Lexemes with /ta/

Gordon Whittaker gwhitta4 at googlemail.com
Wed Apr 4 07:19:55 UTC 2012

Hi Joe, nicca Nahuatl(@list.famsi.org)acae, 

Thanks for this handy list of /ta/ lexemes. What's intriguing is the fact that there are only some 30 such lexemes in a sizable Classical Nahuatl lexicon. That is a strong indication that loanword status is involved, so long as an internal pattern cannot be detected. Unfortunately, to date there have been very, very few studies of Prehispanic lexical acquisition. I once did a tally of /ta/ lexemes for which I was able to suggest an Otomanguean or in a couple of cases Mayan (Huastecan) or Totonacan origin, but never wrote it up and, at the moment, I can't seem to find it in my mess of note boxes.  

/ta'tli/ ~ /tahtli/ 'father' is a special case. It probably goes back, together with /tla'tli/ ~ /tlahtli/ 'father's brother', to Proto-Nahuatl */tla'-tla/ 'father, father's brother' ( -- the second /tla/ is the ancestor of the present absolutive -tli). At some point, baby language (tata, etc.) kicked in and replaced */tla'-/ with /ta'-/ in the sense of 'father'. We have parallels for this kind of renewal (or apparent reversal) in other languages worldwide. 

Of the probable loanwords in the list, I can single out /chita'tli/ ~ /chitahtli/, which I seem to recall is Otomanguean. Chontalli is Mayan, I think. /tapachtli/ is a probable Gulf Coast loan, but I can't say from where right now. I hope the list inspires some of our colleagues and friends to explore the vocabularies of other Mesoamerican languages for tell-tale correspondences. 

Of course, it's possible that Proto-Nahuatl */ta/ became Nahuatl /ta/ when protected by a preceding consonant, and that the shift to /tla/ occurred elsewhere. The very rare instances of /tl/ before vowels other than /a/ can be explained by regular phonological process, as in the case of the absolutive, or by special developments, as in the cases of /tletl/ and /tlo'tli/ ~ /tlohtli/. 

tataca, on the other hand, could well be onomatopoeic in origin. 

Best wishes and thanks again, 

Sent from my iPad

On 04/04/2012, at 7:04 AM, "Campbell,  R. Joe" <campbel at indiana.edu> wrote:

> Hey Gordon, Michael, Mario ihuan occequi nocnihuan,
>  Here is a list of morphemes with /ta.../, some of them already mentioned.
> The column of numbers refers to their frequency of occurrence in Molina and the Florentine.  "ihtahui" is deceptive, since most of its tokens occur in its causative form, "ihtoa".
> Joe
>  93  a:ztatl             aztatl
>   3  chitahtli           chitahtli
>   5  chontalli           chontalli
>  26  cotalli             cotalli
>   8  cuatatl             cuatatl
> 179  ichtaca             ichtaca
>  40  ihtacatl            ihtacatl
> 6912  ihtahui             ihtahui
>  ??  itta                itta
>   8  iyataztli           iyataztli
> 1174  iztatl              iztatl
>  44  octacatl            octacatl
>   5  tacalli             tacalli
>   6  tacanalli           tacanalli
>  11  tacatl              tacatl
>  28  tacaxtli            tacaxtli
> 318  tahtli              tahtli
>   9  talatl              talatl
> 182  tama                tama
> 262  tamalli             tamalli
>  17  tamazolin           tamazolin
>  57  ta:nahtli           tanahtli
>  56  tapachtli           tapachtli
> 104  tapalcatl           tapalcatl
>  74  tapalli             tapalli
>   7  tapayaxin           tapayaxin
>  86  tapayolli           tapayolli
> 251  tataca              tataca
>  31  tatapahtli          tatapahtli
>  51  tatl                tatl
> Quoting Gordon Whittaker <gwhitta4 at googlemail.com>:
>> Hi Michael, Joe and Mario,
>> I should get a hold of Stubbs some day. But I think there is a
>> simpler resolution to this specific problem. Uto-Aztecan *ta becomes
>> Proto-Nahuatl *tla. So tataca is either a loanword or onomatopoeic.
>> (Perhaps even Otom-atopoeic, if plumbed from the vocabulary of
>> certain neighbours.) There are precious few words with ta- in tl-
>> varieties of Nahuatl, and they seem indeed to be loanwords in most
>> cases.
>> Anyway, happy hunting!
>> Best wishes,
>> Gordon
>> Sent from my iPad
>>> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
>>> Message: 1
>>> Date: Mon,  2 Apr 2012 18:49:31 -0400
>>> From: "Campbell,  R. Joe" <campbel at indiana.edu>
>>> To: Michael McCafferty <mmccaffe at indiana.edu>
>>> Cc: nahuatl at lists.famsi.org
>>> Subject: Re: [Nahuat-l] scratching the surface
>>> Message-ID: <20120402184931.cf57nhl1ic4c0oww at webmail.iu.edu>
>>> Content-Type: text/plain;    charset=ISO-8859-1;    format="flowed"
>>> Michael,
>>>  I checked Brian Stubbs' _Uto-Aztecan: A Comparative Vocabulary_ and
>>> couldn't find a /taka/ that was related to "dig".  Maybe someone else
>>> can look better.
>>> Joe
>>> Quoting Michael McCafferty <mmccaffe at indiana.edu>:
>>>> Do you all suppose that in the verb /tataka/, the first ta- is an old
>>>> reduplicative prefix? In other words, do you think the original
>>>> (Proto-Nahuatl?)  form was */taka/?
>>>> Thank you for your thoughts.
>>>> Michael
>>>> _______________________________________________
Nahuatl mailing list
Nahuatl at lists.famsi.org

More information about the Nahuat-l mailing list