, and
future, and two aspects: perfective and imperfective . Some varieties
add progressive or habitual aspects. Many dialects distinguish at
least the indicative and imperative moods, and some also have optative
and vetative/prohibitive moods .
Nahuatl varieties have a number of ways to alter the valency of
a verb. Classical
Nahuatl had a passive voice (also sometimes defined
as an impersonal voice ), but this is not found in most modern
varieties. However the applicative and causative voices are found in
many modern dialects. Many
Nahuatl varieties also allow forming
verbal compounds with two or more verbal roots.
The following verbal form has two verbal roots and is inflected for
causative voice and both a direct and indirect object:
"I want to feed them" (Classical Nahuatl)
Nahuatl varieties, notably Classical Nahuatl, can inflect the
verb to show the direction of the verbal action going away from or
towards the speaker. Some also have specific inflectional categories
showing purpose and direction and such complex notions as "to go in
order to" or "to come in order to", "go, do and return", "do while
going", "do while coming", "do upon arrival", or "go around doing".
Nahuatl and many modern dialects have grammaticalised ways
to express politeness towards addressees or even towards people or
things that are being mentioned, by using special verb forms and
special "honorific suffixes".
Familiar verbal form: ti-mo-tlaːlo-a you-yourself-run-PRESENT "you
run" (Classical Nahuatl)
Honorific verbal form: ti-mo-tlaːlo-tsino-a
you-yourself-run-HONORIFIC-PRESENT "You run" (said with respect)
Many varieties of
Nahuatl have productive reduplication . By
reduplicating the first syllable of a root a new word is formed. In
nouns this is often used to form plurals, e.g. /tlaːkatl/ "man" →
/tlaːtlaːkah/ "men", but also in some varieties to form diminutives
, honorifics , or for derivations . In verbs reduplication is often
used to form a reiterative meaning (i.e. expressing repetition), for
Nahuatl of Tezcoco: /wetsi/ "he/she falls" /we:-wetsi/
"he/she falls several times" /weʔ-wetsi-ʔ/ "they fall (many people)"
Some linguists have argued that
Nahuatl displays the properties of a
non-configurational language , meaning that word order in
Nahuatl allows all possible orderings of the three
basic sentence constituents. It is prolifically a pro-drop language:
it allows sentences with omission of all noun phrases or independent
pronouns, not just of noun phrases or pronouns whose function is the
sentence subject. In most varieties independent pronouns are used only
for emphasis. It allows certain kinds of syntactically discontinuous
Michel Launey argues that Classical
Nahuatl had a verb-initial basic
word order with extensive freedom for variation, which was then used
to encode pragmatic functions such as focus and topicality . The same
has been argued for some contemporary varieties. newal no-nobia I
my-fianceé "MY fiancée" (and not anyone else's) (
It has been argued that Classical
Nahuatl syntax is best
characterised by "omnipredicativity", meaning that any noun or verb in
the language is in fact a full predicative sentence. A radical
Nahuatl syntactic typology, this nonetheless seems
to account for some of the language's peculiarities, for example, why
nouns must also carry the same agreement prefixes as verbs, and why
predicates do not require any noun phrases to function as their
arguments. For example, the verbal form tzahtzi means "he/she/it
shouts", and with the second person prefix titzahtzi it means "you
shout". Nouns are inflected in the same way: the noun "conētl" means
not just "child", but also "it is a child", and ticonētl means "you
are a child". This prompts the omnipredicative interpretation, which
posits that all nouns are also predicates. According to this
interpretation a phrase such as tzahtzi in conētl should not be
interpreted as meaning just "the child screams" but, rather, "it
screams, (the one that) is a child".
Nearly 500 years of intense contact between speakers of
speakers of Spanish , combined with the minority status of
the higher prestige associated with Spanish has caused many changes in
Nahuatl varieties, with large numbers of words borrowed from
Spanish into Nahuatl, and the introduction of new syntactic
constructions and grammatical categories.
For example, a construction like the following, with several borrowed
words and particles, is common in many modern varieties (Spanish
loanwords in boldface): PERO āmo tēchENTENDERoah LO QUE tlen
tictoah EN MEXICANO but not they-us-understand-PLURAL that which what
Nahuatl "But they don't understand what we say in
Nahuatl" (Malinche Nahuatl)
In some modern dialects basic word order has become a fixed
subject–verb–object , probably under influence from Spanish.
Other changes in the syntax of modern
Nahuatl include the use of
Spanish prepositions instead of native postpositions or relational
nouns and the reinterpretation of original postpositions/relational
nouns into prepositions. In the following example, from Michoacán
Nahual, the postposition -ka meaning "with" appears used as a
preposition, with no preceding object: ti-ya ti-k-wika ka tel you-go
you-it-carry with you "are you going to carry it with you?"
In this example from
Mexicanero Nahuat, of
Durango , the original
postposition/relational noun -pin "in/on" is used as a preposition.
Also, "porque", a conjunction borrowed from Spanish, occurs in the
sentence. amo wel kalaki-yá pin kal porke ȼakwa-tiká im pwerta not
can he-enter-PAST in house because it-closed-was the door "He couldn't
enter the house because the door was closed" (
Many dialects have also undergone a degree of simplification of their
morphology that has caused some scholars to consider them to have
ceased to be polysynthetic .
Words of Nahuatl origin The Aztecs called (red)
tomatoes xitōmatl, whereas the green tomatillo was called tōmatl;
the latter is the source for the English word "tomato".
Nahuatl words have been borrowed into the
Spanish language ,
most of which are terms designating things indigenous to the American
continent. Some of these loans are restricted to Mexican or Central
American Spanish, but others have entered all the varieties of Spanish
in the world. A number of them, such as "chocolate", "tomato" and
"avocado" have made their way into many other languages via Spanish.
Likewise a number of English words have been borrowed from Nahuatl
through Spanish. Two of the most prominent are undoubtedly chocolate
and tomato (from
Nahuatl tomatl). Other common words such as coyote
Nahuatl coyotl), avocado (from
Nahuatl ahuacatl) and chile or
Nahuatl chilli). The word chicle is also derived from
Nahuatl tzictli "sticky stuff, chicle". Some other English words from
Aztec (from aztecatl); cacao (from
'shell, rind'); ocelot (from ocelotl). In
Mexico many words for
common everyday concepts attest to the close contact between Spanish
and Nahuatl, so many in fact that entire dictionaries of
"mexicanismos" (words particular to Mexican Spanish) have been
Nahuatl etymologies, as well as Spanish words with
origins in other indigenous languages. Many well known toponyms also
come from Nahuatl, including
Mexico (from the
Nahuatl word for the
Aztec capital mexihco) and
Guatemala (from the word cuauhtēmallan).
WRITING AND LITERATURE
Nahuatl orthography See also:
Aztec writing and Aztec
codices The placenames Mapachtepec ("Raccoon Hill"), Mazatlan
("Deer Place") and Huitztlan ("Thorn Place") written in the Aztec
writing system, from the
Aztec writing has not been considered a
true writing system, since it did not represent the full vocabulary of
a spoken language in the way that the writing systems of the Old World
Maya Script did. Therefore, generally
Aztec writing was not
meant to be read, but to be told. The elaborate codices were
essentially pictographic aids for memorizing texts, which include
genealogies, astronomical information, and tribute lists. Three kinds
of signs were used in the system: pictures used as mnemonics (which do
not represent particular words), logograms which represent whole words
(instead of phonemes or syllables ), and logograms used only for their
sound values (i.e. used according to the rebus principle). However,
epigrapher Alfonso Lacadena has argued that by the eve of the Spanish
invasion, one school of Nahua scribes, those of Tetzcoco, had
developed a fully syllabic script which could represent spoken
language phonetically in the same way that the
Maya script did. Some
other epigraphers have questioned the claim, arguing that although the
syllabicity was clearly extant in some early colonial manuscripts
(hardly any pre-Columbian manuscripts have survived), this could be
interpreted as a local innovation inspired by Spanish literacy rather
than a continuation of a pre-Columbian practice.
The Spanish introduced the
Latin script , which was used to record a
large body of
Aztec prose, poetry and mundane documentation such as
testaments, administrative documents, legal letters, etc. In a matter
of decades pictorial writing was completely replaced with the Latin
alphabet. No standardized Latin orthography has been developed for
Nahuatl, and no general consensus has arisen for the representation of
many sounds in
Nahuatl that are lacking in Spanish, such as long
vowels and the glottal stop . The orthography most accurately
representing the phonemes of
Nahuatl was developed in the 17th century
Horacio Carochi , building on the insights of another
Antonio del Rincon . Carochi's orthography used two different
diacritics: a macron to represent long vowels and a grave for the
saltillo, and sometimes an acute accent for short vowels. This
orthography did not achieve a wide following outside of the Jesuit
Nahuatl became the subject of focused linguistic studies in the
20th century, linguists acknowledged the need to represent all the
phonemes of the language. Several practical orthographies were
developed to transcribe the language, many using the Americanist
transcription system. With the establishment of Mexico's Instituto
Nacional de Lenguas Indígenas in 2004, new attempts to create
standardized orthographies for the different dialects were resumed;
however to this day there is no single official orthography for
Nahuatl. Apart from dialectal differences, major issues in
* whether to follow Spanish orthographic practice and write /k/ with
c and qu, /kʷ/ with cu and uc, /s/ with c and z, or s, and /w/ with
hu and uh, or u.
* how to write the "saltillo " phoneme (in some dialects pronounced
as a glottal stop and in others as an ), which has been spelled with
j, h, ’ (apostrophe), or a grave accent on the preceding vowel, but
which traditionally has often been omitted in writing.
* whether and how to represent vowel length, e.g. by double vowels
or by the use of macrons.
Among the indigenous languages of the Americas , the extensive corpus
of surviving literature in
Nahuatl dating as far back as the 16th
century may be considered unique.
Nahuatl literature encompasses a
diverse array of genres and styles, the documents themselves composed
under many different circumstances. It appears that the preconquest
Nahua had a distinction much like the European distinction between
"prose " and "poetry ", the first called tlahtolli "speech" and the
second cuicatl "song".
Nahuatl tlahtolli prose has been preserved in different forms. Annals
and chronicles recount history, normally written from the perspective
of a particular altepetl (locally based polity ) and often combining
mythical accounts with real events. Important works in this genre
include those from Chalco written by
Chimalpahin , from
Diego Muñoz Camargo , from Mexico-
Tenochtitlan by Fernando Alvarado
Tezozomoc and those of Texcoco by Fernando Alva Ixtlilxochitl . Many
annals recount history year-by-year and are normally written by
anonymous authors. These works are sometimes evidently based on
pre-Columbian pictorial year counts that existed, such as the
Cuauhtitlan annals and the
Anales de Tlatelolco . Purely mythological
narratives are also found, like the "Legend of the
Five Suns ", the
Aztec creation myth recounted in Codex Chimalpopoca.
One of the most important works of prose written in
Nahuatl is the
twelve-volume compilation generally known as the
Florentine Codex ,
produced in the mid-16th century by the
Bernardino de Sahagún
Bernardino de Sahagún with the help of a number of Nahua informants .
With this work Sahagún bestowed an enormous ethnographic description
of the Nahua, written in side-by-side translations of
Spanish and illustrated throughout by color plates drawn by indigenous
painters. Its volumes cover a diverse range of topics:
material culture, social organization, religious and ceremonial life,
rhetorical style and metaphors. The twelfth volume provides an
indigenous perspective on the conquest itself. Sahagún also made a
point of trying to document the richness of the
This work is like a dragnet to bring to light all the words of this
language with their exact and metaphorical meanings, and all their
ways of speaking, and most of their practices good and evil.
Nahuatl poetry is preserved in principally two sources: the Cantares
Mexicanos and the
Romances de los señores de Nueva España , both
Aztec songs written down in the 16th and 17th
centuries. Some songs may have been preserved through oral tradition
from pre-conquest times until the time of their writing, for example
the songs attributed to the poet-king of Texcoco,
Karttunen text-align:left; vertical-align:top;">
An Altepeme de non cate itech nin tlalpan
de netehuiloya den tlanahuatiani Arenas.
Axcan cuan nonques tlalticpacchanéhque
de non altepeme tlami quitzetzeloa
neca tliltic amo cuali nemiliz Carrancista,
ihuan itech nin mahuiztica,
ihuan ica nochi noyolo
niquinyolehua nonques altepeme
aquihque cate qui chihuazque netehuiliztle
ipampa meláhqui tlanahuatil
ihuan amo nen motenecahuilia
tiquintlahpaloa nonques netehuiloanime
tlen mocuepan ican nin yolopaquilizticatequi,
ihuan quixnamiqui in nexicoaliztle
ipan non huei tehuile
tlen aic hueliti tlami nian aic tlamiz
zeme ica nitlamiliz in tliltic oquichtlanahuatiani,
de neca moxicoani, teca mocaya
de non zemihcac teixcuepa
tlen itoca Venustiano Carranza
que quimahuizquixtia in netehuiliztle
ihuan quipinahtia to tlalticpac-nantzi "Mexico"
MESSAGE TO BE PASSED AROUND
To the towns that are located in the area
that fought under General Arenas.
Now, that the dwellers of this earth,
of those towns, finish shaking out
that black, evil life of the Carrancismo
my heart is very happy
and with the dignity
in the name of those who fight in the ranks,
and to you all I send
a happy greeting
and with all of my heart
I invite those towns,
those who are there, to join the fight
for a righteous mandate
to not vainly issue statements,
to not allow to be done away with
your good way of life.
We salute those fighters
who turn towards this joyous labour
and confront the greed
in this great war,
which can never end, nor will ever end
until the end of the black tyrant
of that glutton, who mocks
and always cheat people
and whose name is Venustiano Carranza,
who takes the glory out of war
and who shames our motherland, Mexico
completely dishonouring it.
Vocabulario manual de las lenguas castellana y mexicana (a
Vocabulario trilingüe (dictionary of Spanish, Latin, and Nahuatl)
* ^ The Classical
Nahuatl word nāhuatl (noun stem NāHUA, +
absolutive -TL ) is thought to mean "a good, clear sound" Andrews
(2003) :578,364,398 This language name has several spellings, among
them náhuatl (the standard spelling in the Spanish
language),("Náhuatl" (in Spanish). rae.es. Retrieved 6 July 2012. )
Naoatl, Nauatl, Nahuatl, Nawatl. In a back formation from the name of
the language, the ethnic group of
Nahuatl speakers are called Nahua.
* ^ By the provisions of Article IV: Las lenguas indígenas...y el
español son lenguas nacionales...y tienen la misma validez en su
territorio, localización y contexto en que se hablen. ("The
indigenous languages ... and Spanish are national languages ... and
have the same validity in their territory, location and context in
which they are spoken.")
* ^ "General
Aztec is a generally accepted term referring to the
most shallow common stage, reconstructed for all present-day Nahuatl
varieties; it does not include the Pochutec dialect Campbell &
Langacker (1978) ." Canger (2000) :385(Note 4)
* ^ Such as the 1996 adoption at a world linguistics conference in
Barcelona of the
Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights , a
declaration which "became a general reference point for the evolution
and discussion of linguistic rights in Mexico" Pellicer, Cifuentes
Nahuatl had postpositions or relational nouns rather
than prepositions. The stem mexihka, related to the name mexihko,
'Mexico', is of
Nahuatl origin, but the suffix -ano is from Spanish,
and it is probable that the whole word mexicano is a re-borrowing from
Spanish back into Nahuatl.
* ^ While there is no real doubt that the word "chocolate" comes
from Nahuatl, the commonly given
Nahuatl etymology /ʃokolaːtl/
"bitter water" no longer seems to be tenable. Dakin see Carmack (1981)
* ^ "General Law of Linguistic Rights of Indigenous Peoples" (PDF)
(in Spanish). Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 June 2008.
* ^ "
Instituto Nacional de Lenguas Indígenas homepage".
* ^ A B Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin;
Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Aztec".
Glottolog 2.7 . Jena: Max
Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
* ^ Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student’s Handbook,
* ^ A B Suárez (1983) :149
* ^ Canger 1980 , p. 13.
* ^ Canger 2002 , p. 195.
* ^ Canger 1988 .
* ^ "Ley General de Derechos Lingüísticos de los Pueblos
Diario Oficial de la Federación (in Spanish).
Issued by the Cámara de Diputados del H. Congreso de la Unión .
2003-03-13. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 June 2008. .
* ^ Pharao Hansen 2013 .
* ^ Canger (1988) :42–43, Dakin (1982) :202, INALI (2008) :63,
Suárez (1983) :149
* ^ Boas 1917 .
* ^ Knab 1980 .
* ^ Canger & Dakin (1985) :360, Dakin (2001) :21–22
* ^ Dakin (2001) :21–22, Kaufman (2001)
* ^ Launey 1992 , p. 116.
* ^ Canger 2001 , p. 385.
* ^ Hill & Hill 1986 .
* ^ A B Tuggy (1979)
* ^ A B Campbell (1985)
* ^ Canger 2001 .
* ^ A B Wolgemuth 2002 .
* ^ Suárez 1983 , p. 20.
* ^ Canger (1980) :12, Kaufman (2001) :1
* ^ Hill 2001 .
* ^ Merrill et al. 2010 .
* ^ Kaufman & Justeson 2009 .
* ^ Justeson et al. 1985 , p. passim.
* ^ Kaufman 2001 , pp. 3–6,12.
* ^ Kaufman Pasztory (1993)
* ^ Campbell (1997) :161, Justeson et al. (1985) ; Kaufman (2001)
* ^ Dakin & Wichmann (2000) , Macri (2005) , Macri Kaufman (2001)
* ^ Fowler (1985) :38; Kaufman (2001)
* ^ Carmack 1981 , pp. 142–143.
* ^ Canger 2011 .
* ^ Jackson 2000 .
INAFED (Instituto Nacional para el Federalismo y el Desarrollo
Municipal) (2005). "Saltillo, Coahuila". Enciclopedia de los
Municipios de México (in Spanish) (online version at E-Local ed.).
Secretaría de Gobernación . Archived from the original on
20 May 2007. Retrieved 2008-03-28. . The Tlaxcaltec community remained
legally separate until the 19th century.
* ^ Matthew 2012 .
* ^ Lockhart (1991) :12; Lockhart (1992) :330–331
* ^ Rincón 1885 .
* ^ Carochi 1645 .
* ^ Canger 1980 , p. 14.
* ^ Carochi 2001 .
* ^ A B Olko & Sullivan 2013 .
* ^ A B Suárez (1983) :165
* ^ Suárez 1983 , pp. 140–41.
* ^ Suárez 1983 , p. 5.
* ^ Cline 2000 .
* ^ Rolstad 2002 , p. passim..
* ^ INEGI 2005 , pp. 63–73.
* ^ Suárez 1983 , p. 167.
* ^ Suárez 1983 , p. 168.
* ^ INEGI 2005 , p. 49.
* ^ Lastra de Suárez (1986) , Rolstad (2002) :passim
* ^ Pellicer, Cifuentes & Herrera 2006 , pp. 132–137.
* ^ INALI (n.d.). "Presentación de la Ley General de Derechos
Lingüísticos". Difusión de INALI (in Spanish). INALI, Secretaría
de Educación Pública . Archived from the original on 17 March 2008.
* ^ Based on Lastra de Suárez (1986) ; Fowler (1985)
* ^ IRIN 2004 .
* ^ INEGI 2005 , p. 35.
* ^ INEGI 2005 .
* ^ Flores Farfán 2002 , p. 229.
* ^ Sischo 1979 , p. passim.
* ^ Amith 1989 .
* ^ A B Flores Farfán (1999)
* ^ Pury-Toumi 1980 .
* ^ Burnham, Jeff & David Tuggy (1979). A Spectrographic Analysis
Vowel Length in Rafael Delgado Nahuatl.
* ^ Launey 1992 , p. 16.
* ^ Launey 1992 , p. 26.
* ^ Launey 1992 , pp. 19–22.
* ^ Canger 2001 , p. 29.
* ^ Launey 1999 .
* ^ Hill & Hill 1980 .
* ^ Kimball 1990 .
* ^ Launey 1992 , pp. 27–28.
* ^ Launey 1992 , pp. 88–89.
* ^ Hill Andrews (2003) .
* ^ Launey (1994) , Launey (1999) :116–18
* ^ A B Canger & Jensen (2007)
* ^ Hill & Hill 1986 , p. 317.
* ^ Hill and Hill 1986:page#
* ^ Suárez 1977 .
* ^ Canger 2001 , p. 116.
* ^ Hill & Hill 1986 , pp. 249–340.
* ^ Haugen 2009 .
* ^ Dakin et al., eds. (2000). ocelot. The American Heritage
Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Houghton
Mifflin . ISBN 0-395-82517-2 .
OCLC 43499541 . Archived from the
original on 13 October 2007. CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status
unknown (link )
* ^ Lockhart 1992 , pp. 327–329.
* ^ Lacadena 2008 .
* ^ Whittaker 2009 .
* ^ Lockhart 1992 , pp. 330–335.
* ^ A B C D E Canger (2002) :200–204
* ^ Smith-Stark 2005 .
* ^ Whorf, Karttunen & Campbell 1993 .
* ^ McDonough 2014 , p. 148.
* ^ Bierhorst 1985 , p. xii.
* ^ Canger 2002 , p. 300.
* ^ León-Portilla 1985 , p. 12.
* ^ Karttunen & Lockhart 1980 .
* ^ Bierhorst 1998 .
* ^ Sahagún -webkit-column-width: 30em; column-width: 30em;">
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DICTIONARIES OF CLASSICAL NAHUATL
* de Molina, Fray Alonso: Vocabulario en Lengua Castellana y
Mexicana y Mexicana y Castellana. Reprint: Porrúa México 1992
* Karttunen, Frances, An analytical dictionary of Náhuatl. Univ. of
Oklahoma Press, Norman 1992
* Siméon, Rémi: Diccionario de la Lengua Náhuatl o Mexicana.
Reprint: México 2001
GRAMMARS OF CLASSICAL NAHUATL
* Carochi, Horacio.
Grammar of the Mexican Language: With an
Explanation of its Adverbs (1645) Translated by James Lockhart.
Stanford University Press. 2001.
* Lockhart, James:
Nahuatl as written: lessons in older written
Nahuatl, with copious examples and texts, Stanford 2001
* Sullivan, Thelma: Compendium of
Nahuatl Grammar, Univ. of Utah
* Campbell, Joe and Frances Karttunen, Foundation course in Náhuatl
grammar. Austin 1989
* Launey, Michel. Introducción a la lengua y a la literatura
Náhuatl. México D.F.: UNAM. 1992 (Spanish); An Introduction to
Nahuatl , 2011, Cambridge University Press.
* Andrews, J. Richard. Introduction to Classical
of Oklahoma Press: 2003 (revised edition)
Ronald W. Langacker (ed.): Studies in Uto-Aztecan
Aztec Grammatical Sketches, Summer Institute of Linguistics
Publications in Linguistics, 56. Dallas, TX: Summer Institute of
Linguistics and the University of
Texas at Arlington, pp. 1–140.
ISBN 0-88312-072-0 .
OCLC 6086368. 1979. (Contains studies of Nahuatl
from Michoacan, Tetelcingo, Huasteca and North Puebla)
* Canger, Una.
Mexicanero de la Sierra Madre Occidental, Archivo de
Lenguas Indígenas de México, #24. México D.F.: El Colegio de
México. ISBN 968-12-1041-7 .
OCLC 49212643. 2001 (Spanish)
* Campbell, Lyle. The Pipil Language of El Salvador, Mouton Grammar
Library (No. 1). Berlin: Mouton Publishers. 1985. ISBN 0-89925-040-8 .
* Wolgemuth, Carl. Gramática Náhuatl (melaʼtájto̱l) de los
municipios de Mecayapan y Tatahuicapan de Juárez, Veracruz, 2nd
edition. 2002. (in Spanish)
* The Nahua Newsletter: edited by the Center for Latin American and
Caribbean Studies of the Indiana University (Chief Editor Alan
* Estudios de Cultura Náhuatl: special interest-yearbook of the
Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas (IIH) of the Universidad
Autónoma de México (UNAM), Ed.: Miguel León Portilla
* A Catalogue of Pre-1840
Nahuatl Works Held by The Lilly Library
from The Indiana University Bookman No. 11. November, 1973: 69–88.
* Collection of
Nahuatl of the Sierra Nororiental de Puebla, Mexico
of Jonathan Amith, containing recordings in
Nahuatl by native speakers
and transcriptions, from the Archive of Indigenous Languages of Latin
Nahuatl Collection of Karen Dakin, containing recordings of word
Nahuatl by native speakers and transcriptions, from the
Archive of Indigenous Languages of Latin America .
NāHUATL EDITION of , the free encyclopedia
CLASSICAL NAHUATL TEST of at Wikimedia Incubator
CENTRAL HUASTEC NAHUATL TEST of at Wikimedia Incubator
CENTRAL NAHUATL TEST of at Wikimedia Incubator
PIPIL TEST of at Wikimedia Incubator
ORIZABA NAHUATL TEST of at Wikimedia Incubator
Look up NAHUATL in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.