One of my hobbies (if that's the right word) is learning non-Indo-European languages, and recently I've become involved in the study of Classical Nahuatl. The term Nahuatl covers a number of closely related languages spoken from central Mexico down to El Salvador. In particular, a variety of this language was spoken in Tenochtitlan, the dominant city in the Aztec culture that was conquered by the Spaniards in the early sixteenth century. A method of writing down the language with the orthography of the Latin alphabet that was used at the time for Spanish was soon developed, and the language served as a form of written communication until the eighteenth century, when it was pretty much entirely displaced by Spanish in written discourse. This older written form of the language is what is known as Classical Nahuatl. Even though Nahuatl ceased to be written, the spoken language has continued in use until the present day, though the spread of modern means of communication and transportation have opened up the comparatively isolated areas where Nahuatl is still spoken to the influence of the socially dominant language of Mexico, and most regions of Nahuatl speech are rapidly shifting to Spanish.

Nahuatl of Mecayapan and Tatahuicapan

As a sort of personal exercise, I decided to translate (and adapt) from the Spanish original J. Carl Wolgemuth's grammar of the dialect of Nahuatl that is currently spoken in the townships of Mecayapan and Tatahuicapan in the Mexican state of Veracruz: Gramática náhuatl de los municipios de Mecayapan y Tathuicapan de Juárez, Veracruz. With the kind permission of the Summer Institute of Linguistics (the copyright holder), I'm making my adaptation available (link below) to anyone who wants it. I haven't intentionally undertaken to change the content, but I have substituted the Spanish-based orthography of the original with a simplified one that represents the sounds of the language more straightforwardly, a procedure that has necessitated a reworking of the section on phonology. I've also added in a few explanatory footnotes (which are clearly marked as mine). Carl Wolgemuth has graciously read through a draft of the translation. Apart from spotting some inadvertent glitches, he made a few suggestions for changing the presentation and cleared up a few instances where the sense of the Spanish translation of some example sentences in Nahuatl was not entirely clear to me. Nonetheless, responsibility for the final version of the translation is mine.

Feel free to download this English version (in PDF format), with the proviso that it must be left in its original form and not altered in any way (thus spake the copyright holder!).

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