Full-text resources of CEJSH and other databases are now available in the new Library of Science.
Visit https://bibliotekanauki.pl


2015 | 7(38) | 35-52

Article title

Language Encounters: Toward a Better Comprehension of Contact-Induced Lexical Change in Colonial Nahuatl


Selected contents from this journal

Title variants

Languages of publication



The extensive corpus of colonial Nahuatl texts lights on almost every sphere of colonial life and cross‑cultural interactions between the Europeans/Spaniards and the indigenous world. This corpus contains rich language data related to contact‑induced change that reveal a simultaneous, prolonged use of neologisms and loanwords, a widespread “Nahuatlization” of foreign terms as well as adoption of Spanish ideas and cultural stereotypes. The linguistic phenomena discussed in the present paper focus on lexical change, neologization, meaning change, borrowing and the creation of calques. These language innovations reveal the nuances of the complex process of cross‑cultural translation, the receptivity of European influence, the domestication of the new and the survival of traditional language resources.


  • University of Warsaw


  • Archivo General de Indias, Guatemala 52.
  • Biblioteca Nacional de Mexico, MS 1476, Santoral en mexicano, Oraciones de Nuestra Señora.
  • Biblioteca Nacional de México, Ms. 1487.
  • John Carter Brown Library, Cod. Ind. 7.
  • McAfee Collection, 339.Archivo General de Indias, Guatemala 52.
  • Bernardino de Sahagún, The Florentine Codex, trans. by C.E. Dibble, A.J.O. Anderson, pt. 13.
  • Book 12: The Conquest of Mexico, Santa Fe 2012 (Monographs of the School of American Research, 14).
  • Burkhart L., Before Guadalupe. The Virgin Mary in Early Colonial Nahuatl Literature, Albany 2001 (IMS Monograph, 13).
  • Burkhart L., The Slippery Earth. Nahua‑Christian Moral Dialogue in Sixteenth‑Century Mexico, Tucson 1989.
  • Canger U., Mexicanero de la Sierra Madre Occidental, México 2001 (Archivo de Lenguas Indígenas de México, 24).
  • Cline S.L., León Portilla M. (eds.), The Testaments of Culhuacan, Los Angeles 1984 (Nahuatl Series, 1. Special Studies (UCLA Latin American Center Publications), 2).
  • Codex Chimalpahin, trans. by S. Schroeder, A.J.O. Anderson, Vol. 2, Norman 1997 (Civilization of the American Indian Series, 225).
  • Flores Farfán J.A., Cuatreros somos y toindioma hablamos. Contactos y conflictos entre el náhuatl y el español en el sur de México, Tlalpán, D.F. 1999 (Ḷenǥua‑jeṣ).
  • Flores Farfán J.A., ‘The Hispanization of Modern Nahuatl Varieties’ in Hispanisation. The Impact of Spanish on the Lexicon and Grammar of the Indigenous Languages of Austronesia and the Americas, Berlin–New York 2008 (Empirical Approaches to Language Typology, 39).
  • Hill J., Hill K.C., Speaking Mexicano. Dynamics of Syncretic Language in Central Mexico, Tucson 1986.
  • Horn R., ‘The Testaments of Coyoacan,’ a paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Ethnohistory, 20 October 2012, Pasadena.
  • Jensen A., ‘Hispanisation in Colonial Nahuatl?’ in T. Stolz, D. Bakker, R. Salas Palomo (eds.), Hispanisation. The Impact of Spanish on the Lexicon and Grammar of the Indigenous Languages of Austronesia and the Americas, Berlin–New York 2008 (Empirical Approaches to Language Typology, 39).
  • Karttunen F., Lockhart J., Nahuatl in Middle Years. Language Contact Phenomena in Texts of the Colonial Period, Berkeley 1976 (University of California Publications in Linguistics, 85).
  • Lockhart J., The Nahuas after the Conquest. A Social and Cultural History of the Indians of Central Mexico, Sixteenth Through Eighteenth Centuries, Stanford 1992.
  • Lockhart J., Berdan F., Anderson A.J.O., The Tlaxcalan Actas. A Compendium of the Records of the Cabildo of Tlaxcala, 1545‑1627, Salt Lake City 1986.
  • Lockhart J., Schroeder S., Namala D. (eds. and transl.), Annals of his Time. Don Domingo de San Antón Muñó n Chimalpahin Quauhtlehuanitzin, Stanford 2006 (Series Chimalpahin).
  • Molina A. de, Vocabulario en lengua castellana y mexicana y mexicana y castellana, Mexico 2001 (Biblioteca Porrúa, 44).
  • Pizzigoni C. (ed. and trans.), Testaments of Toluca, Stanford 2007, p. 217 (Nahuatl Studies, 8. UCLA Latin American Studies, 90).
  • Rojas Rabiela T., Rea López E.L., Medina Lima C. (eds.), Vidas y bienes olvidados. Testamentos indígenas novohispanos, Vol. 3: Testamentos en nahuatl y castellano del siglo XVII, México 2002 (Historias (Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social)).
  • Sell B., Burkhart L., Poole S. (eds.), Nahuatl Theater, Vol. 2: Our Lady of Guadalupe, Norman 2006.
  • Sell B., Burkhart L., Spira G. (eds.), Nahuatl Theater, Vol. 1: Death and Life in Colonial Nahua Mexico, Norman 2004.
  • Sullivan J., ‘The Jalostotitlan Petitions, 1611‑1618’ in J. Lockhart, L. Sousa, S. Woods (eds.), Sources and Methods for the Study of Postconquest Mesoamerican Ethnohistory, provisional version, Wired Humanities Project, University of Oregon, 2007, at <http://whp.oregon.edu/Lockhart/Sullivan.pdf>.
  • Thomason S.G., Language Contact. An Introduction, Washington, D.C. 2001.
  • Thomason S.G., Kaufman T., Language Contact, Creolization, and Genetic Linguistics, Berkeley 1988.
  • Townsend C. (ed. and trans.), Here in This Year. Seventeenth‑Century Nahuatl Annals of the Tlaxcala‑Puebla Valley, Stanford 2010.
  • Zapata y Mendoza J.B., Historia cronológica de la Noble Ciudad de Tlaxcala, ed. and trans. by L. Reyes García, A. Martinez Baracs, México 1995 (Colección Historia: Serie Historia de Tlaxcala, 4).

Document Type

Publication order reference

YADDA identifier

JavaScript is turned off in your web browser. Turn it on to take full advantage of this site, then refresh the page.