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12.07.2014 admin
The Aztecs, or Mexica as they called themselves, were the elite of a militaristic empire centered at Central Mexico when the Spanish conquistadores landed in America at the beginning of the 16th century CE. Nahuatl writing was primary written on perishable media such as deer-skin and paper codices.
Nahuatl writing had three primary functions, namely to mark calendrical dates, to record accounting mathematical calculations, and to write names of people and places.
Like other Mesoamerican scripts, the core of Nahuatl writing consists of a set of calendrical signs and a vigesimal number system. The Aztecs had a 365-day solar calendar called xiuhpohualli, which consisted of 18 months of 20 days, and an unlucky 5-day period at the end of the year. In addition, like other Mesoamerican cultures, the Aztecs also employed the Calendar Round, a 52-year period created by interlocking the 260-day and 365-day cycles. As you have probably gathered by now, Aztec numbers are represented by long sequences of dots. The previous examples are taken from the Codex Mendoza, and they provide both the Aztec and Spanish versions of the information they are conveying. In addition to calendrical and numeric signs, a number of highly pictorial logograms were used to write down personal names, names of places, and historical events. The Nahuatl language is polysynthetic, which means that compound words and long phrases are constructed from roots and affixes.
Macuilxochic is composed of the roots macuil-li ("five", represented by five dots), xochi-tl ("flower", represented by the logogram XOCHI), and the suffix -c ("place") which is omitted. Ocelotepec contains a glyph in the form of a wildcat head that stands for the logogram OSELO (ocelo-tl, "ocelot") and the hill glyph TEPE (tepe-tl, "hill"). Xochimilco means the the "Place of Flower Fields", from XOCHI (xochi-tl, "flower"), MIL (mil-li, "sown field"), and omitted suffix -co ("place"). Ilhuicamina, from ILWIKA (ilhuica-tl, "sky") and MI (mina, "lance", "arrow"), meaning "He Who Shoots an Arrow into the Sky", is the name of the fifth Aztec emperor (also known as Moctezuma I). Chimalpopoca is composed of two logograms, CHIMAL (chimal-li, "shield") and POPOKA (popoca-c, "smoking"), which together means "Smoking Shield" and is the name of the third Mexica emperor. Atemoztli contains A (a-tl, "water") plus conjugated form of the verb temoa ("fall", "descent") to yield "Descent of the Waters", is the name of the 16th Aztec "month" of twenty days.
Ehecatlapechco means "Place of the Altar of Ehecatl" and is composed of the logograms E'EKA (eheca-tl, "wind", represented by bearded mask) and TLAPECH (tlapech-tli, "altar"), and omitted suffix -co.
While a lot of Nahuatl names can be represented by joining logograms together for their meaning, sometimes it is difficult to visually depict a concept graphically.
Coatzinco means "Place of Little Snake", and contains the logograms KOA (coa-tl, "snake") and TZIN (tzin-tli, "buttocks", represented by the lower half of the body).
Oztoticpac is composed of root osto-tl ("cave") and suffixes -icpa ("above") and -c ("place of"), and means "Place Above the Cave". Cuauhnahuac means "Place Near the Trees" and consists of cuauh-tli means "trees" and endings -nahua ("near to") and -c. Rebus writing is one of the ways to represent sounds rather than meanings in Nahuatl writing.
For example, the glyph a is derived from a-tl "water", tla is a set of teeth and based on the word tlan-tli "tooth", and ko which is from comi-tl "pot". Often names found in Aztec manuscripts and monuments included a good amount of phonetic glyphs. Mapachtepec is composed of the Nahuatl roots mapach-tli ("raccoon") and tepe-tl ("hill") plus the ending -c ("place"), which together means "Place of Raccoon Hill". Xocoyoltepec means "Place of Wood Sorrel Hill", from xocoyol-li ("wood sorrel"), tepe-tl and ending -c.
Amacoztitlan, from ama-tl ("paper"), cos-tli ("yellow"), and -tlan ("place"), meaning "Place of Yellow Papers".
Piaztlan means "Place of Acocote", composed of the root piaz-tli ("acocote", a long dried gourd used to extract maguey nectar), and ending -tlan. Tizoc is the name of seventh Aztec emperor as recorded in colonial manuscripts, although the exact form and meaning of his name is unknown. One might find that from the previous examples the Aztec writing system is complicated and not straightforward to modern eyes. Parents of my students often ask me how they can start speaking Spanish with their children at home. Many of the Spanish sentences I suggest are contextual, that is, you use them in specific situations and the meaning is clear from what you are doing.
Below is a list of common Spanish phrases that parents and childcare providers can incorporate into daily routines. There is a printable version of this list, called Dilo asi (Say it like this), at the end of the post.


I fall exactly into the category you mentioned: comfortable in Spanish, but not familiar with all the expressions one would use when playing games, etc, with kids. This is just what I’m looking for, a took Spanish st school and loved it and wanted to teach my kids .
It was also the language of the majority of the people in Central Mexico and a lingua franca in large parts of Mesoamerica.
The most important calendrical cycle observed by the Aztecs was the 260-day sacred calendar, called tonalpohualli in Nahuatl. Reflecting this characteristic, Aztec names are often written as groups of highly pictorial logograms that make up the roots of the name.
The red (presumably hot) chile pepper glyph is the logogram CHIL, which represents the Nahuatl root chil-li ("chile").
Note that in general, suffixes that meaning "place of", or "near" such as -c, -co, and -can are usually omitted from writing, likely considered implicit by Aztec scribes. Nowadays this is a historical region of Mexico City that still preserves the canal and man-made islands of the lake that once covered modern Mexico City. Note that the logogram ILWIKA "sky" is represented by the band containing stars (the white dots) and the symbol for Venus.
To solve this, in certain cases a logogram is used for its phonetic value rather than its meaning in order to represent another root, suffix, or syllable(s) that sounds identical or similar to the logogram.
The buttocks, tzin-tli, is used in this case as its root form tzin happens to be homophonous with the diminutive suffix -tzin which roughly means "little". The glyph for cave OSTO is the head of a reptilian earth monster, as Mesoamericans viewed caves as living beings. In addition, a number of Nahuatl logograms can also function as single-syllable phonetic signs. Note that while logograms are transcribed using upper-case letters, phonetic signs are transcribed with lower-case letters.
Sometimes the phonetic glyphs serve to complement logograms, in that they spell out one or more syllables of the logogram. Instead of drawing a raccoon, the root mapach is written fully phonetically by a combination of the phonetic glyph ma and the logogram PACH "moss" used as a rebus. The wood sorrel or oxalis is xocoyol-li in Nahuatl and is denoted by the logogram XOKOYOL in the form of a three-leaf plant glyph. Her name means "Old Woman Skirt" and is composed of the roots ilama-tl ("old woman") and cue-itl ("skirt"), which is represented by the rectangular skirt logogram KWE. Glyphs can be polyvalent, functioning as both logograms and phonetic signs, and are not always read in a linear fashion but could jump from one end to another.
Most of them have studied Spanish at some point and are comfortable reading and pronouncing the language, but do not have enough fluency or vocabulary to use it naturally. Most of the questions can be answered yes or no and are not necessarily part of a more complicated conversation. When you are comfortable using those, and remember to use them consistently, add a few more of these common Spanish phrases to your daily routine. I have a similar feature for Spanish speaking parents who want to use English with their kids. She and I are native spanish speakers and I would like to teach her a couple of expressions in English.
The tonalpohualli is essentially two parallel and interlocking cycles, one of 20 days (represented by "day signs"), and one of 13 days (represented by numbers called "coefficients"). The glyphs are joined together or even sometimes combined into a single glyph (a process called conflation) to show that they form a compound word. The other glyph is a stylized cross-section of a river which is the logogram for APAN, standing for the Nahuatl root apan ("river"). Macuilxochic therefore means "Place of Five Flowers", or in other words, a place dedicated to the god Macuilxochitl or "Five Flowers" who is also known as Xochipilli, the patron of arts in the Aztec pantheon. This process is called rebus writing and is also quite productive in Aztec writing, as you can see in the following examples. And in order to write the suffix -icpa, the sign IKPA (icpa-tl, "yarn") is used for its phonetic value. To represent -nahua, Aztec scribes used the sign group NAWA containing a mouth and a speech scroll to represent the verb nahua "to speak clearly" (whose noun form is "Nahuatl", the name of the language of the Aztecs). What is interesting is that the lower element, the brown rectangle with vertical notches, would be read as the logogram MIL (mil-li, "sown field", as in Xochimilco above) except for the two round objects inside which are in fact eyes. And in fact, like rebus writing, their phonetic values are derived from the words the logograms represent. The foot under the plant is the phonetic glyph xo, functioning as a phonetic complement to make it clear that the plant depicted is indeed the wood sorrel.


However, the root is in fact toso, which is why the word is represented by a bird (phonetic glyph to) pierced by a spine (phonetic so).
The two black vertical stripes is the phonetic sign wa and serves as phonetic complement to show that the female head should be read as cihua rather than the similar-looking female logogram NAN "mother". The first root ilama-tl changes to ilan in this situation and appears to be only represented by the phonetic glyph la above the skirt. In the current example, it is written phonetically as te-so, or Tesoc, which might be a derivative of the verb eso "to bleed" and supports one interpretation of his name as "He Who Bleeds People", a properly martial monicker. However, Aztecs and their neighbors produced countless numbers of manuscripts with subject matters as diverse as time-keeping, astrology, mythology, genealogy, and history. I encourage them to do the take-home activities I provide, to read picture books, listen to music and sing with their children.
More than anything, these common Spanish phrases and questions are used over and over again, so children have the chance to hear them repeatedly and internalize the meaning and structure. Ask a native speaker or do a little research to learn how to say phrases that fit your routine.
I am trying to teach my children Spanish and although I can read and write Spanish, I am not very fluent, so I find it a challenge. It most resembles Mixtec writing in that both use dots for numbers less than twenty (in contrast to the bar-and-dot notation used in Maya and Zapotec), share similar construction style of compound signs, and place emphasis on short texts that rely on painted scenes for narratives instead of longer texts.
In the present day this city is known as Cuernavaca, a form resulting from the Spanish mishearing Cuauhnahuac and transforming into a word with Spanish meaning. The root for "eye" in Nahuatl is ix, which means that the eyes serves as a kind of phonetic complement or indicator to tell the reader that the brown rectangle glyph is the lgoogram IXTLAWAKA instead.
However, unlike rebus writing which uses the full sound of the root, phonetic glyphs are always single-syllable and take their value from the first syllable (minus any ending consonants) of the word the logograms represent.
However, the mask inside the skirt might be a logogram for ilama-tl, which means that the phonetic glyph la would serve as a phonetic complement.
On the other hand, on the famous Tizoc Stone which commemorates his military conquests, his name is drawn as a leg with dots.
While these manuscripts were highly pictorial, intimate knowledge of the underlying language, Nahuatl, was absolutely essential to fully interpret the glyphs. I also provide them with common Spanish phrases that they can use in everyday situations with their kids. For example, if your child feeds the cat, you can add Dale de comer al gato, por favor (Please feed the cat). And these are things I say to them everyday so it will be great to say it to them in Spanish and NOT English ?? Well done. In Mexico, in general te quiero is used with family and friends and te amo is used in romantic relationships. It is thought that Mixtec writing influenced Nahuatl writing, but both are possibly influenced by earlier writing systems of cities such as Xochicalco, Cacaxtla, and the even more ancient Teotihuacan.
In the following example, the ancient cities Colhuacan and Tenayucan were shown to be conquered.
Note that logograms are transcribed using bold upper case letters in their root forms, meaning the unchanging part of the word. This is called the acrophonic principle and is found throughout writing systems of the world. The dots typically represent chalk, tisa-tl, and the leg might be the phonetic glyph xo, which would support the reading of Tisoc. In this regard, the Aztec glyphs truly constituted an active and productive writing system. As a result, the Aztecs adopted a writing system that had been used for many centuries before and shared by many of the other nations of Central Mexico.
Also note that Nahuatl nouns are transcribed in italicized lower case letters in the absolutive case, which is the root plus an ending of either -tl, -tli, or -li. I’ll ask on my Facebook page and see if we can get a list of more countries where parents say te amo to their kids. While too longer to explain here, the absolutive case in Nahuatl can be thought as the singular subject of a sentence. It is likely that his name was written Tesoc in the older, more prestigious Eastern dialect but spelled as Tisoc in the Western dialect which was the dialect of the Aztecs.



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