Nahuatl (Modern Aztec)

Nahuatl (pronounced Náhuatl), meaning 'the pure language', is a language spoken by 1.5 million people in Mexico.

It is a descendant of the language spoken by the Aztecs, Toltecs and perhaps the people of the city of Teotihuacan and was the lingua franca of the Aztec empire in Mesoamerica from the 7th century AD until the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. 

After the fall of the Aztec empire,various dialects of Nahuatl began to emerge. 

Today people who speak different Nahuatl dialects do not always understand each other.

Aztec Empire

The dialect of the Mexico Valley is closer to the classical Nahuatl of the Aztecs.

Classical Nahuatl was written using a pictographic system and was not a complete writing system but rather served the role of a mnemonic aid to enable the Aztecs to recite texts orally.

The Spaniards with their arrival introduced the Latin alphabet,when the systematic recording of works began.
With the arrival of the Spanish in Central America, Nahuatl lost its place as the dominant language of the region and many books were burned as they were considered pagan. 

However, the number of speakers of the language did not decrease but instead increased, which was due to the Spanish making alliances with Nahuatl-speaking tribes. 

Nahuatl speakers became key allies of the Spanish and served in the Spanish army by the thousands, resulting in the expansion of Nahuatl much further south into the Americas.

In fact Nahua soldiers made up the bulk of the Spanish forces that occupied the Philippines and even today Chavacano, a creole-based Spanish language spoken in the Philippines, has many Nahuatl words.

The language was later used by the Spaniards as a lingua franca and flourished with the production and translation of many books in Nahuatl, such as grammars, dictionaries and works of literature and poetry dating back to the 16th century AD, a unique phenomenon for an Indian language.

Many Nahuatl words passed into European languages mainly through Spanish; the words tomato, chocolate, tequila, chilli are Aztec Nahuatl words.

the alphabet 

A variant of the Latin alphabet introduced by the Spanish after the conquest of Mexico is used to write Nahuatl.

It consists of twenty-five letters:

a c ch cu e hu i l* m n o p qu t tl tz x y z ā ē ī ō ll* h*

Aztec pictograms


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