David Wright on Otomi and Nahuatl

Michael Smith Michael.E.Smith.2 at asu.edu
Sun Jan 31 21:26:10 UTC 2010

I would be interested in hearing commentary from linguists and others about David's very interesting paper in Acta Universitaria (the link is in his latest post). I found this paper extremely enlightening and very surprising. Who would have thought that the political, urban, and social hierarchies in Otomi and Nahuatl cultures were virtually identical in structure? Perhaps my amazement comes from ignorance or naiveté. But in Mesoamerican studies we are accustomed to thinking in ethnic terms, and interpreting societies, cultures, and material culture in terms of ethnic groups. The Nahuas were like this, and the Otomis were like that. Maybe we have internalized the ethnic stereotypes in Sahagún (Otomi blockheads, etc.). But I found David's article enlightening and I am having students read it.


How common is his notion of a "essentially homogeneous plurilinguistic culture" ? Is this a common occurrence in other areas? Is his model surprising, or something to be expected? What are the implications of this kind of model for understanding prehispanic society in central Mexico? (please pardon my ignorance here, I readily admit to being among the linguistically-challenged, and I no longer have departmental colleagues like John Justeson to pester about these things).


Mike Smith


Wright Carr, David Charles

2008   La sociedad prehispánica en las lenguas Náhuatl y Otomí. Acta Universitaria (Universidad de Guanajuato) 18(especial):15-23.


Michael E. Smith, Professor

School of Human Evolution & Social Change

Arizona State University





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