Posted by: ayac | September 28, 2014

The first printed Nahuatl words

As far as I know, the first appearance of Nahuatl in print was in Peter Martyr d’Anghiera‘s De nuper sub D. Carolo repertis Insulis, simulq[ue] incolarum moribus … Enchiridion, published in Basel in 1521 (and later incorporated into De orbe novo decades as the fourth decade). This was written before news of the conquest had reached Europe, possibly before it had actually happened, and is based on the earliest Spanish reports of encounters with Nahuas.

Page 11: Ad terras deinde transfretant alias, et terram praehendunt Iucanatae vicinam ab occidente, dubitant sit insula, necne: continenti esse annexam arbitrantur. … Colluacan, alias oloan ab accolis haec tellus appellatur. “Then they cross over to other lands, and reach a land neighboring Yucatan to the west. They are uncertain if it is an island, or not; they think it is attached to the continent. … This country is called Colluacan or Oloan by its neighbors.”

Calluacã is derived from Cōlhuahcān. The first a is a typo; the word occurs several times again in Latinized form as Colluacanæ, showing that o was intended. Strictly speaking this isn’t actually Nahuatl, but is (presumably) a Yucatec Mayan loanword from Nahuatl.

Culhuacan was the name of a state in the Valley of Mexico near Tenochtitlan, and it’s supposed to have been somewhat ancient and once very important. It still exists in some form, although it was apparently annexed by Iztapalapa at some point prior to 1824. In Mayan languages its name was apparently used it to refer to a much larger region, and that’s the sense that was passed on to the Spaniards. It occurs in the Annals of the Kaqchikels as <Culuvacan>.

Page 30: Dum Alaminus et Franciscus Montegius haec secreta investigarent a rege Provinciae, qui Multoxumam dicitur, per unum ex eius proceribus praedicto imperantem oppido, nomine Quintalbitor, multis pretiosis, mirisque … donantur. “When Alaminos and Francisco de Montejo would have been investigating these secrets, from the king of the Province, who is called Multoxumam, through one of his vassals who rules a previously mentioned town, named Quintalbitor, our men received many precious and wonderful gifts…”

Multoxumam represents Motēuczōma, modified to resemble Latin multus “many”, similar to how the more widespread variant Montezuma was made to resemble Spanish monte “mountain”. Quintalbitor represents Cuitlalpitoc, likewise modified based on Latin quintus “fifth”. Among other sources, Cuitlalpitoc is mentioned by name in Book 12, Chapter 2 of the Florentine Codex, and the gifts are listed in detail in the Letter of the Regimiento of Vera Cruz.

Page 34: Mensem autem a luna nominant Tona, cum menses signare intendunt, tonas inquiunt, lunam eorum lingua tona dicunt, Dies autem a sole, unde tot soles, tot dies: Eorum idiomate sol Tonaticus dicitur[.] “Also they call a month Tona after the moon. When they intended to signify “months”, they say tonas. In their tongue they call the moon tona. Likewise a day after the sun; thus so many suns, so many days. In their language the sun is called Tonaticus.”

Here we have not just names, but words actually being quoted as examples of Nahuatl with glosses, suggesting that even at this point some Spaniards had started to learn the language. Tona is claimed to be the Nahuatl word for “moon” and “month”, but the actual word is mētztli. Possibly it represents tōnalli “heat of the sun; day sign”, and they got confused between words for “month” and words for “day”. Tonaticus represents tōnatiuh, which only means “sun” and not “day”.

Page 35: A villa Ricca, id est nova colonia, distat miliaria novem oppidum domorum quindecim millium, veteri incolarum nomine Cempoal, novo Sibylla[.] “Nine miles from Villa Rica [de la Vera Cruz], that is, the new colony, there is a town of fifteen thousand houses, formerly called Cempoal by its inhabitants, now Seville.”

Cempoal represents Cempōhuallān. I don’t know much about it beyond that it was the name of a place, now an archaeological site.


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