for nahuatl info?

r. joe campbell campbel at
Mon Jan 6 21:39:30 UTC 2003

>Are you saying it is impractical - if not impossible - to write a
>computer program to translate the spellings from Nahuatl to Nawatl?

   There are two problems with this suggestion:

 1. The humongous amount of literature available to potential readers of
Nahuatl would have to be made machine readable or it couldn't be put
through a possible computer program.

 2. The spelling system of Nahuatl (as improved by Carochi to handle the
glottal stop and long vowels and made available to a wide public in works
by Andrews and Karttunen) is *regular*, but this just means that it can be
read from print to voice (and vice versa) in a trustworthy way.  This does
not address the question of convertibility.  On that question, a friend of
mine and I independently wrote several programs to convert a large text to
another orthography.  He is a professional programmer and I have been a
novice programmer for 35 years.  We determined that the shape of Nahuatl
words will allow one set of shapes to be modified correctly by one
algorithm, but that algorithm will give garbage on another set of shapes.
The program that gives proper attention to the second set of shapes will
produce contrary results in the first set.
   The answer is to do the conversion with a program that will maximize
the correct results -- and then clean up the remainder over a period of
years by hand, at times resorting to morphological knowledge to solve
stubborn cases.

   If the Nahuatlahtoh community wanted to consider the worthwhileness of
adopting this "conversion mentality", we would have to ask ourselves what
there is to *gain* from doing it.  The answer, as I see it, would be entry
facility for a very small percentage of people who might not be willing to
exert the small effort of learning the Hispanic/Jesuit system (a point
already addressed by Michael). And, of course, we would lose the reading
facility and comfortable familiarity of all those who are already in the

Best regards,


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