Nicaragua / Nahuatl

Frye, David L dfrye at UMICH.EDU
Thu Jul 22 01:30:30 UTC 2004

It is hard to infer the language / ethnicity of the indigenous inhabitants of a place by looking at the place name. Place names are easily translated from one language to another, and some places have multiple names in multiple languages. 
Almost all the place names on the map of Oaxaca are in Nahuatl (plus the Spanish saint name): these are the names given them originally by Nahua overlords, while the indigenous Mixtec, Zapotec, etc. speakers continue (to this day) to call the towns by their Mixtec, Zapotec, etc. names--which do not appear on any maps. 
The names of places all across Guatemala are Nahuatl translations of Maya place names, which were given not by Nahua overlords but by the Tlaxcalteca soldiers who conquered the country under Spanish rule. 
As for Nicaragua, ...?
In the case of Omotepec > Omotepe, the absence of final "c" could be a local pronunciation, or it just as likely could be a Spanish interpretation. (There is no final "c" in Spanish, and almost all Spanish speakers will either drop it or convert it to the syllable "que").


From: Nahua language and culture discussion on behalf of davius sanctex
Sent: Wed 7/21/2004 7:16 PM
Subject: Re: Nahuatl Fiction / ficción Nahuatl

But in Managua Lake there is a small island named /ometepe/ clearly one form
of nahuatl /ome-tepe-k/ (in fact the litte island is formed by two little
hills). I think that this was the territory of the "nicaraos", a people whom
Spaniards saw first time books in the New World. I think it is difficult
that a placename was given by the ruling class, perhaps the existence of a
placename like /ometepe/ 'two-hill-' suggest that there was some nahua
migrations to that latitude. [in fact the lacking /-k/ suggest that the
placename /ometepe/ was from a divergent form of nahuatl].

Am I dreaming about all this? :-)
Davius S.

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