Mesoamerican Culture, History, and Religion

New Nahuatl Language Links

I’ve added a new Links section over on the righthand side of the page, called Nahuatl Language.  That section is where I’m linking material around the Net that relates to learning Nahuatl, particularly Classical Nahuatl (the language as it was a few hundred years ago).  This stuff is always handy for reference, and to get your feet wet if you’re interested in learning how to read some of the primary sources that were written down in that tongue after the Conquest.

These links relate to reading Nahuatl written alphabetically, not reading the glyphs/pictographs that were used in the Codices prior to the Spanish invasion.  I’m looking for material online that teaches a bit about the glyphs, though, and will link what I find.

Finally, the links in there now are in a mix of languages.  Molina’s classic textbook and dictionary are antique Spanish and Nahuatl; I included them for those who can read old Spanish (not me!) and due to their foundational significance in the study of the language.  The html version of Renee Simeon’s 1885 dictionary is Nahuatl to French, but I would expect the numerous free online translators could handle the short snippets of relatively-recent French without much trouble.

For my English-language audience, the Nahuatl Learning Environment is available in English (it’s also available in Spanish).  Just log in with the ID and password noted in the link title (repeated in the tooltip if you hover your mouse cursor over it), and you’re good to go — there’s no registration or anything like that.  Finally, the Freelang Nahuatl dictionary is a Nahuatl-English dictionary, and can be downloaded for offline use, or used via the web.  Handy and free!

I’ll do a post sometime soon on basic pronunciation to go with all these links.  I’ve seen the very formal charts on pronunciation that use the technical symbols and whatnot, but frankly I can’t read them, and I don’t know many who can.  If you have a copy of Frances Kartunnen’s Analytical Dictionary of Nahuatl, I find her notes on pronunciation to be the most helpful I’ve come across.

Anyway, enjoy, and I’ll add more to this section as I find it.

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10 responses

  1. Xuchilpaba

    Hey thanks. I know the way the words are spelled in Nahuatl is how they are said in Spanish… I have some small snippets of Spanish and I found some of the guide for pronunciation in Alarcon’s book to be helpful.

    But I have gotten stuck on a few spellings on how to say them and ama bit confused. So any help is appreciated.

    >I’m looking for material online that teaches a bit about the glyphs, though, and will link what I find.

    This would be so awesome! IDK of anything that has a guide to the glyphs and all I can remember is the rain glyph because it’s Tlaloc’s head.

    One more thing… There used to be this site made by a scholar that had .wav files of Native speakers speaking the Nahuatl names of deities, places, and things. (I.e. Quetzalcoatl’s name) I have managed to recover a majority of these files if you want me to send them to you.

    December 30, 2008 at 1:17 PM

  2. cehualli

    You’re welcome. Yeah, for the most part that’s the case from what I’ve read. It just the alternate spellings that can be tricky, or if you’re like me and coming to Nahuatl with no background in Spanish. Latin, yes, which should make Carochi’s grammar book easier (he opted to relate Nahuatl grammar to Latin grammar!), but Spanish, no. Irritating how some of the textbooks just breeze past pronunciation with the explanation “very few people start studying Nahuatl without knowing Spanish first.” Yeah, well… you know what they say about assumptions…

    Which spellings are you stuck on? I may be able to help.

    RE: glyphs — Most of what I’ve found has been piecemeal. The edition of the Mendoza I have actually has a fairly extensive section on glyphs in one volume. This is because of the huge number of place names in that codex, and historians of course want to be able to read them — so they included a big glossary of the place (and other) glyphs, and even broke them down into their components. A kind of pictorial “etymology” so to speak. Hugely useful. If you want to start learning those, you might want to get your hands on the Essential Codex Mendoza just for that — or Xerox the hell out of it.

    Otherwise, I just memorize random bits I find here and there in odd places. Not that I know much, my knowledge is very sketchy at this point, without looking everything up.

    Re: WAVS — Interesting! Are they from a site that went down a while ago, hence recovering them? If the site’s gone and the scholar didn’t leave any notes like “no one touch any of my stuff,” please do send the files along! I could host them here so they wouldn’t be lost into the void of dead websites.

    Just let me know where they came from so I can credit him, and then I can include a “if the original owner of these doesn’t want these here, please contact me” so I can play by the rules as best I can.

    I bet plenty of people would find that handy!

    If you send them to me and it’s over 10 megs, just split them up among several emails. I’ve got gigs of storage space in my inbox, I just can’t handle more than 10 megs attached to a single email. Hotmail’s archaic that way.

    December 30, 2008 at 3:22 PM

  3. Xuchilpaba

    It was from Edgar’s Mesoamerican Art Page, the link is on B & R. I recovered most of them using the way back machine. To my knowledge, he did not say for no one to touch them to my knowledge and I can prolly dig up his email for you.

    Let’s see.. My biggest problem is the sound of ‘y’. In modern Spanish it makes a ‘ee’ sound and i know it does in names like Chalchiu y cue (or however the alternative spelling is). But when it’s in names like Tepeyollotl for example it makes me confused. Is it a fused vowel of e & y like in words like Xiuh for example or is it said like a American ‘y’?

    And the cuh confuses me like in names like Tlaltecuhtli. From listening to the .wav files it sounds like a ‘o’ sound and the u is silent.

    And cuih confuses me. Is it said similar to Xiuh?

    December 30, 2008 at 6:41 PM

  4. cehualli

    Whoa, AOL pulled the plug on his page, I hadn’t realized that! Wow… reading about how they just nuked the service without warning is ridiculous. I already knew AOL sucked a fat one but still. If you can find it without trouble, I’d like to email him and see if he’ll give me permission to host those recordings. If he’s not planning on putting the page back up elsewhere, maybe he will.

    Hmm. Sometimes it comes down to a problem of spelling. Like Chalchiuhtlicue — you only see the y instead of an i in archaic sources. But the y in Tepeyollotl is always written as a y. As the name is basically tepe + yollotl, the y is the first letter in yollotl, heart. I suspect it’s more of a consonant here.

    “Cuh” is funny, it’s really a consonant, pronounced like “kw” — it’s often written “uc” to make it more obvious it’s a consonant. So Tlaltecuhtli would be said “Tlaltekwtli.”

    Cuih.. I’d need to see an example of a word with that one, I’m drawing a blank at the moment. How are you pronouncing Xiuh?

    I’m at work right now so I don’t have my dictionary, but I’ll look it up when I get a chance.

    Are you familiar with spotting glottal stops? The other tricky thing is whether the source is using classical pronunciation, or a modern one, and then you get into dialects… the random recordings I’ve found online rarely specify, and I’ve heard a few that were very obviously not classical pronunication. If the recording pronounces “cuh” like “koo,” it’s off. “cuh” should sound like “kw”. Easy spot to check.

    December 30, 2008 at 8:47 PM

  5. Xuchilpaba

    Thanks for clearing the cuh up. I kept seeing in pronunciation guides that it would often be missing. ‘Y’ is another one that is. I am still confused. It’s so tricky. >.< Is there any other sites w/ classical Nahuatl sounds? I tried to look on you tube but couldn’t find much.

    I say Xuih similar to the .wav file, a lot like the English word “shoe’ but with the vowels fused.

    Is the glottal stop similar t the ‘tl’ at the end of the names?

    December 30, 2008 at 9:29 PM

  6. cehualli

    You’re welcome! I looked up Y for you — I was right, it can be a consonant like in English. With the Y in Tepe-yollotl leading a syllable, I’m positive it should be a consonant.

    And I agree, the orthography is a serious pain in the ass. I’m used to variation from Latin and Chinese, but MAN. Closest irritation level I can think of is dealing with Wade-Giles romanization when you’re used to Pinyin. Even thinking about that pisses me off…

    The glottal stop is also known as the saltillo — it’s just a little pause at the end of the syllable before you start the new one, so they’re separated a bit.

    RE: xiuh — that sounds roughly right, the “uh” being more of a “W” would give you something like “sheew”

    January 8, 2009 at 10:56 PM

  7. Xuchilpaba

    So basically ‘uh’ is like a ‘w’? It sounds like a mix to me somewhat. But I will definitely keep this in mind, thanks.

    January 9, 2009 at 10:03 PM

  8. cehualli

    Yeah, roughly. I can hear a bit of a mix myself though, so you’re not out in left field by any stretch of the imagination! I suspect it’s one of those subtleties that’s really impossible to indicate with a written pronunciation guide, you just gotta hear it said. It’s like the sound in Mandarin Chinese that’s typically romanized “x” or “hs” — or a lot of other sounds in Mandarin and Cantonese, for that matter. I can’t imagine learning to pronounce either language without hearing it, no way I could’ve done it purely from texts. Recordings for the win!

    January 15, 2009 at 3:30 AM

  9. Xuchilpaba

    I wish we had more recordings. the .wav files from Edgar’s page help greatly, but there’s still some gray areas.

    January 15, 2009 at 10:25 PM

  10. cehualli

    I do too. I’ll keep my ears open for more.

    January 16, 2009 at 2:23 AM

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