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Lesson 10: Directional Prefixes

Two verb prefixes are used to show the general direction of an action toward or away from the speaker. For practice purposes, we can translate them "hither" and "thither," although in translation they are often ignored or referenced by the choice of verb. They come between the pronoun prefixes and the verb root. They are:

-huäl- = here,over here, hither, now
-on- = there, over there, thither, then,

For example, huïca means "to carry," as in:

an.qui.huïca.h = you carry it

With the directional prefixes, it becomes more specific:

an.c.on.huïca.h = you carry it away
an.qui.huäl.huïca.h = you bring it here

Caution: The combination ni.c + on is transformed into nocon; similarly ti.c + on becomes tocon.

to.c.on.huïca = you carry it away
ti.qui.huäl.huïca = you bring it here

In the examples below you will notice that these can both combine with two verbs that are already directional, ehco = "to arrive there" and ahci = "to arrive here."

So what does n.on.ahci (I-there-arrive-here) mean? Or ni.huäl.ehco (I-here-arrive-there)?

Apparenly separately signalling direction in two different parts of the verb potentially allows attention to the alternative perspectives of the speaker and the actor, although it has never been clear to me exactly how methodically this is actually signalled in these forms. (Compare English: "If you don't get up here in two minutes I'm coming down there.")


example verbehcoahci


huïca Vt = carry
temo Vi = to come/go down, descend
tlachilia (= tlachia) Vt3 = to stare, watch
ehco Vi = to arrive (there)
ahci Vi = to arrive (here)
ma Vt = to take/bring
huehxölötl = turkey

*-Remember that xi- is the second-person
  imperative prefix.

**-hint: l+tl = ll

xiquihuälma in huehxölötl


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Challenge A: The last two examples are easily the most interesting in the list, since they apply these directional prefixes in a way that is not represented as directional in English. What is the most accurate translation that captures the Nahuatl difference?

Challenge B: Ehco and ahci already imply arrival here and there. The attachment of on- and huäl- can reinforce this sense of directionality (onehco & huälahci) or can contradict it (huälehco & onahci). Would you predict that that is still meaningful? Why?

Challenge C: If both tihuälahci and tonahci are translated "you arrive," what is the difference? How do we usually capture this distinction in English?

Challenge D: The word "huällä" is derived from huäl + yä (to come/go). What does it probably mean?

Challenge E: In Herrera's dictionary of modern Nahuatl, "arrival" is translated "huallaliztli" but "arrive" is translated "ahci." What's going on?

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