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Migrations in Late Mesoamerica$
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Christopher S. Beekman

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780813066103

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813066103.001.0001

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Dialectology and the History of Nahua Peoples in Guatemala

Dialectology and the History of Nahua Peoples in Guatemala

(p.327) 11 Dialectology and the History of Nahua Peoples in Guatemala
Migrations in Late Mesoamerica

Sergio Romero

University Press of Florida

This chapter examines the structural and lexical features of the Nahuatl dialects spoken in Guatemala in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and it examines their implications for the history of Nahua peoples in the southern piedmont and Pacific coast. Using Spanish and Nahuatl sources, I argue that at least two distinct dialect groups were spoken in Guatemala in the late post-Classic. The first was a Central dialect genetically related to but distinct from varieties spoken in the Valley of Mexico at the time of the Spanish conquest. It was described in artes, which was written by Spanish friars, and attested to in scores of colonial documents authored by Nahuatl scribes in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Some scholars have speculated that it was used as the “lingua franca.” I will argue, however, that there is no solid evidence that the Nahuatl had contact beyond the periphery of the city of Santiago de Guatemala. Unattested in the colonial corpus and first described by Leonhard Schultze-Jena and Lyle Campbell, the second group was an Eastern dialect that was generally called Pipil in the literature. I will also discuss the implications of this as a picture of Nahuatl’s dialectal diversity in Guatemala for our understanding of post-Classic Nahua migrations.

Keywords:   Nahuatl, Guatemala, Lexical, Dialect, Pipil, Lingua franca

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