Nahuatl Dialects 2: Speaking of Stress

r. joe campbell campbel at
Tue Jan 21 19:22:49 UTC 2003

   I sent this message to the list some time ago, but membership

        Notes on Accent Variability in Nahuatl dialects
  (I mark accent immediately after the vowel that it occurs on
   [e.g., a' = accented 'a'])

   Both San Miguel Canoa (Puebla) and Xaltipan (Tlaxcala) have stress
displacement one syllable to the left in the absolutive form of nouns;
obviously, this does not occur on words of less than three syllables.
Nouns which have absolutive forms ending in "-li" in "Classical" and many
other modern dialects not only shift stress one syllable to the left, but
they also drop the final "i":

                Canoa           Tlaxcala                        "Classical"

                tla'xcal        tla'xcal        tortilla        tlaxca'lli
                ca'xtol         ca'xtol         fifteen         caxto'lli
                ma'cuil         ma'cuil         five            macui'lli

Note, however, that while both Canoa and Tlaxcala both also shift stress
one syllable to the left in nouns which have absolutive forms ending in
"-tli", Canoa keeps the final vowel intact while Tlaxcala deletes it
(parallel to the treatment of nouns in "-li" in both dialects).

                a'moxtli        a'moxtl         book            amo'xtli
                i'chpochtli     i'chpochtl      girl            ichpochtli
                tzo'htzomahtli  tzo'htzomahtl   clothing        tzohtzoma'htli
                ma'htlactli     ma'htlactl      ten             mahtla'ctli

Thus, Tlaxcala maintains regular penultimate stress in these nouns,
but Canoa has the unusual (for Nahuatl) pattern of antepenult stress in
nouns ending in "-tli".  However, Tlaxcala "pays" for its regularity in
the treatment of stress:  notice that these particular nouns now end in
consonant clusters -- something that Nahuatl is said not to "like".
(Other dialects *do* develop some "unliked" consonant cluster, such as
"xnicma'ti", 'I don't know it' [San Agustin Oapan, Guerrero], but that's
another story.)

   When I find my notes on stress shift in Oapan, I'll get back to you.
Or maybe someone else can contribute these observations.....

   Michoacan seems to have "basically" penultimate stress, but surface forms
frequently show final stress due to deletions.

   quichi'hua           he does it
   quichi'c             he did it
     Comment:  The consonant following the stressed vowel is optionally
        deleted, resulting also in "quichi'ac", and further, the unstressed
        vowel following stressed vowel is deleted.  Past tense does not
        involve truncation of the stem; preterit singular forms are indicated
        by the "-c" suffix.

  Further examples:

   moca'hua             he remains
   moca'c               he remained
     Comment:  Derived from "moca'[hua]c"

   nicmela'hua          I straighten it
   nicmela'c            I straightened it

  Variable forms:

   nechi'lic            she said it to me
   nechi'c              she said it to me
     Comment:  Derived from "nechi'[li]c"

   cata'ya              he was
   cata'                he was
     Comment:  Also derived by deletion of post-stress consonant and vowel.

   cua'huil             tree
   cua'l                tree
     Comment:  Also derived by deletion of post-stress consonant and vowel.

   noxo'lol             my child
   noxo'l               my child
     Comment:  "noxo'[lo]l"

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