Number 28

Editor’s Note: This content is archival.

Nahua Newsletter

November 1999, Number 28

The Nahua Newsletter

A Publication of the Indiana University Center for Latin American and Caribbean

Alan R. Sandstrom, Editor

With support from the Department of Anthropology

Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne


Nahua Newsletter

Welcome to the Nahua Newsletter. With this issue, we complete 14 years of publishing
in the service of students of the culture, language, and history of Nahuatl-speaking
peoples. Nahua studies are booming and we are experiencing a significant increase in
the number and sophistication of books and articles appearing on Nahua topics as well
as a generally greater awareness of the Mesoamerican culture area, both within and
outside of academia. The purpose of our newsletter is to provide a hassle-free entry
into the international world of Nahua studies and to Mesoamerican scholarship. Here you
will find news items, announcements, calls for cooperation, book reviews, and a
directory update. We continue to grow and interest remains strong in the NN. We invite
you to become a part of the exciting invisible college of researchers as they continue
to expand the frontiers of knowledge of this dynamic and interdisciplinary field of
study. Readers include social anthropologists, archaeologists, linguists,
ethnohistorians, geographers, ethnobotanists, applied anthropologists, art historians,
religious studies specialists, and even a Mayanist or two.

Once again, controversy strikes the pages of the NN as we present a
point-counterpoint debate between Jonathan Amith of Yale University and Frances
Karttunen of the Linguistics Research Center at the University of Texas, Austin.
Karttunen’s Analytical Dictionary of Nahuatl (ADN) has become a standard reference work
for Nahua scholars, and Amith takes issue with several features of the dictionary and
questions the accuracy of some translations. The role played by the ADN for Nahua
research takes the debate beyond the narrow linguistic issues that lie at the heart of
the controversy. We believe that even those who are little interested in the technical
aspects of Nahuatl linguistics will benefit from reading about these issues if for no
other reason than to be reminded to use critically even standard resources. We also
believe that readers should be allowed to judge the merits of these arguments for
themselves. The length of the text has required that we move to the February 2000 issue
book reviews by Robert Jeske and Richard Bradley, a brief article submitted by Terry
Stocker, and a communication from José Alcina Franch from Spain. We apologize to
these authors but assure them that these important items will be published in the next

As always, NN finances are precarious. The publication relies on donations from
readers and receives no financial support from institutions. Our 14-year life span is
testimony to the loyalty and generosity of our readers. Please consider sending a check
to insure continuation of your friendly news source for Nahua studies. All donations
are placed in a special account and are applied to cover printing and mailing expenses
only. There are no administrative costs in producing the NN. And continue to use the NN
to announce your publications and achievements and to call for cooperation on research
projects. Please send checks (made out to Nahua Newsletter) or any announcements

Alan R. Sandstrom, Editor

Nahua Newsletter   Department of Anthropology

Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne

2101 Coliseum Blvd. East

Fort Wayne, IN 46805 U.S.A.

If your announcement is more than a few lines long, please send the material on a
3-1/2″ diskette saved in WordPerfect or as an ASCII text file.

News Items

1. Susan Kellogg writes to announce that Dimensión Antropológica, an
anthropology journal published by INAH, invites researchers in anthropology, history,
and affiliated disciplines to contribute original articles based on recent research,
theoretical essays, research notices, and book reviews. The journal is planning
upcoming special issues on the topics of the African experience in Mexico and racism
and legal rights, but submissions on other topics are also welcome. Manuscripts must be
submitted in Spanish. For a copy of instructions for manuscript preparation, contact:
Professor Susan Kellogg, Department of History, University of Houston, Houston, TX
77204; phone: 713-743-3118; e-mail: To contact the Consejo
Editorial directly, write to: Dimensión Antropológica, Paseo de la
Reforma y Gandhi s/n, 1er piso, Delegación Miguel Hidalgo CP 11560,
México, D.F.

2. A call for cooperation: Michael Smith writes to the NN to ask if any readers have
knowledge of Aztec domestic rituals. He is writing a paper on the topic and using
information from his archaeological excavations in Morelos to illuminate this
little-known area of Mesoamerican research. He can be reached at the Department of
Anthropology, Social Science 263, SUNY Albany, Albany, NY 12222, or by e-mail at

Also from Michael Smith: “I have recently taken over as book review editor for the
journal Latin American Antiquity. One of my goals is to expand the scope of books
covered by the journal in reviews (1,000 words) and in book notes (350 words) in two
directions. First, I am looking for information on relevant books published in Mexico
(and elsewhere in Latin America) that may otherwise escape notice of all but regional
specialists. In Mexico, for example, we can get information about books from INAH,
UNAM, FCE, Siglo XXI, etc., but smaller regional presses are much more difficult to
follow. If readers of the NN have information on such books, please send titles (with
fill citations) along with information on where to obtain copies to me at: Second, Latin American Antiquity has traditionally focused on
archaeology, with little ethnohistory. The journal wants to expand its coverage of book
reviews to include more ethnohistory, art history, epigraphy, and other approaches to
the ancient cultures of Latin America. If you know of relevant books in these fields
from publishers (U.S. or other) outside of the standard Latin American archaeology
presses, please send along information on these.”

3. Frances Karttunen writes: “We have just returned from spring 1999 teaching at
Umea, Sweden and Helsinki, Finland. We followed up last year’s Intensive Nahuatl for
Europeans course at the University of Helsinki with an exhibit of amate art by Cleofas
Celestino Ramírez of Xalitla, Gro., and a series of workshops on art and
language with Cleofas, José Antonio Flores Fárfan, and myself. This
year’s project was sponsored by the Helina Rautavaara ethnographic museum, the Finnish
Fulbright Office, the Embassy of Mexico, the University of Helsinki, and the Helsinki
University of Art and Design.”

4. Alan Sandstrom announces that he has been selected by the Academia Mexicana de
Ciencias to participate in the Programa de visitas de profesores distinguidos
1999-2000. He will be the guest of the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores
en Antropología Social (CIESAS) for ten days in December. He will make
presentations on Nahua ritual, traditional curing practices, and ethnic identity, and
consult with ethnographers and students in México D.F. and San Luis

Alan Sandstrom also announces that he is First Vice President of the Central States
Anthropological Society and program chair of the 2000 meetings of the CSAS. Following
the meetings, which run from April 20-23, he will become President of the CSAS. The
CSAS meets this year at Indiana University Bloomington, in conjunction with the Society
for Economic Anthropology. Anyone interested in organizing a Nahua symposium should
contact him before the December 10, 1999, deadline for symposium proposals (see address
above, or visit Non-members of the CSAS pay a bit
more to register for the meeting ($60 vs $40; students $25 vs $15). The CSAS is very
student-friendly and a good place for sponsored graduate students to read papers.

5. Dra. Teresa Rojas Rabiela writes: “Tengo mucho interés en darle a conocer
algunos de los resultados que hemos obtenido en tres proyectos desarrollados en el
CIESAS en los últimos años, con el fin de que, de ser de su
interés, los difunda en su interesante boletín Nahua Newsletter. El
primer proyecto es el que dirigimos el Dr. Mario H. Ruz y yo, con patrocinio del CIESAS
y el Instituto Nacional Indigenista, titulado Historia de los pueblos indígenas
de México, que a la fecha ha publicado 15 libros (de 1994 a la fecha). Le estoy
enviando aquí mismo el resumen y los títulos y autores de esos libros (y
por correo aéro, el folleto). El segundo proyecto se llama Archivos Agrarios,
inició en 1997 y se ha propuesto publicar catálogos e índices de
los fondos que posee el Archivo Agrario Nacional. Ha publicado cuatro libros y este
año editará otros cinco: 1) Catecismo agrario, de Julio Cuadros Caldas;
2) Guía del Archivo General Agrario, vol. 2; 3) Guía de
restitución y dotación de tierras y de reconocimiento,
confirmación y titulación de bienes comunales; 4) Guía de terrenos
nacionales; y 5) Estudios campesinos, vol. 2. Le envío algunos boletines que
pueden ser de su interés. El tercer proyecto se relaciona con la
publicación y estudio de testamentos indígenas en náhuatl y
español del Archivo General de la Nación. La obra se titula Vidas y
bienes olvidados, y el primer tomo está próximo a salir de la imprenta.
También le envío la información resumida de dicha obra: Vidas y
bienes olvidados: Testamentos indígenas novohispanos por Teresa Rojas Rabiela,
Elsa Leticia Rea López y Constantino Medina Lima. Vidas y bienes olvidados es
una serie dirigada por Teresa Rojas Rabiela, investigadora del CIESAS, producto de
cerca de una decada de investigación, que ahora ve la luz gracias al apoyo del
CIESAS y del Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología. Esta obra pretende dar a
conocer al público en general y especializado, un amplio conjunto de documentos
y algunos estudios que nos permitten vislumbar nuevas perspectivas en el estudio de las
vidas y los bienes de los indígenas que vivieron en la época novohispana
años de profundas transformaciones.

“Los testamentos que los indígenas dictaron desde fechas tempranas del siglo
XVI, poseen una amplia gama de facetas de interés para conocer lo mismo la
naturaleza ya las relaciones familiares y sociales, que las condiciones materiales, la
economía, ya las religiosidad de aquellas personas. Son de utilidad para el
quehacer de antropólogos, lingüístas, historiadores, y demás
especialistas de las disciplinas sociales que indaguen el pasado de los pueblos
indígenas de México. Los primeros títulos de la serie son: 1.
Testamentos en castellano del siglo XVI y en náhuatl y castellano de Ocotelulco
de los siglos XVI y XVII; 2. Testamentos en náhuatl y castellano del los siglos
XVI y XVII; 3. Testamentos en náhuatl y castellano del siglo XVII; 4.
Testamentos en castellano del siglo XVII; 5. Indice de los testamentos de
indígenas del Archivo General de la nación; 6. Estudios.”

For information on obtaining these items, please contact Teresa Rojas Rabiela at
Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS),
Juárez 87, Apdo. 22 048, Tlalpan 14000, México, D.F., México. The
telephone number is 573-9066 or 573-2877, and the e-mail address is

6. Announcing a new publication: Antonio Escobar Ohmstede published Ciento cincuenta
años de historia de la huasteca. Veracruz: Instituto Veracruzana de Cultura,
1998. ISBN 968-7824-66 6. The table of Index includes: Prólogo por Angel
José Fernández; Introducción; La estructura socio-económica
en las huastecas en el siglo XVIII: El Censo Militar de 1791; La insurgencia huasteca:
Origen y desarrollo; Del gobierno indígena al Ayuntamiento Constitutional en las
huastecas hidalguense y veracruzana, 1780-1853; La conformación y las luchas por
el poder en las huastecas, 1821-1853; Los pueblos indios en las huastecas, 1750-1810:
Formas para conservar y aumentar su territorio; Los condueñazgos
indígenas en las huastecas hidalguense y veracruzana: ¿Defensa del
espacio comunal?; Siglas y referencias.

7. Peter Tschol announces several of his publications: “Inhalt und Schema eines
verlorenen Códice Matrícula de Tetzcoco nach den Lesungen
Motolinía [Index and Scheme of a Lost Códice Matrícula de Tetzcoco
according to the Readings in Motolinía] Memoriales (1971:§803 10) und
Anales de Cuauhtitlan (1938:§1342-51),” Ibero-Amerikanishces Archiv (Berlin)
22(3/4):295-363, 1996.

“Der Pochtekenbericht in Sahagúns Historia General: Zwischen altaztekischer
Wirklichkeit, Mitteilung in Tlatelolco, Sahagúnscher Redigierung und
ethnohistorischer Auslegung [The report of the Pochteca in Sahagún’s Historia
General: Between Ancient Aztec Reality, Communication in Tlatelolco, Sahaguntine
Redaction, and Ethnohistorical Interpretation],” Indiana Supplement 14. Berlin: Gebr.
Mann Verlag, 1998. ISBN 3-7861-2290-3.

Both publications contain complete data lists, tables, and diagrams allowing even
non readers of German a certain degree of understanding of the results and of use for
their own analyses. The Pochteca book furthermore gives the titles captioning the 98
units of analysis and nearly as many subunits both in German and Spanish.

8. Gordon Brotherston has notified the NN of several recent works he has published:
El Códice de Tepoztlan: Imagen de un pueblo resistente. San Francisco: Editorial
Pacífica, 1999. ISBN 1 58407-140-0.

From the back cover: “Extraviado ahora fuera de México, el Códice de
Tepoztlan fue producido para un proceso que llevaron este pueblo y Yauhtepec contra
Hernán Cortés en el año de 1551. Es un texto precioso, por la
información que proporciona sobre los antiguos habitantes de Tepoztlan y, sobre
todo, por la bella y exacta imagen que da del conjunto de los subjetos que
tenía, entre ellos, Amatlán, Santiago Tepetlapan, y Tlalnepantla. Sus
diez glifos de lugar restituyen a estos pueblos la primera versión visual de sus
nombres. Enriquece substancialmente al pequeño cuerpo de textos indígenas
que provienen de Tepoztlan, que incluye las inscripciones de la pirámide
además de obras en nahuatl como la epopeya de Tepoztecatl y el drama El Reto o
Eecaliztli. Esta edición tiene láminas a color, un comentario detallado y
comparaciones con textos del ciclo del Tepoztecatl.”

Footprints Through Time: Mexican Pictorial Manuscripts at the Lilly Library, Indiana
University, Bloomington, by Gordon Brotherston. Bloomington: Lilly Library, 1997. ISBN
1 879598-22-1.

From the preface: “The corpus of 16th-century Mexican maps housed in the Lilly
Library of Indiana University, Bloomington, is small yet eloquent of its place and time
of origin. Extending across New Spain from what is now southern Veracruz in the east to
the Pacific Coast of Colima in the west, these maps serve as successive windows on to
terrain and landscapes long inhabited by native peoples, showing their ways of life and
thought in graphic detail. They also report on the confrontation with the European
invaders who followed Hernán Cortés into Mexico, hungry for metals,
pasture, wealth and power. In formal terms, they have much to teach about the interface
between native and imported (European) traditions of law, literacy and cartography.
Footprints Through Time reproduces and fully describes each one of these maps, ten in
all, along with a curious illustrated manuscript in Nahuatl from the same collection,
the Cuitlahuac Annals composed in 1864 by Faustino Galicia Chimalpopoca.”

Gordon Brotherston also has edited a special issue of the Indiana Journal of
Hispanic Literatures (No. 13, Fall 1998) entitled “Mexican Codices and Archaeology.”
The issue contains seventeen articles, many by well-known scholars, on a number of
topics relating to Mesoamerican ethnohistory.

Anyone interested in obtaining copies of these works should contact Brotherston at
the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana
47405 U.S.A.

9. From the University of Illinois, the editor has been notified of the the
following publications of interest to NN readers:

Gillespie, Susan D. 1999. “Olmec Thrones as Ancestral Altars: The Two Sides of
Power.” In Material Symbols: Culture and Economy in Prehistory. John E. Robb, ed.
Center for Archaeological Investigations, Occasional Paper No. 26. Southern Illinois
University. ISBN 0-88104-083-5. __________, and Rosemary A. Joyce. 1998. “Deity
Relationships in Mesoamerican Cosmologies: The Case of the Maya God L.” Ancient
Mesoamerica 9:279-96. Grove, David C. 1999. “Public Monuments and Sacred Mountains:
Observations on Three Formative Period Sacred Landscapes.” In Social Patterns in
Pre-Classic Mesoamerica: A Symposium at Dumbarton Oaks 9 -10 October 1993. David C.
Grove and Rosemary A. Joyce, eds. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and
Collection. Pp. viii+335. ISBN 0884022528.

10. Marie-Jose Vabre writes to announce that she has completed her doctorate in
Toulouse (France) on the 17th of December 1998. The director of the thesis was Monsieur
le Professeur Baudot and the jury includes in addition to Professor Baudot: Dr.
Jacqueline de Durand-Forest (Directrice de Recherche au CNRS-Paris), Dr. Patrick
Johansson (Professor, Investigador, Instituto de Investigaciones Historicas,
Universidad de Mexico-UNAM), Dr. Placer Marey-Thibon (Maitre de Conferences a la
Université de Toulouse-Le Mirail II), and Dr. Rodolfo de Roux (Professeur a l
Université de Toulouse-Le Mirail II).

The title of the thesis is “The Nahua Narrative Stories of History in the XVI and
XVII Centuries. Cristobal del Castillo: Life and Works. Analysis of Huitzilopochtli’s
Description.” In summary: “The thesis is a precise assessment of our knowledge about
Cristobal del Castillo’s biography: Was he mestizo or Indian? What was his ethnic
identity? What were the prehispanic and European influences on his intellectual
formation? What were the sources used by this author? The first part constitutes the
elaboration of two summary tables about the chronicler’s work, and illuminates the
similarity of this work with other sources.

“Part Two is dedicated to the paleography of the Nahuatl text and the French
translation of the first part of the work about the Mexica migration. The translation
is accompanied by detailed critical commentary related to linguistic and stylistical
choices made by Cristóbal del Castillo. The paleography, translation, and notes
are printed on facing pages.

“Part Three undertakes the description and analysis of Huitzilopochtli, the central
personage of Cristobal del Castillo’s narration. The study of the 15 different names
attributed to the Mexica tutelary god serves as the foundation for the overall
comprehension of the divinity: Tlacatecolotl, Tetzauhteotl, Tlachiuhqui, etc. The
etymology of the name of Huitzilopochtli and the tlaquimilloli are mentioned. A new
interpretation of the relationship between Huitzilopochtli and Tetzauhteotl is
proposed. Huitzilopochtli’s theomorphosis, who becomes the Tetzauhteotl ixiptla, is
interpreted as an initiatory journey. Analysis of the symbiosis of Tetzauhteotl
Huitzilopochtli and of the man-god’s divine transformation leads to the hypothesis that
Cristobal del Castillo’s narration contains a new version of the Fifth Sun myth. The
identification of Tetzauhteotl’s essential aspects allows us to assert that he presents
characteristics of an aquatic divinity. In this narration, Huitzilopochtli appears with
aquatic characteristics before his transformation into a solar and warrior god. The
Nahuatl text’s critical paleography is printed facing the manuscript facsimile.”

11. Jonathan Amith send this information about the Nahuatl Summer Language Institute
at Yale University next summer: “The Nahuatl Summer Language Institute at Yale
University is part of a comprehensive project to provide learning and research tools in
this language and to bring together experts in the field of Nahuatl language and
culture. In addition to discussing the institute’s accomplishments to date and its
plans for the immediate future, this short report will hopefully encourage scholars who
have worked on Nahuatl to contact the institute and perhaps participate in its

“One of the primary goals of the Nahuatl Institute, now in its third year, is to
create a learning environment that will meet the needs of a wide range of students –
including historians, art historians, anthropologists, linguists, and heritage language
speakers. Thus the basic text for the course – a reference/pedagogical grammar and
lexicon of the modern dialect spoken in Ameyaltepec, Guerrero – is organized to
facilitate comparison with colonial Nahuatl and to provide a basic understanding of
Nahuatl morphology and syntax that will be of utility to those studying any variant of
Nahuatl. Besides receiving intensive instruction in modern Nahuatl (15 hours/week for 8
weeks), students have attended lectures, workshops, and one-week supplementary seminars
by leading Nahuatl scholars from a variety of disciplines. For example, the first
institute (Summer 1998) included an intensive eight-week course by Jonathan Amith and
three one-week seminars by Michel Launey (University of Paris, VII), Una Canger
(University of Copenhagen), and Karen Dakin (UNAM). The second institute was co-taught
by Amith and Canger and again included a one-week seminar by Launey, probably the
leading authority on Classical Nahuatl. Over these same two years, Rolena Adorno (Yale
University), Louise Burkhart (SUNY, Albany), John Justeson (SUNY, Albany), Dana
Leibsohn (Smith College), Mary Miller (Yale University), and Susan Schroeder (Tulane
University) have offered lectures or conducted workshops.

“Given the interest shown during the first two institutes (nine students in 1998 and
13 in 1999), the third institute will offer during the summer of 2000 an intensive
second-year intermediate level of instruction for a five-week period. Instruction will
be provided by three leading experts in Nahuatl: Launey, James Lockhart (University of
California, Los Angeles), and Luis Reyes (CIESAS, México, D.F.). The basic
course, to run concurrently, will again by taught by Amith, along with Florencia
Marcelino and Inocencio Jiménez, native speakers from San Agustín Oapan.
Guest lectures and workshops for this introductory course will be offered by the
instructors for the second level and by Louise Burkhart (SUNY, Albany), Michael Coe
(Yale University), Willard Gingerich (St. John’s University), John Justeson (SUNY,
Albany), and Alan Sandstrom (Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne).

“Another goal of the Nahuatl institute is to develop a set of research and
pedagogical tools. Mark Liberman and Steven Bird of the Linguistic Data Consortium at
the University of Pennsylvania have provided invaluable assistance in developing a
prototype search engine for a Web-based Nahuatl lexicon of Ameyaltepec (at
http://www.ldc.upenn/hyperlex) that will eventually comprise over 10,000 entries
(Nahuatl to Spanish and English). It will be linked to an electronic version of the
reference/pedagogical grammar in an effort to solve a major problem for instructional
material in less commonly taught languages, namely how to provide the grammatical and
pedagogical context for a dictionary while furnishing the appropriate lexical base for
students to implement the language skills they learn through a grammar. Interactive
exercises will accompany each lesson, offering the possibility of learning Nahuatl at a
distance (a preliminary version of this effort can be viewed at The U.S. Department of Education, through its
International Research and Studies Program, has granted two years of support to develop
these materials for classroom and research use as part of a Nahuatl Learning
Environment that will include a lexicon, grammar, exercises, drawings and photographs,
and sound files. Additional support for the Nahuatl Summer Language Institute and the
Nahuatl Learning Environment has been provided by Yale University, the Latin American
Studies Consortium of New England, and the University of Chicago Center for Latin
American Studies through funding from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the
U.S. Department of Education.

“For more information, including application materials to attend either level of
instruction during the summer of 2000, please contact the coordinator of the institute
at or visit the institute Web site at Scholars who have worked on Nahuatl and wish to discuss
their possible participation in future institutes or in jointly developing resource
materials for research on and teaching of Nahuatl are cordially invited to contact the
Nahuatl Summer Language Institute at Yale University.”

Book Reviews

Religions of Mesoamerica: Cosmovision and Ceremonial Centers. By David Carrasco. Religious Traditions of the World Series, H. Byron Earhart, ed. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1990. Pp. xxvii+174. $12.00 (paper). ISBN 0-06 061325-4 (paper).

This work attempts to fill an important void in the area of cross-cultural theology.
Its importance lies primarily in two things: first, it is part of a series edited by H.
Byron Earhart called the “Religious Traditions of the World”; and second, it is an
excellent summation of the general religious beliefs and practices associated with the
Mesoamerican culture area. However, just as every rose has its thorns, so, too, does
this volume have its failures. In fact, I believe that it is ironic that the volume
basically falls prey to the very same critique that underlies its main objective – that
is, to clarify and correct the European “inventions and fantasies” (p. 2) about the
religions of Mesoamerica.

Carrasco’s volume in this series is meant to be “introductory, providing interested
readers with an overall interpretation of religious traditions without presupposing
prior knowledge” (p. ix). The goal of the series itself is to present individual
religious traditions in a common format that describes each distinctive tradition in
terms of the same unified model thus allowing for cross-cultural comparison (p. ix).
Nomothetic studies such as these are essential for the eventual development of a
science of religion as well as a clearer understanding of some of the important points
of comparison in the field of cross-cultural theology.

The contribution by Carrasco aims to enlighten the general reader about the great
religious traditions of ancient Mesoamerica. The subtitle of Carrasco’s book
(“Cosmovision and Ceremonial Centers”) holds the key to the volume. As Carrasco
explains: “The controlling idea for the entire study is that the ceremonial precincts
of Mesoamerica were the centers and theaters for the acting out of religious and social
life” (p. xviii). In addition, Carrasco elucidates Mesoamerican religions using
cosmovision as a critical concept. He defines “cosmovision” as “the ways in which
Mesoamericans combined their cosmological notions relating to time and space into a
structured and systematic world view” (p. xix, emphasis in original).

Carrasco dramatically opens his book by describing an ironic incident that occurred
in 1510 when a Spanish reconnaissance expedition from Cuba encountered a few Maya
Indians on a beach. When the Spanish sailors called out, “What is this place called?”
the surprised Maya natives replied with a reasonable response under the circumstances:
“Uic athan,”or, according to Carrasco, “We don’t understand your language.” The
Spaniards heard this response as “Yucatán,” the name they then applied to the
region (p. 1). And so began 400 long years of miscommunication, misappropriation, and
misrepresentation between the Europeans and inhabitants of the New World.

It is Carrasco’s stated goal to correct this situation. However, this incident of
initial contact described by Carrasco is itself something of a misrepresentation.
Carrasco cites as the source for this story The Conquest of America by Tzvetan Todorov
(1982:4). The problems here are: first, Todorov is a secondary source and he doesn’t
cite any original source for this incident; second, the story is not found on p. 4 of
Todorov’s book as Carrasco indicates but on pp. 98-99; and third, Carrasco actually
misquotes the original Maya text. As described by Todorov (1982:99), the Maya Indians
replied “Ma c’ubah than” to the Spanish inquiry, and not “Uic athan” as stated by
Carrasco. Opening his treatise with such poorly researched information and then
misquoting it serves to exacerbate rather than correct misconceptions about the native
people of the New World. It also causes the reader to lose confidence in the
scholarship behind the entire work.

The remainder of Chapter One is a review of the various stereotypes, imaginative
inventions, and fantasies that Europeans concocted to describe the people and places of
the New World. From the Eternal Fountain of Youth to the fabled Seven Enchanted Cities
of Gold, El Dorado, the Garden of Eden, and the Fabulous Buried Treasures of Aztec
Emperors, the European dreams and myths of many centuries past came to rest on the
unknown shores of this “brave new world,” as William Shakespeare called the newly
discovered continent in The Tempest (Act 5, Scene 1).

Generally, Europeans saw in the native peoples of the New World either the “Noble
Savage” of Jean Jacques Rousseau, or what Thomas Hobbes called the “Wild Men of
Nature.” From the original discovery of the New World in 1492 until 1550, European
scholars, intellectuals and theologians debated what to do about the native cultures of
North and South America. Finally, the Holy Roman Emperor Carlos V convened a Great
Council at Valladolid in 1550 to consider the issue. However, as Europeans debated the
issue in the comfort of the Royal Library, peoples of the New World cultures were
enslaved, oppressed, and eliminated in the most cruel and inhumane fashion. Despite
edicts from Queen Isabella, and Royal Edicts and Laws issued by the Spanish Crown in
1530 and 1542, or even a holy Papal Bull by Pope Paul III in 1537, the mistreatment of
the Indians continued. The Great Council of 1550 officially closed the issue by
declaring the New World inhabitants to be true men and thus deserving of humane
treatment. While this may have formally ended the philosophical debate, it did not stop
the brutal and dehumanizing cruelty associated with the colonial period.

Chapter One also outlines the basic theoretical approach that Carrasco hopes to
adopt in his treatment of the religions of Mesoamerica. Brushing aside other approaches
such as the cultural materialism of anthropologist Marvin Harris, Carrasco prefers to
develop his own idiosyncratic approach, which he calls the “ensemble approach.” This
approach admits evidence from four separate sources: first, archaeological excavations;
second, literary testimony (European eye-witness accounts); third, pictorial
manuscripts (native accounts); and fourth, contemporary ethnographic fieldwork

While the approach may seem eminently reasonable, it is a point of wonder to this
reviewer that the author sacrifices the powerful explanatory model of Marvin Harris’
cultural materialism for the eclectic, non-explanatory strategy represented by the
ensemble approach. Carrasco’s phenomenological explanations obfuscate rather than
clarify such issues as the cause of the widespread Mesoamerican practice of human
sacrifice. The opening chapter also introduces Carrasco’s characterization of
Mesoamerican religions as being basically concerned with three themes: world making,
world centering, and world renewing.

Chapter Two introduces the reader to some of the theological beliefs and ritual
practices associated with the Mesoamerican religious pattern. The chapter also gives a
succinct historical overview of their development and regional diversity. Mesoamerican
ritual practices and ideas such as the sacred ball game, the plumed serpent, the royal
jaguar, and cosmic conflagration are presented and discussed. Chapter Three also
focuses upon the career of the legendary historical mythological culture hero known as
Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, the quintessential Mesoamerican holy man. Through his
discussion of Topiltzin’s career, the reader is introduced to various essential
theological ideas in the Mesoamerican cosmovision. Various myths, rituals, and sacred
ceremonial precincts are discussed in order to illuminate Aztec religious concepts and
general Mesoamerican world view. Carrasco ends this chapter by making reference to the
Mesoamerican idea that the ideal person is well spoken, eloquent, and fluent in various
poetic styles of expression. Like the ancient Greeks, Mesoamericans adored flowery
speeches and elaborate public oratory.

Chapter Two concludes with an extensive consideration of the controversial subject
of human sacrifice in Mesoamerica. Carrasco focuses his discussion upon two spectacular
sacrificial rites; the New Fire ceremony; and the Toxcatl or major festival in honor of
the Lord of the Smoking Mirror, Tezcatlipoca. These remarkable ceremonies are described
in great detail. We are told that Aztec priests started fires on the chests of living
victims in the middle of the night, while other volunteers offered their blood by
puncturing their tongues, ears, and flesh. Everyday, high atop the pyramids, human
hearts were ripped from victims’ living bodies by priests awash in dirt and filth. The
corpses were then thrown down the steps of the pyramid and eaten by the congregation
gathered below.

According to Carrasco, Mesoamerican religions were rife with incidents of
cannibalism, live flaying, decapitation, and hideous tortures. All these activities
were carried out in the name of religious worship. Aztec philosophy and religion, it
seems, was perverse in relation to most other great religious traditions of the world.
To the average reader, Aztec religion would seem to consist of extraordinarily cruel
rituals that lacked any universal elevating principles.

By way of explaining Aztec religious cruelty, Carrasco concludes that what we are
seeing here is “the Aztec conception of the perfect life and ideal death of the warrior
displayed… in public” (p. 91). It was at this point that this reviewer wondered why
Carrasco chose his so-called “ensemble approach” over Marvin Harris’ cultural
materialism. Carrasco simply brushes aside any hope of explanation and offers us a
phenomenological description in its place. Simply put, “They did this because it was
part of their culture.” In fact, Carrasco creates a picture of Aztec culture that
leaves the average reader wondering about the weird customs of these strange members of
the human race. How could such behavior be explained or made understandable? If we
follow Carrasco we are no better off than the 16th-century debaters who tried to
explain New World natives as either noble savages or cruel wild men. Carrasco would
have us believe that human sacrifice was the result of a cosmovision gone mad,
idealizing cruelty and unspeakable savagery. In other words, Carrasco’s explanation
reaffirms the view that he condemns in the Spanish conquistadores and royal theologians
of the 16th century.

One benefit of cultural materialism (and one that Carrasco consistently overlooks)
is that it can provide explanations for human behavior that do not depend on
ethnocentric and condescending concepts such as the noble savage, or wild men of
nature, or even the emic rationalizations of the Aztecs themselves. After reading
Carrasco, there can only be one explanation for the religious cruelty of Aztec human
sacrifice and that is that it was perpetrated by savages who are isolated from the
moral concerns of other human beings.

In Chapter Four, Carrasco turns from the Aztec religion of the central plateau to
that of the Maya of southern Mexico. As opposed to the Aztec focus upon the “cult of
the warrior,” the Maya focused their religious tradition on the “blood of kings.” Maya
religion centered around the careers of royal rulers and their family lineages. The
concept of the “flowering sacred tree of life” also provided a cultural focus for Maya
religious tradition. More centered on agriculture than warfare, the Maya had their own
expression of the meaning of life. And this meaning was based upon the importance of
the sacred ball game, the underworld or Xibalba, and the controlling influence of time
as expressed in the sacred and secular calendric cycles.

The last chapter attempts to summarize the continuities, innovations, and
imaginative religious responses utilized by various native cultures to deal with
Spanish colonial rule. The Spanish overlords outlawed most of the traditional beliefs,
foods, behaviors, and rituals of the native population. The emergence of mestizo
cultures and religious syncretism produced both the folk and urban fabric of modern
Mexican life. Various contemporary ethnographic examples of these pre-Hispanic themes
and rituals are described: the Huichol peyote hunt, a Tlaxcalan Day of the Dead, and
the national patriotic cults of the Virgin of Guadalupe or Santiago. One can say that
in the end, the Aztecs eventually won. Their culture survived, rebounded, and adjusted
to the colonial world of cultural oppression to produce some of modern Mexico’s most
fascinating conceptions, beliefs and rituals.

Too often examinations of the great world’s religions downplay, or even ignore, the
great religious traditions of the New World. General surveys of the world’s religions
often fail to mention the New World or do so as an afterthought in an appendix. I feel
this is partially the fault of the New World scholars themselves. They seem to live in
the pre-Columbian hermetically sealed cocoon that enveloped the subject of their
concerns. Taboo is the question of comparative interregional influence or transoceanic
contact. A vacuum – then and now – separates the New World from the rest of the world,
first by oceanic waters and now by intellectual bias. Sometimes the cited reason is the
archaeological nature of the data used to reconstruct the great religions of the New
World. But this objection can be brushed aside by noting that the same is true about
our understanding of the religions of ancient Egypt, Babylon, Sumer and, for that
matter, even early Christianity. As ways were devised to overcome this problem in the
Old World, so, too, can they be applied to the great religions of Mesoamerica. Despite
its flaws, Carrasco’s book is an admirable example of the attempt to bring the
religions of Mesoamerica to the attention of international scholars and

One of the reasons that New World intellectual achievements are given short shrift
is that the scholarship on these issues has been regionally limited. A second reason is
that the presentation of New World religions has been hampered by the esoteric and
idiosyncratic linguistic terminology used by the experts and scholars who work in this
area. Much like the Dead Sea Scrolls, the major scholars in this area have failed to be
nomothetic in their perspective and thus have become, like the Biblical scholars
mentioned above, functionally autonomous with regard to their findings. Researchers in
Mesoamerica do not speak with researchers from South America and neither talks to
anyone interested in research in the North American culture areas. And few attempt to
bring their research to the world forum of great religious traditions. Scholars working
in isolation rarely see the forest for the trees. That is why this series and this
volume are important.

The book contains an excellent “Chronology of Mesoamerican Religions” (pp.
xxi-xxvii) that will be useful to all interested in Mesoamerican early history. The
glossary is also very useful, although some of the definitions in the glossary differ
from those given in the book (e.g., compare “cosmovision” defined on p. xix and p.
166). Some concepts are defined in the text but not included in the glossary (e.g.,
Mesoamerica), or appear extensively in the text but only defined in the glossary (e.g.,
compare “syncretism” on p. xx and p. 169). An Index would be most helpful for the
average reader attempting to keep a clear picture of the names and places described in
the text. Also, the book should contain more maps of Mesoamerica, especially in a
volume that claims place and space as important to an understanding of Mesoamerican

Another shortcoming alluded to earlier is the lack of adequate citations for
statements that are still considered open to alternative explanation (for example, see
p. 100) or points that are considered contestable or in need of further substantiation
(pp. 10, 11, 14, 28, 29). Also, the confusing etymologies of Nahuatl and Maya words
could be made easier and more useful with a pronunciation guide in the glossary. It is
also confusing to the average reader to use an unusual dating scheme such as B.C.E. and
C.E. without elaborating upon the importance of its relationship to most other dating
schemes used by other professionals in this area of research. This practice serves only
to confuse rather than clarify the events described in the text.

Scholars working in isolation are perhaps better than no scholars working at all but
both are less desirable than those scholars who aim to broadcast their findings and
have them included in the world bank of information on the achievements of the peoples
of the globe. Each culture must be seen as part of the world community of cultures and
not as an aberrant concoction of weird and savage customs practiced by a benighted,
superstitious people who seem to be held captive by their demonic, calendar-obsessed,
blood-thirsty and cannibalistic priest-kings.

Historically, the New World became in the eyes of European scholars an
incomprehensible backwater of weird customs, bizarre ideas, and cruel cultures.
Subsequent scholarship by people like Marvin Harris managed to rectify much of this
ethnocentrism. It is ironic that Carrasco’s attempt to bring the religious traditions
of Mesoamerica to the serious consideration of the modern world suffers from the fact
that it makes Mesoamerican religions seem like exotic expressions of a strange
cosmovision that used religion to lead people to moral squalor rather than moral
grandeur like the other great world religions. This situation has been at the core of
the interface between the cultures of the Old World and those of the New World since
their first meeting.

Unlike Carrasco, whose undocumented story at the book’s opening reports irony in the
initial contact between Spanish sailors and Maya natives, I would highlight the more
significant moment that occurred much earlier with the arrival of Christopher Columbus
in the New World. After walking ashore in 1492 and planting the royal standard of his
Spanish patron, Christopher Columbus did not ask the locals for directions but rather
proclaimed in Spanish, “In the name of God and Her Majesty Queen Isabella, I take
possession of these lands.” Quite a greeting to the native folks already on shore, but
it embodied the philosophy that would underlie all future interactions. Because the
native audience did not speak Spanish, the importance of the occasion was probably lost
on them. Not for long, however, for within a few generations most of the Mesoamerican
Indians were dead due to wounds, germs, or mistreatment. Those that remained excelled
in adapting to what must have seemed to them to be a world gone mad. Their gods had
deserted them, their rulers were dead, and their way of life condemned as backward,
primitive, and benighted. While Carrasco attempts to explain their world, he offers no
insight as to why they developed their particular cosmovision nor what elevated aspects
it had to contribute to a comprehensive picture of cross-cultural religious

Paul Jean Provost
Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne

De zon en de arend: Duizend jaar Azteekse vertelkunst [The Sun and the Eagle: A Thousand Years of Aztec Story-Telling].
Translated, edited, and introduced by Rudolf van Zantwijk. Amsterdam: Prometheus, 1996. Pp. 281. ISBN 90-5333-477-7.

According to the Preface (p. 11), this fine anthology of Aztec short stories
translated directly from Nahuatl into Dutch is the companion volume to an earlier book
on Aztec poetry called Zegevierend met de zon [Victorious with the Sun] (Prometheus,
1994). Rudolf van Zantwijk is Professor of Anthropology at Utrecht University,
specializing in the field of the Indian peoples of Latin America. He not only
translated the stories, but also wrote short introductions to each story interspersed
with reflections on Aztec culture, religion, and literature in general. Thus, the book
is aimed at a broad audience of readers who are interested in the Aztecs, their world
view and customs, and their highly original literature, or intended for those who have
a general interest in world literature.

The almost forty stories are generally a good read and often highly entertaining.
This is of course a compliment to the translator, who caught the mood of the stories
well in modern Dutch (although some terms and expressions seemed somewhat archaic). In
the introduction to the stories, van Zantwijk often makes critical remarks on other
secondary literature regarding Aztec storytelling, culture, or religion. A few times he
actually corrects other Dutch translations of the same story, pointing out
mistranslations and erroneous interpretations. Hence, De zon en de arend has a
remarkably long references-cited section for a commercial edition.

The volume has a very clear structure, consisting of seven main sections: creation
myths and divinities, sorcerers, heroic legends, tales of the past, erotic stories,
fables and fairy tales, and stories of nostalgia and nativism. Each section contains
four to eight tales. The oldest are precolonial, supposedly going back as far as the
10th century, but there are also a few modern stories. These are of course much easier
to read; see, for instance, “De Honingvogels [The Honey Birds],” pp. 138-41). But the
modern stories lack the idiosyncratic Aztec world view that holds a romantic
fascination for many readers. Van Zantwijk occasionally appears a bit the romantic
himself, making no secret of his vast knowledge of and great admiration for ancient
Germanic, Celtic, and Norse legends. The Edda especially is mentioned repeatedly. Van
Zantwijk’s erudition enables him to point out the similar themes and even situations
among geographically far-removed ancient peoples.

I am no expert on Aztec history or culture. Frankly, the first association that came
to mind was reading as an undergraduate student Marvin Harris’ catchy phrase, “Aztec
cannibalism was the highest form of communion for the eaters but not the eaten”
(Cultural Materialism, 1979). However, De zon en de arend opened my mind to a whole new
assessment of Aztec culture. Some of the stories are quite bizarre both in the names of
the main characters and in the events described, which could make great New York Post
headlines: Seven-Colored Horse Saves Woman from Blood-Sucking Frog (pp. 87-88), or
Witch Girl Steals Young Man’s Penis (pp. 206-207). Van Zantwijk does a good job
explaining names, religious practices, complex symbols, and the ever-present Aztec
calendar. Still this reader felt there were always many meanings that escaped him or
simply left him in the frustrating feeling of scratching only the surface of the

I will exercise restraint by quoting from only one story, the seventh in the
sorcerers’ section, called “The Wrath of Huitzilopochtli.” Like a classic origin myth,
the story chronicles the migration of the Aztecs from Aztlan to the Valley of
“Mexihco.” During the trek, Huitzilopochtli changes their name from “Aztecah” into
“Mexitin.” The deity indicates where they should erect the twin cities of
Mexihco-Tenochtitlan and Mexhico-Tlatelolco. Then he gives them bows and arrows, and
nets to catch birds. Huitzilopochtli then instructs the Aztec sovereign
Chalchiuhtlatonac (Shining Jade) on the selection of the leaders of temples and
soldiers: “But they should be the bravest and strongest of the Mexitin! May it come to
pass like this, for more than anyone they shall have countless many subjects. After
all, that is why we march ahead! We are going to settle us, we are going to occupy
lands, and we are going to subjugate the subjects who are living in the great big
world…. I am not going to send you to any particular place, for you will be
sovereigns and princes in all regions, all over the whole wide world” (pp. 102-103,
translation mine). Another story I particularly liked was called “Tamacazti”
(“Counselor,” pp. 237-51), which has a fascinating riddle contest with a macabre

This fine and entertaining volume deserves a big reading public in the Netherlands
and Belgium. It should appeal especially to specialists and students on ancient
literature, mythology, history, sociology, anthropology, and the Indian peoples of the

Henri Gooren
Utrecht University and Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO)

Teotihuacan: An Experiment in Living. By Esther Pasztory. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997. Pp. xxii+282. $49.95 (cloth). ISBN 0-8061-2847-X (cloth).

Picture yourself in Teotihuacan. You are walking north on the Street of the Dead.
You pass the Ciudadela on your right; it’s so massive, it could swallow several Maya
ceremonial centers. You cross the vestigial “Río de San Juan” while trying to
imagine the substantial watercourse that cuts through the ancient city like a vast
glittering serpent. Pyramid of the Sun beside you, and ahead, the Pyramid of the Moon
and Cerro Gordo – together they form an impressive triad. Instinctively, you assume
they appear in order of size, and expect that the larger pyramid will be at the honored
position at the end of the Street. Anticipating that expectation, Teotihuacan’s
planners have used it to disconcert you, to warp your sense of space and proportion a
little. By placing the relatively smaller Pyramid of the Moon against the mountain
backdrop, the mountain is pulled forward, nature overshadowing human efforts. Across
two millennia, the designers of Teotihuacan have once again achieved their effect, made
you blink. Good ceremonial architecture should make you wonder about the scale and
place of humans in the cosmos, and, like the architects of Gothic cathedrals,
Teotihuacan’s planners put humans into proper perspective.

But who were the designers? Who organized the city and ruled over it, and how?
Esther Pasztory’s book Teotihuacan: An Experiment in Living explores these puzzles of
culture and social organization. Pasztory sees Teotihuacan as a grand experiment,
unique in the history of Mesoamerican complex society: “Teotihuacan seems to have
emerged in contrast to dynastic and aristocratic cultures, such as the Olmec and the
Maya, and to have created and idealized more participatory institutions than were
common at the time” (p. 13). To determine the nature of Teotihuacan social
organization, Pasztory uses the material evidence – architecture and artifacts – and
the interpretations of other Teotihuacan scholar – art historians, archaeologists,
iconographers – and combines these lines of evidence into an analysis that calls upon
her own particular insights and skills. She writes, “This analysis… is too heavily
anthropological to be art history and too obsessed with artistic readings to be
anthropology” (p. 14), but in fact it is both art history and anthropology, and much
more besides. Pasztory develops rapport with the reader by delivering solid scholarship
along with apt personal revelations and thought-provoking cross cultural comparisons.
Thus the book works well as a general survey of present-day knowledge about the site
and its culture, suitable for undergraduate and graduate courses, but also would engage
the general reader as a scholarly detective story shaped by the author’s vivid personal
experiences and opinions.

The book is organized into fifteen chapters that take up general topics of history
of interpretation, the great monuments at the site, unique aspects of Teotihuacan’s
iconography, and Pasztory’s interpretations. Pasztory begins with her beginnings – her
experiences as a refugee from Hungarian political turmoil, finding her place as an art
history student in America, and coming to Mexico in 1967 in search of a thesis topic.
The circumstances of her life had made her a cultural outsider, a role that lends
observational acuity to cultural analysis. It seems also to have liberated her from the
constraints of scholarly cliquishness, because she sought and continues to seek the
perspectives and findings of many different scholars working on Teotihuacan problems.
Her visit to René and Clara Millon introduced her to the scholars on the cutting
edge of Teotihuacan archaeological research, who were shoe horning the site out of its
“vacant ceremonial center” status into its distinguished role of great metropolis of
its time. But she also visited Laurette Séjourné, famous for her early
excavations of Teotihuacan apartment complexes but dismissed because of her lack of
intellectual rigor and her belief in the power of intuition to explain art as welling
out of the collective unconscious. Such mentalist views eventually lose their charm
because, while one can value the subjective sincerity of the mentalist, one cannot
assess the validity of the opinion. But the fact remains that subjective insights may
have enormous generalizing power. For example, Séjourné admired
Covarrubias, who used his creative genius and aesthetic sense (and familiarity with
cultural materials) to perceive the proper role of the Olmec at a time when
professional scholars argued for primacy of the Maya. Pasztory’s willingness to seek
out Séjourné, to acknowledge the contribution of her work, reveals a key
element of her life as a scholar: the primacy of the intellectual puzzle over any
current fashion in scholarly interpretation.

The second chapter presents a review of how Teotihuacan has been perceived and
investigated from the Aztec period to the present. Here we find the historical roots of
what has passed for years as knowledge about the site, largely seen through “Tlaloc
goggles.” Pasztory surveys the history of recognition and decipherment of
characteristic Teotihuacan elements such as goggle-wearing figures, feathered serpents,
and talud-tablero architecture, and shows how research at other sites has influenced
assessment of Teotihuacan’s role. Pasztory’s own years of research into the nature of
the Teotihuacan’s goggle-eyed figure, “now called the Storm God at Teotihuacan, because
his actual name there remains unknown” (p. 27), leads her to conclude that while “the
art and culture of the Aztecs provides an essential sounding board in the
reconstruction of Teotihuacan” (p. 28), “Teotihuacan imagery cannot be identified
directly from Aztec sources.” (p. 27)

Chapter Three continues to survey the history of interpretation of Teotihuacan,
presenting an engaging view of the “New Archaeology and the State.” The “New
Archaeology” is now old and hoary, the revolutionary program of scholars presently
easing into retirement. However, the revolution was won. Archaeology was transformed
from a pursuit of pretty things and big monumental buildings, to a true study of
ancient culture, paleoethnography, and paleohistory. Yes, there are many archaeological
projects ongoing today that are quests for golden doodads (and the glory that devolves
upon golden-doodad-finders), but no well-educated United States archaeologist ignores
the larger cultural context of the investigation, the cultural processes motivating the
behavioral snapshots we chance to find. Pasztory manages to include many of the most
salient features of the “New Archaeology” – systematization of research, reliance on
patterns of material culture remains rather than official chronicles, understanding the
larger settlement pattern, study of quotidian materials – and Teotihuacan is an ideal
example of the application of New Archaeological principles. The work of René
Millon and colleagues in mapping and investigating the city itself, and William Sanders
and colleagues in mapping and studying the larger Basin of Mexico was truly
revolutionary in transforming our understanding of site and region. From these efforts
there emerged a new perspective on Teotihuacan’s enormous size, and how it came to be:
harnessing the irrigation capabilities of the springs gave the town’s semiarid
hinterland the capacity to support large numbers of people. When, coincidentally,
Teotihuacan’s greatest rival in the Terminal Formative period, Cuicuilco, was buried by
eruption from Xitle, Teotihuacan drew the population of the basin into itself.

Pasztory turns to monumental architecture in Chapter Four, first looking at the
“apartment compounds.” Two thousand of these have been identified in the city, and
their form is unique in Mesoamerica. This, Pasztory believes, is related to what may
have been a unique relation in the city between the rulers and the ruled, a
collectivization of the population. Pasztory draws upon long hours spent in the
apartment compounds while she was doing dissertation research; during those days she
noted the special features of the domestic architecture and the mural fragments, coming
to know the apartment compounds as “not merely livable, many were splendid” (p. 47).
This perspective enable her to see the organization of the city as possibly engaging
the headmen of these compounds into a “corporate social organization with a collective
ideology” (p. 50), an idea congruent with the lack of representations of individual
rulers and elites, the presence of an important female deity, and widespread use of
types of art that were assembled from mass produced pieces (such as theater-style
incense burners).

The challenges of interpretation and correct use of analogous sources such as Mixtec
codices and other iconographically rich materials are the subjects of Chapter 5, “Mixed
Messages: The Challenge of Interpretation.” Here Pasztory contrasts her approach with
Seler’s, citing her use of structural and semiotic analyses. Her “structuralism”
attempts to identify the system from which images arise, an approach she likens to
processual archaeology. I applaud the approach, but caution that to use the term
“structuralism” is to risk association with a long and tainted tradition of flaky
methodology and unfounded claims of meaning.

One of the most important issues in Teotihuacan studies is the presence of a major
female deity, a rarity in Mesoamerican ceremonial centers. Chapter 6, “The Pyramid of
the Sun and the Goddess,” begins by describing the relation between the goddess, the
architectural monument, and the cave beneath it, and then expands the field of
spiritual power and the landscape to the whole Basin of Mexico, with an extensive and
well-documented reconstruction of the destruction of Cuicuilco and its effect on
Teotihuacan. Pasztory writes that Teotihuacan emerged as “a symbolic ‘fortress’ against
the unpredictable powers of nature” and its huge size, density, and ceremonial display
were made possible by the cooperation of countless refugees with Teotihuacan’s rulers
in the building effort.

The possible relation between the Pyramid of the Moon and the Storm God is explored
in Chapter 7. Storm God imagery was an important export, a diagnostic of Teotihuacan
contact when found in Tikal or other sites. Comparing characteristics of the Storm God
and the Goddess profiled in Chapter 6, Pasztory contrasts the Storm God’s association
with foreign relations, commerce, dynastic values, etc., with the Goddess’s association
with internal affairs, agriculture, and collective values.

Turning to Teotihuacan’s third great monument, Pasztory’s focus is “The Ciudadela
and Rulership” in Chapter 8. The great square enclosure and its pyramid and apartments
were built after the pyramids, and Pasztory suggests that the Ciudadela is an
“architectural representation of a major change in the social and political structure
of Teotihuacan” away from the pyramids, probably by self-aggrandizing dynasts whose
“flamboyant style of rulership” (multiple sacrifices to dedicate their building
projects) provoked a reaction against such flashy shows of dynastic power.

With the social and iconographic meaning of major architectonic elements
interpreted, the focus turns to aesthetics, artifacts, and features in Chapters 9
through 14. “Minimalist Aesthetics” points out the simplicity of the city’s massive
architecture and the overall emphasis on simple forms in domestic goods like pottery.
Chapter 10 is named “Assemblage,” a somewhat confusing term because of its
archaeological meaning as a set of artifacts (tools, for example) associated with a
particular set of tasks. But here the sense is of the assemblage of iconographic
elements that together make up a meaningful whole, with the “theater censer” being the
ultimate example of a coherent mosaic. Mural art, arguably one of Teotihuacan’s great
achievements, is discussed in “The Net-Jaguar and Other Two-Dimensional Puzzles,” which
considers the city’s high potential for murals given its expanses of vertical wall
space, and how these spaces were used to display decorative expositions of natural and
surreal themes. Among the most intriguing of the component elements are “The Human Body
in Parts” (Chapter 12). Pasztory points out that “The art of Teotihuacan has more
representations of hearts than that of any other Mesoamerican culture – even the
Aztecs” (p. 199). The role of sacrifice at Teotihuacan and elsewhere is explored in
this chapter.

“Divine Intervention” (Chapter 13) deconstructs the meanings of water and eye
symbols and other shared features of Teotihuacan’s iconographic presentations, noting
that “The gods themselves are not individual but incorporate elements of each other in
their being and insignia” (p. 219). “The Human Element” (Chapter 14) in Teotihuacan’s
art is also resistant to facile interpretations, but through the people shown in
Teotihuacan’s graphic and plastic art we come closer to the Teotihuacanos themselves.
Finally, Chapter 15, “An Experiment in Living,” recapitulates major themes to support
the idea that the city functioned as a collective body, an experiment in collective
government unlike any of the dynastic states rising across Mesoamerica in the Terminal
Formative period. Teotihuacan’s differences with its contemporaries make it more
difficult to understand its iconography and the basis of its power. But Pasztory’s well
documented and artfully reasoned book will go far toward enhancing our understanding of
this great enigmatic city.

Susan Toby Evans
Pennsylvania State University

La mujer azteca. By María Rodriguez-Shadow. Colección Historica No. 6. México, D.F.: Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México, 1997. Pp. 276. ISBN 9688350664.

La mujer azteca constituye el ineludible compromiso de tratar de perfilar la
condición femenina en la sociedad mexica precortesiana. Pese a las carencias
documentales, la autora consigue rastrear y reconstruir los diversos patrones de vida
de las mujeres tenochcas, partiendo de un análisis que integra variables tan
complejas como las relaciones de clase y tratado de vincular la opresión
femenina con la configuración de la estructura de clases.

El tercer capítulo trata de establecer el progresivo desarrollo de la
asimetría genérica y social a lo largo de la evolución del
imperialismo azteca. La acelerada conformación de sectores sociales bien
delimitados dibujan, poco a poco, una jeraquía poblacional en cuya
cúspide se sitúa una élite noble cada vez más poderosa.
Todo ello conduce a la autora a enfatizar la obligatoriedad de un análisis que
defina a las mujeres tenochcas en su contexto de clase. Los subsecuentes
capítulos no abandonarán ya este enfoque y todo el universo de datos que
presenta a continuacción aparecen segregados estructuralmente. A título
personal, es precisamente esto lo que me parece más destacable del libro.
Consigue que hasta el lector más neófito en temas de género
descubra – casi por aparente mérito propio – el hecho de que, pese a la paradoja
del título, no se puede hablar en singular de la mujer azteca sino en un vasto y
obvío plural sobre “las mujeres aztecas.” La heterogeneidad interna de esa
categoría hace difícil aglutinarlas bajo un sólo concepto. El nexo
de unión entre las distinctas realidades es única y lamentablemente la
subordinación. Incluso en este sentido, la instigación a una
óptica microanalítica y comparativa permite dilucidar la diversidad de
matices y gradaciones de dicha subordinación.

Los capítulos cuarto y quinto pretenden mostrar la posición y
significación de las mujeres en el ámbito productivo y reproductivo. En
base a la información presentada, la autora cimenta el origen de la
opresión femenina en la división sexual del trabajo. La exclusión
de las mujeres de cualquier posición ocupacional de prestigio –
relegándola a un espacio doméstico regido por la ginopia – posibilitan el
control de su fuerza de trabajo y de su capacidad reproductiva, biológica y
culturalmente hablando. No en vano, se insiste en el papel de la familia como agente
primordial de socialización y reproducción del sistema de

El capítulo sexto resulta aún más ambicioso. Una vez
configurado el perfil clasista y sexista de la sociedad mexica se elaboran una serie de
inferencias sobre las mujeres y su sexualidad. La divergencia genérica y de
clases sociales en cuanto a normas matrimoniales, cuerpos legales de sanciones,
derechos y obligaciones (por ejemplo, el acceso al divorcio o el castigo por
adulterio), permiten trazar las líneas definitorias que rigen la conducta sexual
matrimonial y extramatrimonial, la poligina, la prostitución, la homosexualidad,
el travestismo o las prácticas abortivas. A partir de las prescripciones en
cuanto a la expresión y normatividad en relación a la sexualidad femenina
en sí se deducen patrones de maltrato y violencia sexual levemente tratados por
las fuentes.

El séptimo y último capítulo se centra en torno a las
instituciones y los mecanismos de dominación ideológica, es decir, el
modo en que el sistema de creencias – generado culturalmente por la sociedad mexica –
está encaminado a la legitimación de “las relaciones de
explotación… de los nobles sobre los tributarios y la que ejercían los
hombres sobre las mujeres” (p. 228-29).

Tras este breve resumen de contenidos y, a modo de conclusión, me
gustaría añadir que comparto muchas de las prerrogativas que han incitado
a la autora a escribir este libro. Incluso su forma crítica de tratae las
fuentes, considerando por quién y para quién son escritas. Pese a ello,
muchos de los interrogantes planteados al comienzo son, a mi modo de ver,
incontestables. Si la subordinación femenina en México comenzó con
los españoles o en época prehispánica estaría directamente
relacionado con esos macrodebates de la disiplina en torno a los “universales” que
antes tratamos brevemente. Ahora bien, si la condición femenina del pasado
prehispánico puede explicar la situación actual resulta mucho más
escabroso. Pese a lo recurrido de esta técnica en Mesoamérica, no
considero que sea posible trazar una liga automática entre la situación
del México prehispanico y el actual. Por supuesto que el pasado debe ayudarnos a
entender el presente pero, ¿por qué no todo el pasado? Desde esa
perspectiva sería necesaria una historia procesual que reivindicase por igual la
importancia de etapas históricas anteriores con quizá idéntica
validez explicativa. Es casi titánico hablar de las mujeres indígenas
nahuas actuales remontándonos exclusivamente a los datos disponibles sobre ellas
cinco siglos atrás. Más aún, ¿me pregunto si puede hablarse
de las mujeres nahuas contemporáneas en términos globales y
homogéneos cuando están habitando áreas
geográfico-culturales tan diversias?

Si apuesto por un análisis de la condición social de la mujer desde
una óptica que articule la perspectiva étnica, de género y de
clase, e incluso generacional como parece proponer la autora. Mi única
objeción es que se haga exclusivamente con un pasado glorioso para unos o, como
se puede apreciar en este libro, complejo e injusto para otros.

Cristina Lirón
Universidad de las Américas-Puebla


Following is a review by Jonathan D. Amith of the second edition of Frances
Karttunen’s An Analytical Dictionary of Nahuatl. The review was first published in
Spanish and appears here for the first time in its original English version. Following
the review is a response from Karttunen and a brief reply to Karttunen’s response by

The original review by Jonathan Amith:

An Analytical Dictionary of Nahuatl. By Frances Karttunen. 2d ed. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992. Pp. xxxiv + 349. $21.95 (paper). ISBN 0806124210 (paper).


The present edition of An Analytical Dictionary of Nahuatl (hence ADN) is a welcome
and much-needed paperback edition of Frances Karttunen’s (FK) 1983 work published in
cloth by the University of Texas Press. Since then important English-language lexical
studies have been produced by John Bierhorst (1985; 1992), R. Joe Campbell (1985), and
Lyle Campbell (1985). Yet ADN’s scope (multiple dialects covering a wide geographical
area and temporal span), accessibility (both in terms of user-friendliness and price),
and focused goal (to provide comparative information on vowel length and glottal stops,
and to offer English glosses for beginning Nahuatl scholars unfamiliar with Spanish)
make it a unique work. For good reason it will continue to provide scholars and
fieldworkers with a quick-reference compendium on vowel length and glottal stops.
Moreover, given University of Oklahoma Press’s inexpensive paperback edition, it is
destined to become one of the most popular lexicographic tools for introductory
college-level Nahuatl classes in the United States and Europe.

It is precisely the impact that ADN has had and will continue to have that makes a
careful review necessary. In many respects, FK’s meticulous lexicographic research is
beyond reproach. For most entries she provides the reader with a careful listing of
sources and a clear exposition of discrepancies in vowel length and glottal stop
placement (cf. tlaÿxtli tlaneltoquiliztli, xillÿntli, and zohzoquihuiÿ).
Her primary historical sources on these phenomena are Horacio Carochi’s Arte de la
lengua mexicana con la declaración de los adverbios della (originally published
in 1645) and a colonial manuscript found in the Bancroft Library. The principal modern
sources are Forrest Brewer and Jean G. Brewer’s Vocabulario de Tetelcingo, Morelos
(1971), and Harold Key and Mary Ritchie de Key Vocabulario de la Sierra de Zacapoaxtla,
Puebla (1953). Many of the definitions are taken from Molina (originally published in
1571), even when information on vowel length and glottal stop placement is from another
source. FK was obviously very careful in organizing her database, and often points out
discrepancies between the Spanish-Nahuatl and Nahuatl-Spanish sides of her sources (cf.
tlalcÿhuÿlli). Yet, despite her care with the Nahuatl source material, there
are serious problems with ADN. These may be classified under three rubrics: 1) the
structure of ADN and, particularly, the concept of canonical form; 2) standardization
of vowel length and glottal stop placement; and 3) English glosses.

The structure of An Analytical Dictionary of Nahuatl

FK has selected an orthography that represents a combination of historical and
modern styles; it most closely follows the script used by J. Richard Andrews in his
Introduction to Classical Nahuatl (1975). She fully discusses the implications of her
choice; though it has certain drawbacks (cf. Canger 1986) FK presents a satisfactory
defense of her selection.

A macron, which does not affect alphabetization, is used to represent vowel length,
whereas an h, which does affect alphabetization, is used to represent a glottal stop.
The advantage of using h, as opposed to diacritics, is that it is more familiar to
potential readers and it unequivocally represents the glottal stop as a consonant
segment; the disadvantage is that words students know only from colonial sources, which
usually do not represent the glottal stop, can become difficult to locate. In addition,
(C)Vh- reduplicated forms become separated from the stem form in ADN, although FK is
careful to cross-reference derivative forms. Minor changes from colonial orthography
include the use of z instead of a cedilla, and the substitution of cu for qu before a
and o. The sounds [w] and [kw] are represented hu and cu syllable initially, uh and uc
in syllable-final position. It should be noted, however, that a cu/uc spelling might
not always represent a [kw] sound. In the Balsas River basin of Guerrero we find
[tekutli], [tekuhtle] and [tékutlí] in Ameyaltepec, San Juan Tetelcingo,
and San Agustín Oapan, respectively. Although this syllabification may be a
recent innovation, it should call our attention to a potential problem in the
relationship of orthographic conventions to sound, and offers a caveat to a statement
that “In traditional Nahuatl writing the cu was not always inverted, and this conveyed
the false impression of a syllable [ku] in forms like tecutli for t uc-tli” (p. xxiii).
Finally, FK chooses to represent the final vowels of what Andrews calls “Class C” verbs
as long. FK notes (p. xxiii): “In his glossary they appear with final ia and oa, but
here they appear as iÿ and oÿ. In actual pronunciation, the long vowels are
shortened at the ends of words, but they remain long when followed by a suffix.”
Actually, vowel-shortening occurs in phrase- or utterance-final position, not simply
word-final position. The fact that the final vowel of “Class C” verbs is short except
when followed by certain suffixes should warn us of the possibility that the long vowel
occurring in forms such as quipoloÿya may be part of the inflectional process and
not a reflex of underlying length in the verb. FK’s choice of iÿ and oÿ for
these verbs should, therefore, be understood as an implicit decision to position the
vowel quantity with the verb and not the suffix.

More problematic is FK’s notion of a “canonical form.” At one point she notes: “By
‘canonical’ I mean that which is basic and can be related to other forms by general
rules. The canonical form of a word not only regularizes the different spelling
conventions of the sources for this dictionary but also predicts, insofar as possible,
its inflectional paradigm – that is, what shape the word will take when prefixes and
suffixes are added to it” (p. xi).

Later FK notes that the “canonical form of each word is based on comparison of all
attestations, taken together with the general rules of Nahuatl word-formation and
phonology” (p. xxiii). And, more specifically: “[T]he canonical form of this dictionary
is not identical with a phonemic or a historically prior proto-form. It leans to the
conservative Nahuatl of the central Mexican highlands and includes some historical
innovation of form from that area. Nonetheless, the canonical form can to a high degree
be related in a regular fashion to even the most peripheral of the regional dialects of
the contributing sources” (pp. xxiii­xxiv).

Clearly, therefore, FK uses a canonical shape to code inflectional information into
the main entry. For example, she distinguishes between verbs that end in -iä vs
those that end in -iya, even though such a distinction is not manifested at a surface
level. Such “coding” (essentially morphophonemic representation) allows the reader to
deduce inflectional paradigms from the shape of the canonical entry. Moreover, a
dictionary that draws from a wide variety of sources also needs some sort of basic
entry in order to avoid endless repetition of forms that can be predicted from the
phonological rules of each dialect. Thus Xalitla absolutive nouns that end in hli,
derived from {l+(t)li} are entered in canonical form as calli, mÿlli, etc.
Similarly, a “basic” entry avoids repeating Xalitla’s otli for ohtli, or Tetelcingo’s
mulcaxitl for mulcaxitl.

If the canonical form of ADN were simply a heuristic device to code certain
morphophonemic information, or to provide forms that specific dialects predictably
alter according to set phonological rules, then there would be little problem with the
dictionary. It would still have been helpful, however, if FK had included a more
precise specification of what the oft-referred to “general rules” are.

But, unfortunately, in ADN canonical forms are also called upon to perform the
unenviable task of providing a single entry when vowel length and placement of glottal
stops apparently vary across dialect. Many incongruities in the data clearly reflect
internal inconsistencies and errors in specific lexicons, which FK has done a
commendable job in sorting out. But other divergences may reflect real differences
between dialects that cannot be accounted for by “general rules.” ADN would be greatly
enhanced by a short, critical analysis of the very real possibility that vowel length
and glottal stop placement in cognate forms may vary across dialects (for example, the
Nahuatl of the Balsas River basin has ohtlatl, as opposed to the more common otlatl) in
ways that cannot be ascribed to errors, suppletion (e.g., mÿ- vs. mah-, cf. FK’s
discussion under tlahtli), or clearly identifiable and dialect-specific phonological

In sum, the problem of canonical forms is both theoretical and methodological. At
the theoretical level, it leaves open the quite pertinent question of whether
“canonical” Nahuatl represents any real language and whether there are single canonical
forms that can be related by “general rules” to specific lexical formations in
different dialects. By eschewing historical analysis, and by leaving “general rules”
unspecified, FK takes the path of least resistance. To a certain extent, perhaps mostly
in the name of expediency, this path is justified. But FK would have done readers a
greater service by clearly recognizing and discussing the eclectic nature of her
approach and the problems of using material so much separated in time and distance.

The second problem is methodological. Faced with internal inconsistency in a
particular source, FK justifiably assumes that one representation is correct. On the
basis of comparative evidence and the relative frequency of one or the other form in
the problematic dialect, she selects a single form for the canonical entry (cf. her
treatment of omitl, tec(i), teht moliÿ, temulotl, tepotztoca, and
tlachpÿnhuÿztli). In many cases an idiosyncratic form from one dialect is
entered under a canonical form that conforms to the pattern found in other dialects
(cf. the discussion under t nquÿxtiÿ). Or a particular dialect may include a
word that FK “corrects” on the basis of evidence from a related lexeme found in another
source (cf. xihxicuinoÿ). But a focus on canonical forms has the unfortunate
result of leading FK to standardize the data. It is often difficult to determine when
she is correcting inconsistencies and when she is altering correctly recorded

The determination of vowel length and placement of glottal stops

In her effort to specify a single canonical form FK introduces changes based on her
own etymological analysis, on “general rules” that she feels should have applied, and
on a variety of decisions that reflect her own interpretation of Nahuatl morphology and

Changing entries on the basis of etymology is dangerous for three reasons: 1) it is
hard to be consistent; 2) the etymology proposed may be wrong; and 3) in spite of
obvious etymological relations between words, undetermined processes may alter vowel
length (examples are ulÿni and tlÿlolÿni, nÿhuatia and nahuati, and
the variation that affects the root chal/chÿl). Many corrections in the data that
FK proposes are unobjectionable. Thus she changes amiltomatl to ÿmÿltomatl
based on what she calls a “transparent” derivation. But it is difficult to determine
when FK deems her etymological analysis sufficient to provide grounds for changing data
from the sources. Ahpilulli (“jarro de barro, el cántaro de la mano”) is not
changed to ÿpilulli for the canonical form even though FK expects the ÿ
element (“agua”); ÿhu lic (“desabrido, insípido”) is not changed to ahhu
lic (with the expected negative particle ah-); ÿtlap chtli (“bajada (de la
barranca)”) is not changed to ÿtlapechtli (even though FK feels that it
incorporates tlapechtli “cama”), nor is iztÿltic (“anémico, pálido”)
corrected to iztaltic even though all other words beginning iztal- have a short a. On
the other hand, the second vowel is lengthened in ÿcÿhualli given that “it
should be long if the literal sense is ‘something dehydrated.'” FK lengthens the second
syllable of ÿyutuchin and comments that “If this means literally ‘turtle-rabbit,’
as it seems to, the vowel of the second syllable should be long, but in the
attestations it is not so marked.” Similar reasoning is applied to ÿzcacualoÿ
and many other words.

Whether or not FK’s reasoning is correct in the above instances, changing entries
can lead to serious problems. Thus she enters Tetelcingo’s cayasibi under cayahcihu(i)
and notes that, “The single attestation in T does not have an internal glottal stop,
but in view of the tendency in T to lose such glottal stops, this is a plausible
derivation from (I)HCIHU(I).” A cognate to cayasibi from San Agustín Oapan,
Guerrero, kakaistik, suggests that there is no glottal stop. Moreover, the context in
which Tetelcingo loses glottal stops is never precisely specified (it is often
retained, cf. ojtli). Elsewhere FK inserts a glottal stop for unclear or erroneous
reasons (cf. (i)lpihticah and tlahcuilohhuiliÿ). In the entry under
camachaloÿ FK notes that “Both Z and X give this with a long vowel in chal, but in
the abundant attestations of camachalli elsewhere, the vowel is short.” The long vowel
should probably have been retained: Ameyaltepec, Guerrero has kamachalko and kamachaleh
with a short vowel, but kamachÿlowa with a long one. The similarity of
chal/chÿl to ulÿni and tlÿlolÿni, in which vowel length changes for
reasons that we have not yet been able to determine, should be apparent. FK also states
that Molina’s entry for pitzÿhua mistakenly combines two words, and that the
meaning “hablar alto la muger” is derived from pÿtza. This does not seem correct
and the meaning “hablar alto” is probably a metaphoric extension of pitz- meaning
“delgado” (this is supported by ADN’s own entry for tlapitzhuiÿ, “hace ruido el
guajolote allá, llora niño con voz delgadita” where the short i is
maintained). In various derivations such as cecec, chichic, etic (Tetelcingo, not
mentioned under etic, has a long final vowel) and xococ, FK erroneously shortens the
final vowel. A long vowel is undoubtedly correct in many of the reported adjectives.
Its absence in the corresponding verb is probably due to neutralization of i before a.
The long vowel does appear in cec ya; in Ameyaltepec one finds the series xokotl,
xokuya and xokuk where both the verbal and adectival forms clearly manifest the long
final vowel.

The danger of FK’s methodology is also well illustrated by the many entries that
contain tlahu lÿluk. For example, uc lmotlahu liltic (“o desventurado de
tí, guay de tí (M), desdichadísimo (C)”) refers the reader to
-tlahu liltic; and tlahtlahu lÿlucÿt(i) (“hacer ruindades”) refers the reader
to tlahu lÿlucat(i). But neither -tlahu liltic nor tlahu lÿlucat(i) mention
any change in vowel length from the data and refer the reader to tlahu lli and tlahu
lÿluc, respectively. It is only under these entries that FK mentions that she has
lengthened the vowel in the syllable hu l; the reader must deduce that this has been
carried out in all derivations. Under tlahu lÿluc FK notes that the Bancroft
dialogues give a short vowel in its two attestations, and Carochi marks the vowel short
in eleven out of twelve occurrences. FK suggests that both sources might “reflect a
contextual shortening of this vowel when followed by two subsequent syllables
containing long vowels.” This ad hoc rule is not justified, and many words in ADN
manifest three consecutive syllables with long vowels. FK has lengthened the vowel in
tlahu lÿluc and all related derivations based on her etymology that derives this
word from tlahu lli (“indignación, enojo o furia del que está airado y
lleno de saña (M), coraje, enojo, ira (C)”). But under the entry for tlahu lli
we learn that although Tetelcingo and Zacapoaxtla generally have a long vowel, Carochi
marks the vowel long in less than a third of the attestations, and that the Bancroft
dialogues give the vowel as short in two derivations. Perhaps tlahu lÿluc is not
derived from tlahu lli, or perhaps derivations from tlahu lli uniformly have a short
vowel. In whatever case the lengthening of the vowel does not seem justified.

The problems of using etymological analysis to alter data are repeated in regard to
rule application. Again, it is not clear when FK maintains data in spite of “general
rules” that suggest an error, and when she changes data to agree with “general rules.”
In all the following cases FK has changed (lengthened or shortened as the case may be)
a vowel (which I have double underlined) to concord with general rules:
cemihcacÿyulÿhuayÿn, (i)cn lÿlmat(i), (i)hxÿtiÿ,
(i)lhuÿlu, (i)ttÿtiÿ, (i)xhuÿtiÿ, mahuiztilÿllani,
nepanuhuiliÿ, tequitiltiÿ, t tzacuiltÿluni, tlateumatiliztli,
tlateutoquiliztli, and zumÿliÿ. In the following cases, however, although by
general rule a vowel (double underlined) should be different, FK has not changed the
entry: ÿyÿltiÿ, (i)cnelilu, (i)tquitiÿ, ixhuÿltiÿ,
machÿltiÿ, pÿhuaxÿltiÿ, pahtÿltiÿ, and

FK cites a general rule that calls for a short vowel before the -ltiÿ causative
ending. In all but one case (tequitiltiÿ), however, she leaves the long vowel and
simply comments that it should be short. Before the -tiÿ causative ending, the
final stem vowel should be long according to a rule formulated by Carochi (and endorsed
by Andrews and Karttunen). FK lengthens the vowel in (i)ttÿtiÿ and
(i)xhuÿtiÿ even though Tetelcingo consistently gives them as short and
Carochi does not mark them long. The case of (i)hxÿtiÿ is even more
problematical given that Carochi specifically states it to be short (as was the case
with the passives already described). In Ameyaltepec, Guerrero there is a minimal pair:
tlaxÿtia (derived from asi) “completar una carga, terminar una tarea” and tlaxitia
(derived from isa) “parársele a uno el pene.” In defending her lengthening of
the stem-final vowel in ihxitiÿ FK (1987:245) mentions that “the other sources
have a long vowel, in accordance with the general rule that Carochi himself states.”
But Tetelcingo (pp. 34, 216) also has a short vowel.

FK generally writes a long vowel (ÿ) before the passive ending -lu even when a
rule formulated by Carochi calls for a short vowel. She has stated (1987:245­46)
that this is because these non-active forms are taken from sources other than Carochi.
The argument is only valid up to a point. In other situations FK has applied Carochi’s
rules to modern dialects. It is also unclear why, if Carochi specifically gave icnelilu
and ilhuilu as cases in which the stem-final vowel is short, FK has lengthened the
vowel for one canonical entry but not the other. Under (i)cn lilu FK has also
formulated a general rule as follows: “C[arochi] specifically says that the i of the
third syllable is short by contrast with the of the preceding syllable, but this is
probably the result of some secondary shortening. By general rule this should be (i)cn
lÿlu.” FK does not elaborate upon what “secondary shortening” refers to, nor when
it applies. In her comments under (i)lhuÿlu, which she corrects from Carochi’s
ilhuilu, FK states that the short vowel is probably due to “some superficial
neutralization of length distinctions.” Thus (cf. the discussion under tlahu lli) we
are presented with “contextual shortening,” “secondary shortening,” and “superficial
neutralization” to explain variation, without any clear explanation as to when these
processes occur. A similar problem occurs with the “general rules” that FK often cites.
Often, they appear to be based on Carochi’s grammar. But in the case of passive
formations the “general rule” that gives a long vowel is apparently based on modern
dialects. The problem of applying “rules” from such diverse sources to create canonical
forms is not adequately discussed.

Occasionally FK’s etymologies or comments are in error, as might be expected in such
an ambitious work. For example, Tetelcingo and Xalitla coyactic is stated to be a
variant of coyoctic found in other sources. But the derivation of the two is different:
coyuni and coyÿwi, respectively. FK inserts a hypothetical i in hu iyac, when the
form hu yac is correct. And cequ(i) should be listed as (i)cequ(i), or perhaps

Finally, based on her understanding of Nahuatl grammar and morphology, FK
occasionally inserts entries not found in any sources. She also assigns separate
entries for forms that occur only as part of compounds: m yalli, which occurs only in
ÿm yalli; nehnecuilli, which is found only in ixtenehnecuilli; pahpÿlli,
found only in compounds with ÿxtli; pechtli, which appears in tlapechtli,
pehpechtli and in compounds; quechtetl, which is the first element in several
compounds; comulli, found in ÿcomulli and tlacomulli; and neltic, found only in
pitzoneltic and mÿtzocuiltlaneltic. FK creates an entry for t miÿ and
attaches a translation from Tetelcingo’s (tla)y ct miÿ. In this case the reader is
not warned that t miÿ occurs only in certain compounds. Given that no source gives
t miÿ as an unbound lexeme, it is quite possible that it occurs only in compounds.
Moreover, evidence from the Balsas River basin suggests that in composition t miÿ
(and t ma) often mean “extender o echar” and not “llenar” (cf. n chtlÿlt mia “me
echa tierra (a la cara o el cuerpo)”). FK also creates an entry for cualÿnqui
based on the occurrence of cualÿni as the first element in compounds such as
cualÿncÿnahuatiÿ. This methodology may be justified in certain cases as
a useful device for cross-referencing, although at times it gives an erroneous
impression of the potential for such forms to occur (such as pechtli). Also
questionable is the utility of creating entries for words that have never been found,
and may not even be possible. In her comments FK occasionally states that certain words
imply unattested forms: palaxtli implies *palay(a) and metzÿxco implies
metzÿxtli. Until we know more about Nahuatl derivational processes it would be
better to refrain from such comments. We would probably not want to assume *poloya from
Ameyaltepec popoloxtlÿcatl, “un hombre que habla sin sentido,” or ÿÿxtli
from ÿÿxco, “la superficie del agua.”

The problem with ADN goes beyond whether or not FK correctly changes vowel lengths.
The more basic question is whether somewhat vague rules, often from different dialects
and time periods, should be invoked to change empirical evidence, or whether the
evidence should be used to reformulate and re-evaluate the rules. This is a basic
methodological question that should be dealt with not only in ADN, but in any
dictionary that is based on evidence from disparate sources. ADN works best as a
concise presentation of information on vowel length for quick consultation. It is less
successful in providing a uniform lexicon and at times becomes problematical when
changing data.

The English translation

In her User’s Guide section, FK states (p. xv) that the purpose of ADN is to provide
two things not found in either Molina or Siméon: information about long vowels
and glottal stops in individual words, and English glosses. It is to this second goal
that I now wish to turn.

FK offers two further definitions of her goal in the English glosses. First, they
“strive to balance basic, rather literal meaning with conventional usage”
(Introduction, p. xxix). Second, “The English glosses are not simply translations of
Molina, as I explain in the introduction; they are mine and strive to express the basic
sense and the use of the lexical item. In writing them, I have called on what James
Lockhart and I have come across in years of reading notarial texts as well as the
sources that contribute directly to ADN” (1987:244). The necessity of English glosses
that capture the basic sense of the Nahuatl is a point well taken. Spanish glosses,
particularly in Molina and Siméon, are often context particular, and readers of
ADN are well-served when FK is able to extract the basic sense of the Nahuatl and
present a clear and concise English definition (cf. milÿni, mixmolun(i)). Her
translations often accomplish this, and at times add significant information to the
Spanish (cf. mixteteica). But they are often frustratingly erroneous and

There are a few cases of outright mistranslation. Thus tet lic is given in the
Zacapoaxtla dictionary as “agarroso,” which FK mistakenly translates as “someone
grabby.” Both the Nahuatl and the colloquial Spanish expression refer to a particular
sour taste, such as that of green bananas or persimmons. The Tetelcingo verb tlaizhuat
ca, “zacatea” is translated as “to make hay.” The action referred to is that of
stripping corn leaves off the dried maize plant and then, after a bunch of leaves have
been gathered in one’s hand, to slam them down (hence the -t ca element) between two
stripped stalks for later bundling and tying. Note that izhuatl in Tetelcingo (from
where the verb comes) refers to “la caña de la milpa.” FK translates
ihÿyucui as “to have something to eat, take some refreshment” and gives part of
Carochi’s translation “comer… un bocado.” The full text in Carochi (and the word’s
etymology) makes it clear that the Nahuatl means “to stop for a small bite to eat in
order to regain strength.” Tlailpiliztli, “acción de amarrar,” is erroneously
given as “the action of untying something.” Cuauhmuchitl, Spanish “guamuchil,” is
mistakenly referred to as a tamarind.

Often the translations are perplexing because they fail to give an obvious and
simple English translation. Tlapicÿloÿ, “lloviznar” is given as “to rain”
(why not “to drizzle”?) and tlÿltotunqui, “el suelo está caliente,” as
“warm earth” (why not “hot”?). In a similar vein ecuÿtlahtlapÿn, “frijol
quebrado,” is translated as “mashed beans” when both the Nahuatl and Spanish
(tlapÿni/quebrado) refer to brittle objects that are broken. “Mashed beans” are
cooked; a translation of “broken or split beans” would be more accurate. Poqu(i)
“fumar” is glossed as “to give off smoke” instead of the correct “to smoke (a
cigarette, pipe, cigar, etc.).” And nehnemi, “andar o caminar,” is translated as “to
wander about.” In composition as -tinemi, the verb nemi does mean “to wander about.”
But certainly the primary meaning of nehnemi is simply “to walk.” Poztequ(i) is glossed
as “to split, to break lengthwise; to break something lengthwise.” Its actual meaning
is “to break crosswise (a branch, bone, etc.).” Apparently FK has interpreted a Spanish
gloss “quiebra la dirección en que va” for “lengthwise.” I believe the reference
is a metaphoric extension of poztequi to occasions when persons, animals, or even
moving phenomena such as rivers, suddenly change direction. Mÿnahuatiÿ, “se
despide de él (con la mano),” is translated as “to cast something or someone

At times, the English translation captures only a part of the Nahuatl meaning,
leaving out what may be the most important part of the Spanish gloss. On the other
hand, the English gloss may add a meaning that is not apparent from either the Nahuatl
or Spanish. For example, ÿtuyÿtl has a Spanish gloss of “corriente de agua,
río,” but in English has only “river.” The primary meaning of ÿtuyÿtl
is a current, usually flood or rain waters, that rushes down a hill. The key meaning of
ÿxpoloÿ as “desperdiciar o echar a perder algo” does not appear in the
English gloss. Likewise, a primary meaning of moyÿhu(a), “enturbiar el agua o otra
cosa líquida,” is absent from the English gloss. Eh camutla, “lo embruja,” is
glossed as “to bewitch someone; to make spirits visible;” the justification for “to
make spirits visible” is not clear.

There are also cases in which the English gloss is based on an erroneous selection
of one of several possible Spanish meanings. Thus tecuÿnaltiÿ, “lo prende,”
is given as “to seize, capture someone.” “Prender” can be translated as either “to
light (a fire)” or “to seize.” The correct gloss for tecuÿnaltiÿ is, however,
“to light” (for example, cf. Siméon 1977:453). The same Spanish word “prender”
is found also as a definition for celiy(a). Unless FK has found a case of a metaphoric
use of celiy(a), the correct translation is “to take root (a plant)” and not, as in
ADN, “to catch fire.” The translation of malÿna as “sprain something” is also
apparently taken from the Spanish “torcer” although the Nahuatl verb refers to the
twisting of fiber (prototypically hemp on one’s shin) and not to a sprain or twisted
body part. For mahuizutiÿ, “lo divierte, lo observa,” the English gloss “to
divert” in ADN selects the wrong meaning of “divertir.” The correct translation is “to
amuse or entertain.” Similar errors occur with other words. Thus for p p hualtiÿ,
“provocar a saña a otro (M), lo ofende (T), lo injuria (T),” FK gives “to
offend, injure someone,” selecting a secondary meaning of “injuriar” (“to injure”)
rather than the more common meaning, which is applicable here, of “to insult.” With
poxÿhui, “se cae, se desploma,” FK again selects a secondary and non-applicable
meaning of “desplomar” (“to get out of plumb”) rather than “to crumble down.” Momati
has a meaning of “se halla,” which FK translates as “it appears.” In this usage the
meaning of momati (and “se halla”) is “to feel comfortable or at home in a place or
situation.” A metaphoric meaning of ÿtl is “la mollera de la cabeza.” Although
“mollera” may mean either “crown of the head” or “fontanel,” ÿtl refers only to
the soft part of the head that disappears as a child matures. Quÿxtiÿ is
glossed as “to relieve oneself,” apparently based on a colloquial interpretation of
“excusarse,” rather than the indicated “to take leave.”


At a methodological and theoretical level ADN presents problems of conceptualization
and implementation that should have been more clearly formulated and discussed. More
serious for its practical use as a teaching and learning tool, the English glosses are
often inadequate. Yet in spite of its shortcomings, ADN has also been instrumental in
sensitizing students of Nahuatl to the importance of considering vowel length and
glottal stops in philological analysis. Most importantly, it is a concise reference
work on vowel length and glottal stop placement. ADN provides an invaluable research
tool that will free scholars and fieldworkers from the cumbersome task of consulting
myriad sources for questions of Nahuatl phonology.

In Ameyaltepec, as in Xalitla, underlying {h} is lost in all but word-final

References cited

Andrews, J. Richard. 1975. Introduction to Classical Nahuatl. Austin: University of
Texas Press. Bierhorst, John. 1985. A Nahuatl-English Dictionary and Concordance to the
Cantares mexicanos with an Analytic Transcription and Grammatical Notes. Stanford:
Stanford University Press. __________. 1992. Codex Chimalpopoca: The Text in Nahuatl
with a Glossary and Grammatical Notes. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. Brewer,
Forrest, and Jean G. Brewer. 1971. Vocabulario mexicano de Tetelcingo, Morelos.
México: Instituto Lingüístico del Verano. Campbell, Lyle. 1985. The
Pipil Language of El Salvador. New York: Mouton. Campbell, R. Joe. 1985. A
Morphological Dictionary of Classical Nahuatl: A Morpheme Index to the Vocabulario en
lengua mexicana y castellana of Fray Alonso de Molina. Madison, Wisconsin: Hispanic
Seminary of Medieval Studies. Canger, Una. 1986. “Review of Frances Karttunen, An
Analytical Dictionary of Nahuatl.” International Journal of American Linguistics
52(2):188­96. Carochi, Horacio. 1983 [1645]. Arte de la lengua mexicana con la de
declaración de los adverbios della. Edición facsimilar con un estudio
introductorio de Miguel León-Portilla. México: Universidad Nacional
Autónoma de México. Karttunen, Frances. 1987. “A reply.” International
Journal of American Linguistics 53(2):242­48. __________. 1983. An Analytical
Dictionary of Nahuatl. Austin: University of Texas Press. Key, Harold, and Mary Ritchie
de Key. 1953. Vocabulario de la Sierra de Zacapoaxtla, Puebla. México: Instituto
Lingüístico del Verano. Molina, Fray Alonso de. 1970 [1571]. Vocabulario en
lengua castellano y mexicana y mexicana y castellana. Estudio preliminar de Miguel
León-Portilla. México: Porrua. Siméon, Rémi. 1977.
Diccionario de la lengua náhuatl o mexicana. Traducción de Josefina Oliva
de Coll. México: Siglo Veintiuno.

Jonathan D. Amith
Yale University

The response by Frances Karttunen:

Note: In-text page numbers refer to the earlier Spanish version of Amith’s review,
not to the original English version that appears here.

The publishers of the paperback edition of An Analytical Dictionary of Nahuatl (ADN)
recently sent me a copy of a review by Jonathan Amith published in June, 1998, in
Mesoamérica. According to a footnote, a previous version of Amith’s review
appeared in Mesoamérica 33 (June 1997) with errors and omissions that the 1998
version corrects.

Since Amith’s review appears to call into question the integrity of the dictionary,
I feel it requires a reply, and I am posting it to the NN and Nahuatl-L for maximum
distribution to Nahuatl scholars. It would be unfortunate if current or potential users
of ADN were to lose confidence in the dependability of the dictionary. The review is
twelve pages long. On the first page and the last Amith speaks of ADN in positive
general terms, and in the intervening ten pages, he takes the position that it
methodologically flawed and contains many serious inaccuracies. On p. 277, Amith states
that there are defects in three areas: 1) the concept of the canonical form of the
entries; 2) the treatment of contrastive vowel length; and 3) the English glosses of
the entries.

Beginning with the canonical form, he is dissatisfied with the orthography used. As
he himself acknowledges, the orthography is not an invention for ADN, but is that used
by J. Richard Andrews in his Introduction to Classical Nahuatl (University of Texas
Press, 1975). Oddly, in his characterization of the orthography, Amith states on p. 277
that in ADN long vowels are marked with colons after the vowels, but this is not the
case. Long vowels in ADN are indicated with macrons over the vowels, just as they are
in Andrews. When Amith states on p. 278 that minor changes in “colonial orthography”
are made in ADN, concerning qu and cu before the vowels a and o, these choices were –
once again – already made by Andrews and are not innovations in the dictionary.

I chose to follow Andrews in order not to proliferate orthographies and to make the
dictionary maximally compatible with the grammar. Naturally, I would not have adopted
this particular orthography if I felt it to be defective or misleading. But on the
contrary, I am in agreement with Andrews that his orthography is optimal for
representing and teaching a conservative central Mexican variety of Nahuatl to which
the greatest number of Nahuatl scholars and students seek access.

For regional dialect studies, a different type of transcription is appropriate.
There exists a substantial corpus of Nahuatl dictionaries of particular communities,
each with an orthography devised to reflect the phonetic characteristics of Nahuatl
speech in that microarea. These dictionaries were designed to be maximally accessible
to the members of the communities in question. The more locally useful they are,
however, the more opaque they are to the broader pool of potential users. Mental
translation among these various orthographies requires training in phonology plus a
degree of linguistic agility that shuts out many people who deserve to get in.

I am of the opinion that any alteration Amith would have of the orthography of ADN
would reduce its usefulness to a great many users of the dictionary. On p. 278 Amith
Remarks that orthographic cu and uc do not always represent phonetic [kw] and gives as
an example three forms of the word for “lord, ruler” from three communities in the
Río Balsas region. However, the trisyllabic forms he cites appear to me to be
back-loans of Spanish spelling pronunciation of written Nahuatl. This is the case in
the Nahuatl spoken in Milpa, Alta, where teuhtli, the local reflex of /te:kwtli/, still
means “lord,” but the back-loan tecohtli means “boss.” There are no Spanish loanwords
included in ADN, even ones that originated in Nahuatl, traveled to Spanish, and then

This is the first of a number of instances in which Amith states that ADN is
inadequate because it does not represent to his satisfaction the currently spoken
Río Balsas dialects. However, it was not intended to do so. I am confident that
it can be a useful tool in studying these dialects, but ultimately it is up to Amith to
produce the fruit of his own long fieldwork and show to what extent these dialects
agree with the sources from which ADN was compiled, to what extent they diverge, and
how systematic the divergences are.

When ADN took shape, Amith’s Río Balsas material was not available to be
incorporated into the comparative data files. However, the dictionary of nearby
Xalitla, Guerrero, compiled by Cleofas Celestino Ramírez and Karen Dakin was so
incorporated. The Xalitla material does not follow the Carochi and Bancroft patterns of
contrastive vowel-length with the consistency of the material from the modern
Tetelcingo dictionary. This has led me to the conclusion that in the last quarter of
this century contrastive vowel length in Xalitla has been eroded, retained mainly in
shibboleth pairs. Some linguists – including José Antonio Flores Fárfan,
who has worked extensively on Nahuatl of the Río Balsas region – agree with my
understanding of this while others – notably Karen Dakin – disagree. Amith would do us
a favor if he would publish an article setting forth the systematic and the random
differences in the corpora he has collected.

Still on p. 278 Amith criticizes my departure from Andrews in marking the final
vowels of “Class C” verbs as long. My reason for doing so is that the final vowel of
such stems is long when followed by the suffixes -ni (customary present) and -ya
(imperfect) and short when word-final or followed by a glottal stop (“saltillo”). My
choice is not ad hoc, since these two shortening contexts are general in Nahuatl
(although some uninflected particles and the nouns that drop a stem final /i/ in
word-final position retain surface phonetic long final vowels). Amith objects that this
general shortening is not just in word-final position but in phrase- or utterance-final
position. This strikes me as an odd objection, since on the one hand, phrase-final and
utterance-final imply word-final, and on the other hand, word-final shortening occurs
within as well as at the end of phrases.

Amith feels that my choice excludes the possibility that the final vowels of “Class
C” verbs are lengthened by a morphological process specific to the customary present
and imperfect suffixes. It was not my intent to exclude alternative analyses, and Amith
is welcome to propose one and argue for it. The canonical forms in ADN are there,
however, to be maximally predictive of vowel length in derived forms. They are not
intended as statements of phonological theory or of psychological reality.

Amith goes on for another page complaining that the forms of ADN are not the
specific forms of particular dialects (Xalitla and Tetelcingo) and that, moreover,
general rules of deriving specific local forms that are mentioned in the dictionary are
not set forth in the dictionary itself. These complaints strike me as gratuitous. There
is no place in the dictionary for a comparative dialect study, nor would one benefit
most users of the dictionary. As for the examples Amith cites, it is a general rule in
Xalitla Nahuatl that geminate -ll- (<-l-tl) is aspired (pronounced as [hl]). Thus
canonical CAL-LI predicts cahli in Xalitla. In Tetelcingo vowels have undergone quality
changes that enhance the contrast of long and short vowels. Thus, the long O of the
canonical form is predictably realized in Tetelcingo as [u] in mulcaxitl. These
correspondences are obvious and transparent to any linguist examining the primary

On p. 280, Amith asserts that I have smoothed over and corrected inconsistencies in
my sources. This is far from the case. The compilation of the dictionary began with an
exhaustive comparison of attestations from several early and modern sources. There was
no way of knowing in advance whether they would agree or not. It emerged that the
modern Tetelcingo material overwhelmingly agreed with the Carochi and Bancroft
material. The Zacapoaxtla data was less consistent, but it was not internally
consistent either. When confusion between long vowels and stressed short vowels was
taken into account, there was a better fit. The apparent problems I found in the
Xalitla data seem to have most to do with long vowels no longer being consistently
contrasted with short ones. According to Flores Fárfan and Celestino
Ramírez, Nahuatl in Xalitla has nearly ceased to be transmitted from parents to
their children, and in this situation of imminent language death, it is difficult for
anyone to collect new data to resolve these questions.

In any case, I categorically deny that I have “corrected” entries or suppressed
data. When there is agreement in attestations across several sources, the ADN entry is
given without attestations. When there is disagreement among sources, the attestations
are given, and the nature of the disagreement is plainly stated. The original
comparative data files are archived at the Benson Latin American Collection of the
University of Texas where Amith is welcome to consult them. Up until December 1998, I
had them readily at hand for answering queries, but Amith has never contacted me with

From charges of correction, Amith moves on, at the end of p. 280, to claim that I
have changed vowel-length values. This is contrary to the purpose of the dictionary,
and I deny that I have done so. Where attestations do not agree with what derivational
morphology would predict, I have been scrupulous in stating that they do not. Amith’s
quotations from entries in ADN bear this out.

Once again Amith resorts to examples from the Río Balsas region, but it is
difficult to know what to make of them in a context of “sugiere,” “probablemente,” and
“parece.” Moreover, it hardly seems appropriate for Amith to complain of ADN not
spelling out general rules and then for he himself to cite vowel-length inconsistencies
in his data “donde la cantidad vocálica cambia por razones que aún no
hemos podido determinar.”

At the bottom of p. 282 Amith claims that my methodology is “etymological” and that
it is not clear when I have respected the data and when I have changed it for my own
purposes. Neither of these assertions is correct. Once again, the very quotations from
ADN that Amith presents undercut his criticism. Users of the dictionary may be assured
that it is solidly data based and is not characterized by unheralded changes of any
sort. Amith’s use of shudder quotes lends no validity to his insinuations.

The charges on the lower half of p. 284 and top of p. 285 are baseless. There are no
stealthily created artificial entries in ADN, and Amith’s advice that “Sería
mejor desister de tales commentarios hasta saber más de los procesos
derivacionales de náhuatl” is not calculated to win him a Mr. Congeniality

Beginning in the middle of p. 285 and continuing onto p. 288, Amith criticizes the
English translations provided in ADN, stating that they are often frustratingly
incomplete or erroneous. Specifically, he cites the English glosses of two dozen
entries. I think the implication is that these two dozen are but a sampling of a much
larger number of errors, which I certainly hope is not the case. But to have even a few
poor or misleading glosses in a dictionary is distressing, so I am not going to take
the line that two dozen out of more than 6,000 is not so bad.

In the past I have come across some embarrassing mistakes on my own and had the
chance to correct them in the paperback edition. Una Canger objected to my
characterization of a word for shell meaning “egg” only through metaphorical extension,
and further examination of a lot of texts has convinced me that she has a pont. In some
areas the word I took to mean “mollusk shell” is used as the only or the primary word
for “egg.” Likewise, Ricardo Salvador has kindly corrected me on my understanding of
the parts of the maize flower, and he caught a mistake that passed unnoticed from the
original edition into the paperback: describing a tree as one that is planted to
provide shade for coffee bushes, when in fact, it is planted to provide shade for
cacao. Also, someone pointed out to me that a terse gloss of mine “dove” begs the
question of whether I mean the bird or the past tense of the verb “to dive.”
Fortunately, Molina’s Spanish gloss paired with my English one makes the meaning

Since the original publication of ADN, however, no one has sent me a list of more
than a very few problematic glosses. I certainly wish that if prior to the paperback
edition Amith had already come across some or all of the ones he lists in his review,
he had sent them to me. But just as he has never queried me about canonical forms and
inconsistencies between ADN forms and Río Balsas area forms, it is also the case
that he has never contacted me about English glosses.

Assuming that the glosses he presents as defective are the strongest examples of
error, some of them strike me as straw men. He rejects my “to have something to eat, to
take some refreshment” for a literal translation from Carochi, “to stop for a small
bite to eat in order to gain strength.” He rejects “to rain” in favor of “to drizzle”
and my “warm” for “hot.” He says my gloss of the fruit identified in Spanish as
guamúchil as “tamarind” is mistaken, but I have checked my source for the gloss,
and it definitely identifies the fruit as tamarind. This is not to say that in various
areas of Mexico, the same word must always refer to the same plant, flower, or fruit.
On the contrary, botanical terms are rather widely shared around. For this reason, I
backed away from precise identifications in ADN.

Amith says that the verb I gloss as “to give off smoke” really means “to smoke (a
cigarette, pipe, cigar, etc.).” Since the verb is only attested in my data files for
Xalitla, which is in the Río Balsas area, I do not dispute him. It undoubtedly
means “to smoke” in the sense he gives. But it is an intransitive verb, so the cigar,
cigarette, or pipe is implied: it cannot appear as direct object. And what, after all,
in this context is the great difference between smoking, exhaling smoke, and giving off

I will not continue through the rest of Amith’s examples. Some of his objections are
surely on the mark. Some of them, I think, are rather strained. I certainly hope there
are no more than a couple of dozen. By way of assurance to users of ADN, let me point
out that the entries in the dictionary – canonical forms (including long vowels, short
vowels, and glottal stops), glosses, and attestations – were not created in a vacuum.
James Lockhart and I went over every entry together before publication. We did not
always agree; in fact he has never accepted the long final vowels of “Class C” verbs.
He brought his immense experience with colonial Nahuatl and Spanish to the checking,
however, and in cases where we did not agree, my ultimate choices were not uninformed.
Then the University of Texas Press had prepublication readers for the original 1983
edition, and the University of Oklahoma Press had more readers before the 1992
paperback edition. The dictionary has been out for sixteen years, and it has been
reviewed in quite a number of both English- and Spanish-language journals.

When I was in the process of assembling the comparative data files from which I
compiled ADN, I made a presentation about the dictionary-to-be at an International
Congress of Americanists meeting in Manchester, England. I polled the assembled Nahuatl
scholars there about what they wanted in the entries and how they would like the
information organized. At that time Una Canger gave me an excellent piece of advice
that I have done my very best to follow. She said that it was not so important HOW I
designed the entries; the important thing was to tell the reader what I was doing every
step of the way. I found this both reassuring and inspiring, and it became my standard
from the beginning to the end of the dictionary project. I offer these subsequent
comments in the same spirit.

Frances Karttunen
Linguistics Research Center
University of Texas Austin

The response from Jonathan Amith:

If brevity is the soul of wit and discretion is the better part of valor, then
perhaps Frances Karttunen and myself do indeed share something in common – a rather
dispirited sense of humor and a rather thespian sense of valor. What we certainly don’t
share, it should now be apparent, is an opinion of the Analytical Dictionary of Nahuatl
(ADN). I originally wrote a review of ADN in English for Mesoamerica (where it was
translated into Spanish). Alan Sandstrom has kindly allowed the original English
version to appear in this issue of the NN. This will allow readers to better understand
my original points and compare them with FK’s response. Given this, I will try to make
my “response to a response” somewhat brief.

To begin, I think that in many cases FK seems to exaggerate our differences or make
my objections more categorical than they are. Thus in her response she notes that I am
“dissatisfied with the orthography used.” Indeed I am (particularly in how /h/, used to
represent the glottal stop (saltillo) of Classical Nahuatl, affects alphabetization and
makes it difficult for students to locate words, while it separates reduplicated forms
such as -t tequi from -tehtequi, when they would much better be kept together to
facilitate comparison, particularly given that in most colonial texts both would appear
as simply -tetequi; the Jesuit orthography, which uses diacritics, is much more
heuristic in this regard). However, I also state that “FK presents a satisfactory
defense of her selection.” Nevertheless, after using ADN for several years in a
classroom environment I can definitely state that it is untrue that “any alternation…
[to] the orthography of ADN would reduce its usefulness to a great many users of the
dictionary” (FK, response). Beginning students working with colonial texts that do not
represent the glottal stop (FK’s /h/) find it troublesome to locate words with this
phoneme. For example, tepexitl, “precipice,” appears in ADN as tepehxitl. The Jesuit
orthography tepèxitl, with /è/ alphabetized with /e/, would make locating
the word much simpler. Indeed (as Una Canger notes in her review of ADN), FK
acknowledges the difficulty in her introduction: “If the user fails to find a word on
the first search, that does not necessarily mean that the word is missing from the
dictionary. The burden is on the user to search again for the word with an H at the end
of the first syllable, then the second, etc., until all possibilities have been
exhausted” (ADN, p. xii).

A similar exaggeration of our differences exists in regards to the final long vowel
of “Class C” verbs. If the canonical form of these verbs is meant “to be maximally
predictive of vowel length in derived forms,” as FK states in her response, then this
is a valid choice, though perhaps not one that everyone would make. As FK notes, “James
Lockhart… has never accepted the long final vowels of ‘Class C’ verbs.” It seems
unusual, then, that she would object to a reviewer mentioning what has obviously been a
point of discussion between the author and her colleagues.

I do not suggest, as FK intimates, that there are “stealthily created artificial
entries” in ADN. Rather, I mention that “for most entries she [FK] provides the reader
with a careful listing of sources and a clear exposition of discrepancies in vowel
length and glottal stop placement.” Nor do I suggest that “ADN is inadequate because it
does not represent to [my] satisfaction the currently spoken Río Balsas
dialects.” What I do contend is that some of my research material supports vowel length
as recorded by other scholars, data that FK has occasionally changed according to
etymological interpretations and on the basis of “rules” that I believe are not only
inadequately formulated and inconsistently applied, but that are not applicable across
dialects. “Rules” such as “secondary shortening,” “contextual shortening,” and
“superficial neutralization” are neither described nor documented. FK also seems to
misunderstand my objection: the problem is not simply that she fails to spell out
“general rules,” but that she repeatedly applies rules that are not or perhaps cannot,
given that FK’s compilation includes various dialects, be spelled out.

Equally problematic is FK’s tendency to change entries or suggest new ones based on
her etymological analysis and occasional misunderstanding of Nahuatl derivational
morphology. Thus she takes palaxtli, “something festering or rotten,” and states that
it implies an unattested verb *palaya. There is no such verb (although in many contexts
/x/ does derive from /y/). The derivational process is the same that forms
qualaxtli,”ire,” from qualÿni, “to be angry” (cf. Launey 1992:281). FK creates a
hypothetical entry hu iyac ‘something long’ and states that “the I is only hypothesized
from HUÿIY(A)” (p. 86). Hu iyac exists only in FK’s hypothetical derivation.
Zacapoaxtla and Xalitla (which gives a long final /ÿ/) both have hu yac (as does
Ameyaltepec and Oapan). Molina too only has ueyac and the derived forms ueyaquilia and
ueyaquiliztli. Here there seems to be no “disagreement among sources” that needs to be
reconciled – no source that I am familiar with gives an /i/.

Finally, I mentioned difficulties with FK’s translations. In reference to puqui the
problem is FK’s mistranslation of both the Nahuatl and the Spanish (fumar, given by
Ramírez and Dakin in their Xalitla dictionary and cited by FK, does not mean “to
give off smoke”). And contrary to what FK asserts, there certainly is a difference
between “smoking, exhaling smoke, and giving off smoke.” (The verb puqui, in fact,
probably represents noun incorporation of “smoke” + ÿ “imbibe,” in a structure
analogous to ÿtli “to drink water,” from ÿtl + ÿ, and ÿtuli “to
drink atole,” from ÿtul(li) + ÿ.) In regard to the English translations it is
often difficult to determine FK’s source. Thus she gives for chuquiliztli and
chuquiztli “tears, weeping, cries…” although the Spanish gloss does not give
lágrimas. The nominalization of the verb chuka refers to the action of crying,
not tears (which is ÿxÿyutl). I am unaware of any source that defines
chuqui(li)ztli as “tears.”

It is unavoidable that in a lexicographic work such as ADN mistakes will be made.
And considering the costs involved in retypesetting a dictionary, it is also
understandable why certain errors would be left to stand, although certainly a preface
to a second edition should point these out. Not only is there no new preface, but
nowhere in the paperback edition is there any indication that changes or corrections
have been made. In her response, FK gives the erroneous impression that she corrected
the paperback edition (1992) where errors were found in the original hardback edition
(1983). It seems, however, that she only made a few minor changes that could be carried
out with little cost; other obvious mistakes were left uncorrected. For example, based
on comments offered by Canger in her review of the first edition of ADN, FK does change
the English gloss of t cciztli from “shell in general, including egg shell” to “shell
in general; egg”; and FK also changes mulcax(i)tl from “stone mortar and pestle” to
“stone mortar; soup bowl.” Yet other clear and more serious errors pointed out by
Canger (including one acknowledged by FK in her reply; a mistaken entry mÿyexi, in
which the reflexive prefix m(o)- is erroneously analyzed as part of the verbal stem)
are not corrected. A solution would have been to point out these errors in a preface to
the second edition, while at the same time explaining why (presumably for economic
reasons) they were not corrected.

One final comment: in any undertaking such as ADN, theoretical and methodological
decisions will be made with which not all scholars would agree. In my original review I
mentioned several disagreements, some major and others minor, although I also clearly
pointed out that “[this] welcome and much-needed paperback edition… [will] for good
reason continue to provide scholars and fieldworkers with a quick-reference compendium
on vowel length and glottal stops.” Certainly in publishing his or her comments a
reviewer must be willing to accept the fact that some authors will be displeased. A few
of them will express their objections in print. FK is certainly entitled to do so and
has – besides her long response to my lengthy review of the second edition of ADN she
also wrote a six-page reply (Karttunen 1987) to Canger’s eight-page review of the first
edition (Canger 1986). Usually, however, responses are made public within the journal
in which the review originally appeared. In the present case FK has responded (with the
same text) not only in the journal where my review was published (Mesoamerica), but
also on the Internet (a sort of cybernetic “direct mailing” at and now in the NN. A quote from Hamlet
began this review, a line from Macbeth can end it: “methinks [FK] dost protest too

References cited

Canger, Una. 1986. “Review of Frances Karttunen, An Analytical Dictionary of
Nahuatl.” International Journal of American Linguistics 52:188­96. Karttunen,
Frances. 1987. “A reply.” International Journal of American Linguistics 53:242­48.
Launey, Michel. 1992. Introducción a la lengua y a la literatura náhuatl.
México, D.F.: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

Jonathan Amith
Yale University

Illustrations this issue

The drawings in this issue were taken from Los Lienzos de Acaxochitlán
(Hidalgo) y su importancia en la historia del poblamiento de la Sierra Norte de Puebla
y zonas vecinas = Les Lienzos d’Acaxochitlán (Hidalgo) y leur importance pour
l’histoire du peuplement de la Sierra Nord de Puebla et des zones voisines. By Guy
Stresser-Péan. Pachuca, Hidalgo: Gobierno del Estado de Hidalgo, Instituto
Hidalguense de Educación Media Superior y Superior, Consejo Estatal para la
Cultura y las Artes de Hidalgo; México, D.F.: Centre Française d’Etudes
Mexicaines et Centraméricaines, Ministère des Affaires Etrangères,
1998. Pp. 276. ISBN 968 6029-63-X.

Directory update

Editor’s note: For privacy reasons, Directory mailing lists are only provided on the print version. If you have any questions, please contact the editor.

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