Nahuatl Fiction / ficci=?ISO-8859-1?B?8w==?=n

Frances Karttunen karttu at NANTUCKET.NET
Thu Jul 22 14:13:31 UTC 2004

> I don't know anything about the Nahuatl being a class that ruled
> others, but honestly I still know very little about the Nahuatl in general.

One thing is that "Na:huatl" is a noun used to mean 'clear, intelligible
speech.' It is related to the locative -na:huac meaning 'adjacent to.' So
Nahuatl is essentially language that can be heard and understood without

The people who spoke/still speak Nahuatl were those whose language was
mutually intelligible with that of the Me:xihcah (the Aztecs).  A single
such person is a Na:hua.  The plural (people whose language was intelligible
to the Me:xihcah) were/are Na:huah (ending with either an aspiration or a
glottal stop, depending on geographical location).

That said, most speakers of Na:huatl in Mexico call themselves Mexicans or
ma:ce:hualtin 'common people,' and they call their language mexicano or
na:huatlahto:lli 'clear speech' or ma:ce:huallahto:lli 'speech of the common

To the south of Mexico some speakers of related varieties of Na:huatl call
themselves Pipil, and people call their language Pipil too.

Fernando Horcasitas, James Lockhart and I, and many others associated with
Lockhart have translated lots and lots of Nahuatl direct discourse into
English, so besides the high rhetoric of the Florentine Codex, there are
authentic models of how ordinary Nahuah have spoken to each other from the
1500s right through to the 1960s (Horcasitas's edition of Luz Jimenez's
Memoir "Life and Death in Milpa Alta.")

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