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Lesson 12: Applicatives

The ending -lia (or -lhuia) creates an "applicative" (= "benefactive") verb form. In effect, this means that this ending requires the addition of a secondary (benefactive or other oblique) object. In English, the result is sometimes translatable by "for," as in "to do something for somebody."

Because of the addition of the benefactive object, the result is most easily classified as transitive verb, although the original verb may or may not have been transitive.

If the root ends in a, the a is usually changed to i. Verbs ending in -hua can shift to -huia instead of -hui.lia. Similar "short forms" exist for a few other verbs as well.

Because they all end in two vowels, all applicative forms are type-3 verbs.



niccohuia in nacatl
niccohuïz in nacatl
niccohuilia in nacatl
niccohuilïz in nacatl
niccohuilïz in nacatl in notahtzin
niccohuilia in notahtzin in nacatl

cohuia = Vt3 = to buy
cohuilia Vt3 = to buy for
tahtli, tahtzintli = father


nicchihua in calli
önicchiuh in calli
nimitzchihuilia in calli
nimitzchihuia in calli
ö nimitzchihuilih in calli
nicchuilia in nopil in calli
nicchuilia in calli in nopil

chihua Vt2= to make*
chihuilia, chihuia Vt3 = to make for
calli = house

*-Chihua is a type-2 verb, which drops the final vowel (a) in the preterit. Remember that the spelling hu (pronounced w) becomes uh when it is at the end of the syllable. The preterit of chihua is therefore chiuh.


ni.c.chihua in tlacalaquilli
nicchihua in motlacalaquil
nimitzchilhuilia in motlacalaquil
nimitzchilhuia in motlacalaquil

tlacalaquilli = tax


ticchihuiliah ihuipil in mochpoch
ticchihuilïzqueh ihuipil in mochpoch

huipilli = blouse
Ichpochtli = daughter


qui.chöqu.ilia in ïchpoch
ö.-.qui.chöqu.ili.h in ïchpoch
ö.-.qui.chöqu.ili.hqueh in ïnichpoch
quichöquilïzqueh in ïnichpoch

chöca Vi1 = to cry


ti.pähuaci.h in tamalli
timitzpähuaciliah in tamalli
quichtequih in cintli
ö quichtecqueh in cintli
tiquichtequilia in xocoätölli in cihuatl

cohuia = to buy
pähuaci Vt2 = to cook (steam)
ichtequi Vt2 = to steal
cintli = corn
xocoätölli = corn beverage
cihuatl = woman, wife

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Reverential Applicatives

A reflexive prefix added to an applicative verb makes a "reverential" form, considered very eloquent and used extremely often. (Most applicatives in Nahuatl occur in this construction.)

Essentially, the applicative ending adds an object and the reflexive prefix absorbs it again, leaving the meaning the same except for how all-fired elegant it is because of the excess syllables. (The easiest approach to such an ending is to look for the reflexive and cross both of them out! Remember to restore any spare vowels that were casualties of the process.)

ni.c.chihua = I make it
ni.c.no.chihu.ilia = ni.c.chihua = I make it
ölini = she moves
mölinilia = ölini = she moves

If the verb is already applicative, it may still be made be made reverential by adding the reflexive prefix plus a second (!) applicative suffix.

In most cases, there is little point to reflecting the reverential applicative in an English translation, but it obviously flavors the tone of the Nahuatl original. (Similarly redundantly lengthened verbs in English are folksy rather than elegant: "She's gone to the garden to fetch herself in some corn." "He apologized himself blue in the face.")


ni.no.mitz.chihu.il.ilia = ni.mitz.chihu.ilia
xi.mo.cuiqu.ilia = xi.mo.cuiqu.ia
xiccuiquia in monantzin
xicmocuiquililia in monantzin
-.qu.ixca.h in nacatl
-.qu.ixca.h in tonac
-.tëch.ixqu.ilia.h in nacatl
-.tëch.mo.ixqu.il.ilia.h in nacatl
-.tëch.ixqu.ili.:zqueh in nacatl
-.tëch.mo.xqu.il.ili.:zqueh in nacatl

chihua Vt = to make
cuica Vi = to sing
Ixca Vt = cook, bake
nantzin = mother
nacAtl = meat (possessed: -nac)


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Challenge: Aztec children probably had a fine time playing with reverential applicatives by making absurdly long compounds:


Can you do something similar with the verb Ixca?

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