scratching the surface; lexemes with /ta/

Gordon Whittaker gwhitta4 at
Wed Apr 4 13:10:50 UTC 2012

Hi everyone,

My apologies for the 'Rattenschwanz' (long rat tail of previous mails) that
despite frenzied cutting seems to have reappeared from nowhere. This time
I'll try editing the thread without using my iPad.

Anyway, I just noticed that I translated tla'tli too narrowly as 'father's
brother', when it is in fact 'uncle' in the broader sense found in most
European languages. It would seem that the ancestor of tla'tli and the
restored ta'tli meant simply 'male of the parental generation'.


That's interesting that you have non-reduplicated examples of /taka/. But
it's still likely to be an onomatopoeic term (like tock, tock) or a
loanword from a nearby language. This is typical of words for scratching,
striking, smacking, slamming, slicing, and the like, as well as for the
instruments that do the deed.


I think there is an Otomanguean term similar to tamal-, but I can't place
it right now. At least, we can't derive it from a Nahuatl verb *tama. The
toad term, tamazol-, could be an old loan with -zol-in added. But where
from? The shell term, tapachtli, is less troublesome, because the coastal
context suggests borrowing and the Nahua are not usually argued to have
hailed from a coastal environment. And I wonder what we can do with
tamachihua. A puzzling term, as is its hieroglyph (with the reading tam)
used for a Gulf Coast toponym.

Best wishes and thanks to all,

Date: Tue,  3 Apr 2012 13:58:12 -0400
> From: Michael McCafferty <mmccaffe at>
> To: nahuatl at
> Subject: Re: [Nahuat-l] scratching the surface
> Guten tag, Gordon,
> Someone sent me examples of -taca, including mamataca, which seem to
> indicate the existence of an older form */taka/.
> Michael
> ------------------------------
> Date: Tue, 3 Apr 2012 18:59:55 -0400
> From: Frances Karttunen <karttu at>
> To: Nahuat-l List <nahuatl at>
> Subject: Re: [Nahuat-l] scratching the surface
> On Apr 3, 2012, at 1:37 PM, Gordon Whittaker wrote:
> > There are precious few words with ta- in tl- varieties of Nahuatl,
> > and they seem indeed to be loanwords in most cases.
> Well, there are tah- 'father'; tamal-; tamazol-; and tapach-, as well
> as  tataca (the verb in question).
> Fran
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