Otomi is an Oto-Manguean language spoken by about 240,000 people in
Central Mexico, especially in the states of México, Puebla, Veracruz,
Hidalgo, Guanajuato, Querétaro, Tlaxcala and Michoacán.
There are many different dialects of Otomi, some of which are mutually
unintelligible, and each one has a different native name for the language,
including: Hñähnü, Hñähño,
Hñotho, Hñähü, Hñätho,
Yųhų, Yųhmų, Ñųhų,
Ñǫthǫ and Ñañhų. Most of these
mean "speak well". The name Otomi comes from the Nahuatl otomitl,
which is thought to come from totomitl (shooter of birds).
Otomi was first written by Spanish friars after the Spanish conquered
Mexico during the 16th century. The friars taught Otomi speakers to
write their own language using the Latin alphabet, and several books
were composed using their spelling system. The language in which they
were written is known as Classical Otomi. Since then many Otomi have
abandoned their language and switched to Spanish, partly due to negative
stereotypes about them perpetuated by Nahuatl and Spanish speakers.
Attitudes began to change in 2003, however, when Otomi gained recognition
as a national language of Mexico along with 61 other indigenous languages.
Otomi alphabet and pronunciation
This pronunciation is for the Otomi spoken in the Valle
del Mezquital, the most widely-spoken variety of the language.
Gotho nu kja'ni i mui ra zoo i gotho ro kuchti, i tu'ni nu ro
ña padä bini i da budi, da mui ra zoo koyu gotho
yu kja'ni i yo kuadi.
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)
Some phrases in Otomi
- Zenjua Ki - Hello (I salute you)
- Magö - Goodbye
- Ki hats'i / Ki hax'ajuä - Good morning
- Ki de / Mö'kjä - Good afternoon
- Mö'kjä - Good evening
- Bänte - Please
- (Dunthi di) jamadi - Thank you (very much)
- Di Ma'i (Ndunthi) - I love you (a lot)
- Di beñi - I miss you
- Faste - Help!
- Tsibi - Fire!
- Faspi rä güte - Call the police!
- Ragi - Get away!
- Thämfri - Look out!
Phrases supplied by Jose Armando Fernandez and in Mezquital Otomi
Information about Otomi languages
Video of some Otomi phrases being spoken
Other languages written with the Latin alphabet