Nahuatl word classes

John Sullivan idiez at
Wed Jan 2 03:33:41 UTC 2013

Listeros, xinechtlapopolhuican:
	A portion of item 3 should read, "The pil with a long "i" is always PREFIXED to a noun..."

On Jan 1, 2013, at 9:29 PM, John Sullivan <idiez at> wrote:

> Magnus,
> 1. The complete forms for each of the first three categories actually are tlatocaxtiliztlahtolli, tlachihualiztlahtolli and tlapantiliztlahtolli. We abbreviate them when working in class (for obvious reasons). I should have put the full names in the list.
> 2. In some variants you get maitl>nomah, tocaitl>notocah, and in others you get nomax and notocax. Sometimes both forms are used, one for the possessed noun and another for the combining form of the noun. In our variant, tocax- is the combining form of the noun that is used for suffixing the ti verber meaning "to have s.t.". Then the causative -a suffix is added. Tocayotia would not be recognized by a native speaker in the Huasteca. However, as we continue to sponsor interdialectical meetings of native speakers, we may put the variations of this terminology to a vote in order to arrive at a standardized forms that can be used across variants.
> 3. In Modern Huastecan Nahuatl, the pil with a short "i" is suffixed in words such as (-)oquichpil, (-)cihuapil, -mahpil, with the meaning of child/appendage. It only appears as an absolutive noun in one form, pipilmeh. The pil with a long "i" is always suffixed to a noun, in combination with the suffix -tzin, and has the meaning of small and/or reverential. Here is an example of absolutive, possessive, singular, plural: pilconetzin, pilconetzitzin, nopilconeuh, nopilconehuan. Now the interesting thing is that the native speakers at IDIEZ have found two mechanisms for creating subcategories in general. One consists of adding the prefix achi- to a noun, and another consists of adding the dimmunitive/reverential mechanism (pil-, -tzin) to a noun. So for example, our word for "uttered word" is "tencaquiliztli"; syllable is "achtencaquiliztli" (a division of an uttered word); and phoneme is "pilachitencaquiliztzin".
> 4. I'm not ready to accept your explanation of how words like "chichiltic" and "yolic" are formed. I consider them to be the preterit of class 1 verbs that now function as nouns. The only verbal remanents they possess are the singular (-c-Ø) and plural (-que-h) forms. When the -c/-que reverts to its older form -ca:, these words can take many of the suffixes associated with nouns (-uh/-huan, -tzin) and can even be incorporated on to a noun or a verb, just like a regular noun can. So I classify these words as nouns. 
> 5. Can you give me an example of how cualli works like a verb?
> 6. I consider (at this point) that hueyi and miac are nouns. Both work as nouns when going through the sequence: hueyi>hueyiya>hueyilia; miac>miaquiya>miaquilia. (Joe has postulated a bridging "i" that is used between some noun roots and verbing suffixes). We are still mapping out and trying to explain in a unified manner the other forms of these words, such as miac>miaquin/miaquih, hueyi>hueyin/hueyih, hueyi>huextic, etc.
> 	And to finish, whenever I send these things to the list, it is always in the hope that the listeros will respond with criticisms and comments.
> John
> On Jan 1, 2013, at 7:34 PM, Magnus Pharao Hansen <magnuspharao at> wrote:
>> Dear John
>> Offering some thoughts about your proposed Nahuatl word classes:
>> 1. tlatocaxtiliztli - where does the x come from? It would seem out of place in the dialects I know (assuming that the root is tlatocayotia "to name something"). Perhaps tlatocayotiliztlahtolli?
>> 2. tlachihualiztli - as far as I know this word already has the meaning of "an action" wouldn't it be useful to terminologically distinguish between the verb and what it denotes? Perhaps tlachihualiztlahtolli?
>> 3. pil- using pil as a prefix in my experience almost always refer to the meaning "prince/child" whereas the meaning "small/appendage" seems to be more frequently associated with the use as a suffix i.e. tlahtolpiltzin and tlahcuilolpiltzin. In some varieties a diminutive could be made with reduplication tla:tlahcuiloltzin and tla:tlahtoltzin. 
>> You don't seem to have a category for property words such as "chichiltic" "hueyi", "yolic", "cualli" since these are neither really nouns nor verbs, but have qualities of the syntactic behavior of both. 
>> Just some suggestions.
>> best, 
>> Magnus
>> Magnus Pharao Hansen
>> PhD. student
>> Department of Anthropology
>> Brown University                          
>> 128 Hope St.
>> Providence, RI 02906
>> magnus_pharao_hansen at
>> US: 001 401 651 8413
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