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Selected Sources for the Study of
Classical Nahuatl

Our Recreational Nahuatl study group has found many of the following sources to be useful in getting around in Nahuatl texts. It is an exaggeration to suggest that anything relating to Nahuatl is easily available, but these seem mostly to be more or less in print.

Where available, I have provided ISBN numbers to facilitate access.

Textbooks & Grammars, Dictionaries, Chrestomathies

Textbooks & Reference Grammars


2001 Diccionario Nauatl-Español Español-Nauatl. Mexico, D.F.: Instituto Mexiquense de Cultura. Segunda edición. ISBN: 968-484-521-9.
This pocket dictionary is intended as a normalizing effort for modern Nahuatl dialects, excluding Classical usage. It makes use of an innovative, de-hispanicized orthography, but it is easy to use once one gets used to it and sometimes has expressions not to be found in other dictionaries. Unfortunately the small printing makes this already a rare book.
1985 A morphological dictionary of Classical Nahuatl: A morpheme index to the Vocabulario en lengua mexicana y castellana of Fray Alonso de Molina. Madison: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies. ISBN: 0-942260-52-X.
This is an ingenious, informed, and well conceived reprocessing of the valuable material of Molina's dictionary of 1571 (listed below). Unfortunately it is also expensive and is typographically one of the most reader-hostile volumes ever to roll from an American publishing house, characterized by miniscule print, evenly gray pages, and no running headers. In our group it is therefore referred to as "The most terrible book in the world," and is consulted only under duress. We eagerly await a CD version or at least a better printing.
2004 Hippocrene concise dictionary: Nahuatl-English, English-Nahuatl (Aztec). New York: Hippocrene Books. ISBN: 0-7818-0111-6.
Since its publication in 2004, this has become the most readily available dictionary. It is made even more useful by its 33-page "Basic Grammar" and by its inclusion of an English-Nahuatl section. The dictionary includes some useful modern words but is "largely based on Classical norms," it seems to me to be an enormous success. It is made even better by being inexpensive and produced in a "pocket book" format that travels well. My only complaint is that it does not include markers for vowel length.
1983 An analytical dictionary of Nahuatl. Austin: University of Texas Press. ISBN: 0-292-70365-1 (hardback). Reprinted 1992 Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN: 0-8061-2421-0.
For our group this has proven the most accessible dictionary of Classical Nahuatl, both in the sense of its being in print and in the sense of its being almost unfailingly useful. One could wish it included a slightly larger vocabulary, but the linguistic detail (including vowel length) in what is included is truly excellent.
MOLINA, Alonso de
1571 Vocabulario en la lengua castellana y mexicana. Reprinted with an introduction by Miguel León-Portilla.Mexico City: Editorial Porrúa. ISBN 970-07-4744-1.
This is the clearest reprinting I have seen of this volume, which forms the basis for most subsequent lexicography of Classical Nahuatl. Its historical significance will never be challenged, but other dictionaries are easier to use.
1988 Diccionario de la lengua nahuatl o mexicana. Mexico: Siglo Veintiuno. ISBN: 968-23-0573-X.
The seventh edition of a 1977 Spanish translation of Siméon's 1885 French original. Although the French version has been reprinted, it is prohibitively expensive. This dictionary, although unfortunately lacking such niceties as consistent treatment of glottal stops or inclusion of vowel length, and although in a slightly idiosyncratic version of alphabetical order, is nevertheless the place where we most often find what we are looking for. The Mexican edition sells for about US$22 or so and is the Nahuatl dictionary most likely to be found in Mexican bookstores if one just goes in and asks. For an on-line French version, amplified to add items from Molina's dictionary, click here.

Chrestomathies & Other Reading Material

LAUNEY, Michel
1981 Introduction à la langue et à la littérature aztèques. Tome 2: Littérature. Paris: L'Harmattan. ISBN: 2-85802-155-4.
A refreshingly user-friendly reading book with fully "corrected" or normalized spellings of classical texts presented in facing pages of Nahuatl and French, with footnotes clarifying some of the most difficult issues. This is volume 2 of Launey's textbook.

In addition, this web site and others provide a few on-line Nahuatl resources that are considerably less useful but are only a mouse-click away.

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