Nahuatl is an Uto-Aztecan language spoken by about 1.5 million
people in Mexico. The majority of speakers live in central
Mexico, particularly in Puebla, Veracruz, Hildago, San Luis Potosi,
Guerrero, Mexico (state), El Distrito Federal, Tlaxcala, Morelos
and Oaxaca, and also in El Salvador. There are smaller numbers of
Nahuatl speakers throughout the rest of Mexico, and in parts of the
There are numerous dialects of Nahuatl, some of which are mutually
unintelligible. Most Nahuatl speakers also speak Spanish, with the exception
of some of most elderly.
Classical Nahuatl was the language of the Aztec empire and was used
as a lingua franca in much of Mesoamerica from the 7th century AD until
the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. The modern dialects of
Nahuatl spoken in the Valley of Mexico are closest to Classical Nahuatl.
Nahuatl was originally written with a pictographic script which was
not a full writing system but instead served as a mnemonic to remind readers
of texts they had learnt orally. The script appeared in inscriptions carved
in stone and in picture books, many of which the Spanish destroyed.
The Spanish introduced the Latin alphabet to write Nahuatl, and a large
amount of prose and poetry was subsequently written. Every since there has
been considerable debate about how to spell Nahuatl.
Nahuatl pronunciation (modern orthography)
- In the classical Nahuatl orthograpy, [k] is written c before a and o,
and qu elsewhere; [j] is written y, [s] is written c before e and i, and z elsewhere; [w] is
written hu; and [ts] is written tz.
- The letters b, d, g, f, ñ and rr are also used, but only in Spanish loanwords
- Long vowels are usually written with macrons (as above),
but if macrons are not possibly, they are sometimes are written
with a circumflexe (â, ê, î, ô), with a dieresis (ä, ë, ï, ö)
or doubled (aa, ee, ii, oo
The glottal stop (saltillo) is not always written.
When it is, it indicated by h, j, ' or a grave accent, (e.g.
à = /aʔ/)
Sample text (Modern Orthography)
Nochi tlacamey uan sihuamey quipiay manoy cuali tlacatisey,
titlatepanitaloyquey, yeca monequi cuali ma timohuicacay, ma
Sample text (Classical Orthography)
Nochi tlacameh ihuan cihuameh quipiah manoh cualli tlacaticeh,
nochi zan ze totlatechpohuiltiliz ihuan titlatepanitalohqueh, yeca
monequi cualli ma timohuicacah, ma timoicnelicah, ma timotlazohtlacah
ihuan ma timotlepanitacah.
This text was provided by Pierre Sánchez and is written in
the "normal way" used by nahuatl-speaking comunities.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They
are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another
in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Information about Nahuatl |
Nahuatl phrases |
Nahuatl numbers |
Tower of Babel in Nahuatl |
Nahuatl learning material
Information about Nahuatl
Online Nahuatl lessons
Online Nahuatl dictionaries
Nahuatl Tlahtolkalli (Nahuatl Academy of Language)
Enigméxico - una librería virtual en donde ofrezco toda clase
de documentos históricos en Náhuatl y para aprender el Náhuatl
así como también la historia antigua de México y del Perú:
Photos of and information about the Aztec, Maya and Inca peoples
Other languages written with the Latin alphabet