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Encyclopedia > Nahuatl dialects

Nahuatl dialects and and dialect groupings

The Uto Aztecan Nahuatl language can be grouped into two rough dialect continua, labelled the central and the peripheral dialects. Nahuatl is a term applied to some members of the Aztecan or Nahuan sub-branch of the Uto-Aztecan language family. ...

The first attempt to classify the Nahuan dialects was made by Juan Hasler classifying on the basis of a sole feature namely the variance of the phoneme which in Classical Nahuatl and many other dialects is /tł/ in some southern dialects is /t/ and in a some northern dialects /l/. He assumed that since the /tł/ had been shown by Benjamin Lee Whorf to be derived from proto Uto-Aztecan */ta/ that the group of /t/ dialects were conservative and the /tł/ and /l/ dialects more innovative. This claim was shown to be false, when it was establish that the t-dialects had also undergone the */ta/>/tł/ change and had later changed it back to /t/ in some positions. Haslers "tetradialectology" was discredited because it, made mistaken assumptions, rested on dubious materials and was based on one sole trait which did not prove useful to establishing isoglosses.

In her article "Nahuatl dialectology: A survey and some suggestions". (IJAL 54.1. 28-72.) Una Canger summarised research in Nahuatl Dialectology and suggests some diagnostic traits serving to establish to dialect contiua a central and a peripheral one peripheral. Her suggested classification was supported by the enormous dialectological survey conducted by Yolanda Lastra de Suaréz published as "Las Areas Dialectales Del Nahuatl Moderno" She proposes to subdivide the Peripheral dialects into an eastern, western and a La Huasteca area. Her classification stands as the most accepted to this day.

The central area is the valley of Mexico where the aztec empire was founded and where it expanded from. Classical nahuatl as it was spoken by the people of Tenochtitlan, the aztec capital was one of the central dialects, as are the dialects spoken in that area today. The central dialect area includes the dialects spoken in Morelos, Estado de Mexico, Southern Hidalgo, Northwest Puebla and Tlaxcala. The central dialects are generally considered to be innovative.

The Peripheral dialects are nahuatl dialects spoken in the areas most distant from the center of the aztec empire. There is much diversity within the peripheral dialects and various subdivisions within the periperal group have been proposed. Peripheral dialects are spoken in Durango, La Huasteca, Guerrero, Tabasco, and Vera Cruz.


  • BOAS, Franz. 1917. El dialecto mexicano de Pochutla, Oaxaca. IJAL 1. 9-44.
  • CAMPBELL, Lyle. n.d. La dialectologia pipil. Ms. : .
  • CANGER, Una and DAKIN, Karen. 1985. An inconspicuous basic split in Nahuatl. IJAL 51. 358-361.
  • CANGER, Una. 1980. Five Studies inspired by nahuatl Verbs in -oa. Travaux du Cercle Linguistique de Copenhague 19. Copenhagen:
  • CANGER, Una. 1988. Nahuatl dialectology: A survey and some suggestions. IJAL 54.1. 28-72.
  • CANGER, Una. 1988. Subgrupos de los dialectos nahuas. Smoke and Mist: Mesoamerican Studies in Memory of Thelma D. Sullivan. Ed. by J. Kathryn Josserand and Karen Dakin, eds.. 473-498. Oxford: BAR International Series 402. Part ii.
  • DAKIN, Karen and RYESKY, Diana. 1990. Morelos Nahuatl Dialects: Hypotheses on their historical divisions. Morelos en una economia global. Proceedings of the Congress in Cocoyoc, Morelos, November 19023, 1989. Submitted in January, 1990.
  • DAKIN, Karen, and SULLIVAN, Thelma D. 1980. Dialectologia del nahuatl de los siglos XVI y XVI. Rutas de intercambio en Moseamerica y el Norte de Mexico, XVI Round Table, Saltillo, September 9-15, 1979. V. II. 291-297.
  • DAKIN, Karen. 1974. Dialectologia nahuatl de Morelos: Un estudio preliminar. Estudios de cultura nahuatl 11. 227-234.
  • HASLER, Juan. 1961. Tetradialectologia nahua. A William Cameron Townsend en el Vigesimoquinto Aniversario del Instituto Linguistico de Verano. 455-464. Mexico: Instituto Linguistico de Verano.
  • HASLER, Juan. 1975. Los dialectos de la lengua nahua. America Indigena 35. 170-188. : .
  • HASLER, Juan. 1955. Los cuatro dialectos de la lengua nahua. Revista mexicana de estudios antropologicos xiv, 1a parte. 149-152.
  • LASTRA DE SUAREZ, Yolanda. 1979. Nahuatl dialect areas. Presentation to the Friends of Uto-Aztecan Working Conference, Instituto de Investigaciones Antropologicas, June 22, Mexico
  • LASTRA DE SUAREZ, Yolanda. 1981. Stress in modern Nahuatl dialects. Nahuatl Studies in Memory of Fernando Horcasitas, Texas Linguistic Forum 18.1. 19-128. Austin: The University of Texas, Department of Linguistics.
  • LASTRA DE SUAREZ, Yolanda. 1986. Las areas dialectales del nahuat moderno. Mexico: Instituto de Investigaciones Antropological, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico.
  • WHORF, Benjamin L. 1937. The origin of Aztec tl. American Anthropologist 39. 265-274.

Nahuatl Dialects Recognised by SIL

Sierra Puebla Nahuatl Guerrero Nahuatl Este Huasteca Nahuatl Istmo-Mecayapan Nahuatl Coatepec Nahuatl Puebla Norte Nahuatl Classical Nahuatl Michoacan Nahuatl Puebla Central Nahuatl Tabasco Nahuatl Tetelcingo Nahuatl Tenango Nahuatl Tlalitzlipa Nahuatl Istmo-Cosoleacaque Nahuatl Morelos Nahuatl Central Nahuatl Istmo-Pajapan Nahuatl Huaxcaleca Nahuatl Pipil Puebla Sureste Nahuatl Ometepec Nahuatl Temascaltepec Nahuatl Huasteco Nahuatl Ixhuatlancillo Nahuatl Oaxaca Norte Nahuatl Santa Maria la Alta Nahuatl Durango Nahuatl Orizaba Nahuatl Tlamacazapa Nahuatl hello how are you This page is a candidate for speedy deletion. ... The Pipil are a loose confederation of Nahuatl speaking indigenous people, known for prehistoric migrations, that currently live in El Salvador. ... The Huastec, also rendered as Huaxtec and Huastecos, are an indigenous people of Mexico, historically based in the Mexican states of Hidalgo, Veracruz, San Luis Potosí and Tamaulipas concentrated along the route of the Panuco river and along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. ...

List I. Nahuan subgroup members, sorted by number of speakers: (name [ethnologue subgroup code] – location(s) ~approx. number of speakers)

  • Huasteca Este [NAI] – Hidalgo, Western Veracruz, Northern Puebla ~450,000
  • Huasteca Oeste [NHQ] – San Luis Potosí, Western Hidalgo ~450,000
  • Guerrero [NAH] – Guerrero ~200,000
  • Orizaba [NLV] – Central Veracruz ~140,000
  • Puebla Sureste [NHS] – Southeast Puebla ~135,000
  • Puebla Sierra[AZZ] – Puebla Highlands ~125,000
  • Puebla Norte [NCJ] – Northern Puebla ~66,000
  • Central [NHN] – Tlaxcala, Puebla ~50,000
  • Istmo-Mecayapan [NAU] – Southern Veracruz ~20,000
  • Puebla Central [NCX] – Central Puebla ~18,000
  • Morelos [NHM] – Morelos ~15,000
  • Oaxaca Norte [NHY] – Northwestern Oaxaca, Southeastern Puebla ~10,000
  • Huaxcaleca [NHQ] – Puebla ~7,000
  • Istmo-Pajapan [NHP] – Southern Veracruz ~7,000
  • Istmo-Cosoleacaque [NHK] – Eastern Morelos, Northwestern Coastal Chiapas, Southern Veracruz ~5,500
  • Ixhuatlancillo [NHX] – Central Veracruz ~4,000
  • Tetelcingo [NHG] – Morelos ~3,500
  • Michoacán [NCL] – Michoacán ~3,000
  • Santa María de la Alta [NHZ] – Northwest Puebla ~3,000
  • Tenango [NHI] – Northern Puebla ~2,000
  • Tlamacazapa [NUZ] – Morelos ~1,500
  • Coatepec [NAZ] – Southwestern México (State), Northwestern Guerrero ~1,500
  • Durango [NLN] – Southern Durango ~1,000
  • Ometepec [NHT] – Southern Guerrero, Western Oaxaca ~500
  • Temascaltepec [AZZ] – Southwestern México (State) ~300
  • Tlalitzlipa [NHJ] – Puebla ~100
  • Pipil [PPL] – El Salvador ~100
  • Tabasco [NHC] – Tabasco

  Results from FactBites:
Nahuatl: Definition and Much More from Answers.com (3072 words)
As these groups became predominant, Nahuatl, and especially Classical Nahuatl after the ascendancy of the Aztec empire, was used as a lingua franca in much of Mesoamerica beginning from the 12th century AD until the 16th century, at which time its prominence and influence were eclipsed by the Spanish conquest of Mexico.
A range of Nahuatl dialects are currently spoken in an area stretching from the northern Mexican state of Durango to Tabasco in the south.
Nahuatl is often referred to as the Aztec language, or (especially in Spanish) as the Mexican language, because it was the language of the Mexica, i.e.
Nahuatl language, pronunciation and alphabet (324 words)
Classical Nahuatl was the language of the Aztec empire and was used as a lingua franca in much of Mesoamerica from the 7th century AD until the Spanish conquest in the 16th century.
The modern dialects of Nahuatl spoken in the Valley of Mexico are closest to Classical Nahuatl.
Nahuatl was originally written with a pictographic script which was not a full writing system but instead served as a mnemonic to remind readers of texts they had learnt orally.
  More results at FactBites »



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