Starting to learn Nahuatl

Michael McCafferty mmccaffe at
Sun Aug 26 12:16:44 UTC 2007


I would say Joe's comments are right on the money as far Andrews goes. 
At the same time, I'd like to add that using his and Frances 
Karttunen's introductory Nahuatl books, and then bolstering them with 
Sullivan's book, would be the best approach I'm aware. I've used Joe's 
and Fran's book in my university classes to great advantage.

I should point out, too, that Sullivan occasionally goes off the track 
in some of her grammatical analyses, which is not that case with Joe's 
and Fran's work. Although theirs was put together rather quickly for a 
summer course at UT-Austin (I think), it is nicely laid out, coherent. 
And you can progress very far with it on your own.

And then, with Sullivan's work at your side, you can see all the great 
examples of grammatical forms that she draws from the classics. Those 
examples are, in my estimation, the cream of her work, pedagogically 
speaking, as they give you grammar *in real native speaker contexts*.


Quoting "Campbell,  R Joe" <campbel at>:

> Owentzin,
>   ...just my 2 cents worth off the top of my head -- in spite of the
> fact that I consult the Andrews Grammar many times every day, I can't
> imagine using it for entry into Nahuatl, particularly without a
> teacher.  Thelma Sullivan's grammar, particularly together with
> Carochi, seems to me to be an easy way to accumulate enough
> familiarity with the language so that one can read Andrews with more
> profit.
>   Andrews' presentation of the language aims at a much deeper
> theoretical view of the language, in a model of grammar that is
> simply *his*.  His presentation is not like the presentation of
> grammatical reasoning among linguists trained in the second half of
> the last century -- namely, pulling the reader along with
> *reasons* for believing the forms that he posits as basic and
> *reasons* for believing his lines of derivation.  The reader is
> expected to believe all the details because they are *declared*.  I
> have found (in both the first edition and the revised one) that in
> cases where I might not go along with his explanation on first,
> second, and third reading, I later found support for his point of
> view in some other part of the grammar.  This leads to some increase
> in faith in places where you are not initially convinced by his
> presentation.
>   On the other hand, his "reach" for the depths of the grammar, a
> subtle picture of the soul of the language, sometimes stretches
> beyond what is supported by the observable facts.  This would lead
> some people to think of parts of the description to leave the arena
> of "science" and cross the border into "religion".
>   To shorten a story that threatens to become too long, my personal
> leaning would be to start with Sullivan and Carochi.  ...and proceed
> with Andrews later.
> I am sure that you will enjoy all of the time you dedicate to Nahuatl.
> Joe
> Quoting Owen Thomas <oenthomas at>:
>> Listeros,
>> I have been attempting to learn without a teacher and have accumulated
>> several books, Andrews Grammar and workbook, Kartunen, Carocci and finally
>> Thelma Sullivan. I can read Sullivan but find that it does not follow all
>> Andrews NNC and VNC patterns.
>> I am learning from Thelma Sullivan and would like some assurance that this
>> will not set me on a path that leads to future failure by not following
>> correct grammar.
>> I would like to have some offers of help via the web; help anyone?
>> --
>> We are connected
>> Owen
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