Turquoise diadem

David Wright dcwright at prodigy.net.mx
Tue May 20 18:53:40 UTC 2008



I’m editing a volume of conference proceedings. At the risk of ruffling some
feathers, I’m applying a unified orthography to all of the words in Nahuatl.
One paper is about the royal turquoise diadem. The author calls it
xiuhuitzolli. I can’t use this spelling because of the uhu secuence,
considering that hu and uh are digraphs for /w/, and u alone is either an
allophone of /o/ or /w/ written without the h. I can’t find this náhuatl
word in the Sahagun texts, which are usually so good about naming articles
of clothing, adornments, insignia and attributes. Simeon gives xiuhuitzolli.
Seler uses this term, with the same spelling, in a few articles. So I’ve
been on the horns of a dilemma, stuck between xiuhhuitzolli and xihuitzolli.


The first one, xiuhhuitzolli, following Simeon’s flawed etymology of xihuitl
(turquoise) (minus the -tl suffix minus the weak “i”) + huitzo (spiny thing,
which Simeon thought was an adjective) doesn’t really work, because of the
-li suffix; the root would have to be huitzol, which I don’t find anywhere;
with huitzo (or huitzoh) the suffix would have to be -tl (or -tli). 


The second, xihuitzolli (xihuitzo:lli) seems more reasonable. Wolf uses it
in his comprehensive Spanish-Nahuatl dictionary, basing his entry on
Simeon’s but fixing the weird spelling. Andrews, in the workbook of the
second edition of his grammar, includes a noun tzo:lli with a meaning
similar to Molina’s gloss of the verb tzoloa (tzo:loa:) (“estrechar o
ensangostar algo”). I haven’t found tzo:lli standing alone anywhere else.


I’m thinking now that I’ll change the spelling to xihuitzolli and add an
editor’s note explaining why. Of course the author will have the final
decision, but I thought I’d run this by the experts at Nahuat-l first. My
biggest remaining doubt concerns the relation of the hypothetical noun
tzo:lli to the verb tzo:loa:. Following the usual process of derivation, a
noun derived from tzo:loa: should be tzo:lo:lli:


(tzo:loa: minus a:) (o lengthens to o: to compensate for loss of long vowel
a:) + (passive voice suffix -lo: minus o:) plus absolutive suffix -li =


An analogous process can be seen in the deverbal noun tlahcuilo:lli
(“something written/painted”), derived from the verb tlahcuiloa:
(write/paint something) (tla plus ihcuiloa: minus weak initial i).


Thanks for bearing with me this far. My two main questions are:


(1) Can anyone give me a reference for an early colonial period use of any
nahuatl word for the turquoise diadem?


(2) What about tzo:lli as a noun related to tzo:loa:, in spite of the
omission of the expected syllable lo:? Are there similar cases?





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