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Lesson 2: Nouns

A Nahuatl noun is always either "possessed" or "absolutive" (free-standing), and its form varies accordingly; when it is possessed it takes a distinctive prefix showing the possessor; when it is absolutive it takes a distinctive absolutive ending. By convention, dictionaries enter nouns in their absolutive form.

Noun Suffixes
  Singular Animate Plural
Absolutive
(= not possessed)
C-tli
V-tl
l-li
-in
C-tin/meh
V-h, V-meh
-tin
Possessed C-#
V-uh
-huän

In this table and hereafter C = consonant,
V = vowel, # = end of a word.

Examples
  Singular Animate Plural
Absolutive
(= not possessed)
oc-tli
ä-tl
cal-li
telpoch-tin/meh
azca-meh
cal-tin
Possessed
(n(o) = my)
n-oc-#
n-ä-uh
no-cal-#
no-toch-huän

Plurals

  1. Plurals were not always stable, and the same root might take now one plural suffix, now another.
  2. In general, inanimate objects are always treated as singular, regardless of their number. But style often allowed them to be used metaphorically as though they were animate, so we know the plurals of many seemingly inanimate nouns.
  3. For many nouns, the addition of a plural suffix was often (not necessarily always) accompanied by the reduplication of the first syllable, always with a long vowel (and loss of h if there was one): (In these lessons I use the sign < to separate a singular from its plural, and I have sometimes inserted periods between the syllables to show the structure of a compound.)

Examples

Exercises

Do not include the long mark over any vowel and do not use periods to separate elements. (The program is too dumb to understand that that can be part of a right answer.)

Each space can be filled in only with the right answer; if you enter anything else, the Answer Ghost will make it vanish as soon as your cursor leaves the box. You can use all upper-case or all lower-case or can capitalize the first letter of each answer (because that is automatic in some browsers).

If you get stuck, place the cursor in the nearest "Uncle Box" and the correct answer to the most recent item you attempted will briefly appear there. One item is already filled in as an example. It cannot be changed.

 

EnglishNahuatl
young man tëlpöch-
sky ilhuica-
earth tlal-
ants (plural!) äzca-
Mexican mëxihca-
grandmother cih-
hare cih-
red color tlapal-
Mexicans mëxihca-
hares (cï)cih-
grandmothers cih-
stone te-
edge, lip ten-
rabbits (tö)töch-

 

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Challenge: The prefix "to-" means "our." Generate the correct form for each of the following nouns:

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