Aztec Language

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Related to Aztec Language: Nahuatl

Aztec Language


Nahuatl, Nahua, language of the Aztec Indians, spoken by approximately 800,000 people (1969 estimate). Belongs to the Uto-Aztecan group of languages.

Distributed in Mexico, presumably since the sixth century A.D. (associated with the appearance of the Nahua tribe). From the 14th to the 16th centuries the language of the Aztec civilization had the rudiments of a written language (picto-graphs with hieroglyphic elements), and from the 16th to the 18th centuries it was the language of Christian and secular literature written in the Latin alphabet. The lateral affricate tl, the glottal stop ’, and the labialized kw are characteristic features of classical Aztec of the 15th to 17th centuries and a number of modern dialects. Inflection is accomplished by means of suffixes, prefixes, and reduplication of the initial syllable. Nouns are distinguished by unmarked (with suffixes -tli, -tli, -n, etc.), plural, distributive plural (for a large number of individual objects), and possessive forms (no-siwa-w “my wife,” from siwā-tl “wife”). Compounding is well-developed.


Simén, R. Dictionnaire de la langue nahuatl, ou mexicaine. Paris, 1885.
Swadesh, M., and M. Sancho. Los mil elementos del mexicano clásico. Mexico City, 1966.


References in periodicals archive ?
The problems inherent in addressing the decline of the Aztec language are thorny indeed, in that many changes must be made on several levels.
Otherwise well aware of the value of indigenous terminology and records left in Nahuatl, the Aztec language, Hassig might have put his linguistic skills to greater work probing early colonial records for more insight into prehispanic relationships between altepetl and calpulli (or, proving more widespread, tlaxillacalli), the primary prehispanic sociopolitical entities, rather than the Spanish ones.
This includes learning a vocabulary of the ancient Aztec language, Nahuatl, and an understanding of the ``base 20'' mathematics used to build ancient pyramids and master astronomy.
There are no Aztec languages spoken in South America.