Talk:Nahuatl

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Total mess...[edit]

This article is a total mess with regards to the language/dialect issue. Obviously, the division between these terms is often more political than linguistic, but many people seem to agree that a good metric is mutual intelligibility, which would dictate that Nahuatl is a family of at least a handful of languages, rather than a single language.

At least let's make up our minds... there are lines of this article that talk about Nahuatl dialects, Nahuan languages, and Nahuan varieties all referring to the same thing. Parts of this article claim that Pipil is a dialect of the Nahuatl language, while others claim that Pipil is a language in the Nahuan language family.

To the commenter above: when we start having to write separate books for English vs Australian English, or Cuban vs Mexican Spanish, then you can compare the Nahuatl situation... you do realize that speakers from La Huasteca region cannot understand written (or spoken) materials prepared in the Nahuatl variety Guerrero, and vice-versa (the two most spoken varieties, I believe)? Literate Spanish speakers can understand almost any modern text written in another Spanish-speaking country. The difference between some Nahuatl varieties is more akin to the difference between Spanish and Portuguese, maybe even Spanish and Italian - you can definitely recognize a lot of words, and maybe know what general topic is being discussed, but without learning the other variety, you can't actually know what people are saying.

Also, this has to be the only language article on Wikipedia that flips back and forth between referring to a classical language and its modern descendants, often without clarifying which is being discussed...

The reason I bring all this up here rather than just changing it myself is that I think we should discuss the options. Should some material be moved to Classical Nahuatl? Should we refer to Nahuatl varieties as languages? How can we continue to refer to them as "dialects", when plenty of reliable sources treat them as separate languages, and they are mutually unintelligible?

--ಠ_ಠ node.ue ಠ_ಠ (talk) 08:42, 1 November 2013 (UTC)

The problem is that Nahuatl, like Chinese and Arabic, is sometimes considered a single language and sometimes a family of languages. And like Chinese and Arabic, we have articles from both points of view, Nahuatl and Nahuatl varieties. However, I think the Chinese and Arabic articles pretty clear what those articles are talking about, and this should be the same. Perhaps they could be used as a model?
Also, if you have good refs as to what the languages should be based on intelligibility, I'd appreciate your feedback and corrections. I created many of the articles on individual languages, but only because it was a big gap in our coverage: This isn't my area and I only had limited sources, so there was some guess-work involved. — kwami (talk) 11:02, 1 November 2013 (UTC)
Unfortunately, there is little consensus as to what the higher-level groupings should be. I notice that we have an article for Huastecan Nahuatl, but Ethnologue considers that 3 different languages... however, they are apparently 95% mutually intelligible according to some sources (ethnologue claims 85%).
From a 1969 article on Nahuatl varieties: "Tentative conclusions from dialect testing teams ... suggest that we must deal seriously with almost a dozen mutually unintelligible Nahuatl areas of speech"
SIL did some extensive testing of mutual intelligibility in Mexican language varieties (including Nahuatl and many other language groups), but the usefulness of the results is somewhat debatable. [1]
Although in some places SIL claims to have reached the conclusion that there are around 10 mutually unintelligible "clusters" of varieties, for whatever reason in the Ethnologue there are over 20 languages listed. I am going to review some of the research to see if I can sort anything out, but it seems like there is little academic consensus, or actually very little research on mutual intelligibility beyond the SIL study, so unfortunately it might be difficult to get a clear picture of how we should divide the varieties. I do not think following the Ethnologue's hyper-splitter tendencies is the best idea, since clearly many of the varieties they distinguish are easily mutually intelligible. --ಠ_ಠ node.ue ಠ_ಠ (talk) 19:01, 1 November 2013 (UTC)
  • In so far as the article is a mess it is because the situation is a mess. INALI defines Nahuatl as a "linguistic group" and recognizes some 44 different varieties of Nahuatl and recommend that they should be treated as separate languages for all intents and purposes. Dialectologists recognize the existence of some 5-15 dialect areas with relatively coherent grammar and high rates of intelligibility and sometimes even a mutual recognition of speaking the same language. Now, I cannot support your suggestion of basing the decision on SIL mutual intelligibility studies. The dialect/language question is mostly a political question, more than it is about intelligibility and the intelligibility studies that exist are outdated and unconclusive. I think that the best path is to follow INALI and call Nahuatl a group of languages, and then in the section on dialectology describe how the diversity is structured. This is something about which there is copious literature. The problem with this approach is of course that much of the literature treats Nahuatl as a single language, which mostly is due to equating it with classical Nahuatl and downplaying or ignoring the dialectal diversity. So perhaps basically there is no solution that is clear cut and we simply have to describe the disagreements and show their empirical basis. User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 19:55, 1 November 2013 (UTC)
    • Maunus, I'm a little bit confused as to whether you are replying to me or to Kwamikagami. If you are replying to me, I would like to clarify that I did not suggest basing the decision on the mutual intelligibility studies - note that I said that "the usefulness of the results is somewhat debatable", "there is little academic consensus", "it might be difficult to get a clear picture of how we should divide the varieties"…
    • Perhaps it would be useful to have totally separate articles on Classical Nahuatl and modern varieties, rather than the current page that mixes and confuses the subjects quite liberally, which as you mentioned is a tendency inherited from much of the literature.
    • In this particular article, I agree with you that it is best to describe the structure of the diversity and debate within the scholarly community on how exactly different varieties should be classified. That does leave us with the problem of other articles on "clusters" of varieties - we currently have, for example, Huasteca Nahuatl, which is treated by Ethnologue as 3 languages and by INALI, I believe, as 4 (possibly more?). The problem is that we seem to be using a mix of the Ethnologue's classification, some ad hoc stuff based in mutual intelligibility, and INALI's classifications. What is lacking is consistency, both internal consistency within this article, and consistency among the family of articles about Nahuatl varieties. --ಠ_ಠ node.ue ಠ_ಠ (talk) 02:09, 2 November 2013 (UTC)
I think I was replying to the general topic, and in your initial posy you did suggest that mutual intelligibility studies are a reasonable way to decide whether wikipedia should treat something as a langauge ro a dialect - with that I disagree - I note your caveats and take them to suggest that you also recognize the problems with that approach. I think it is useful and necessary to have a main page on Nahuatl which treats both the contemporaty varieties and classical Nahuatl, and which ideally educates the reader about the differences between the two and the different ways of defining what Nahuatl is or isn't. I think the inconsistency is mostly a result of recent work by Kwami introducing individual articles for all of the ISO recognized varieties and adding descriptions of the Ethnologuye classifications in the articles. Linguistically it is defensible to treat Huasteca Nahuatl at a single topic, because linugists treat it as such and the different varieties are a well defined historical and dialectal grouping in spite of the fact that there are recognizeable subgroups within it. I do recognize the necessity of giving this page an overhaul and tackle some of those issues. It is something that I have been considering how to approach lately.User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 02:20, 2 November 2013 (UTC)
I didn't create a separate article for each ISO variety - Huasteca, for example. My approach was ad hoc because I didn't have good references for which ones should be treated as distinct languages and which should be grouped together, but neither did I want to leave it as a single article, as if Nahuatl were a single language. I figured if I made a hatchet job of it, someone would eventually clean it up. We have the same kinds of problems with other "languages", esp. Mixtec and Zapotec. — kwami (talk) 05:25, 2 November 2013 (UTC)
BTW, I've attempted to rd the INALI names to our articles. In some cases I followed Ethnologue, but then realized that they often get it wrong. I then attempted to match them according to the towns in which they're spoken, but that's a rather iffy method for someone not familiar with the area, and even so there are still six red links. If anyone here can double check, that would be helpful. (Links are in the dialectology article.)
And if you really want to improve the reliability and usefulness of our coverage, verify the blue links at Wikipedia:WikiProject Languages/INALI names for Mexican languages, and fill in the red links. Someone coming across an INALI name in a ref should be able to do better than conclude that it's "some kind of Mixtec". — kwami (talk) 22:17, 3 November 2013 (UTC)
I am going to start with getting this FA back up to FA status. I dont think it is a necessity to have a precise overview of INALI names or Ethnologue codes since neither are based on particularly solid research or reflect anything really useful about the language(s). My concern is that the articles reflect the best and most recent scholarship, not that the lists of varieties given by different authorities are faithfully reproduced.User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 23:13, 3 November 2013 (UTC)
I partly agree, but the ISO codes are now more than just Ethnologue, and the INALI names are in official use. IMO we need to support both. "Support" may be as simple as a redirect to an article supported by actually reliable sources, or a dab page to alert the reader that the name does not refer to a coherent variety, but people coming across a name shouldn't be left hanging. That is, no red links from these names, and as far as possible ensure that blue links are accurate. And BTW I won't stand in the way if the stubs I created are merged or split, as long as that reflects the best scholarship. — kwami (talk) 00:17, 4 November 2013 (UTC)
Unfortunately there isnøt any good scholarship for most of this. Neither INALI or the Ethnologue publish the criteria they use for classifying. Very few Nahuatl varieties have any scholarship about them at all.User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 00:21, 4 November 2013 (UTC)
Found an SIL pub giving an admittedly imperfect correlation of most of the INALI Zapotec names with ISO. Whatever its limitations, at least it was considered publishable by s.o. who's familiar with the languages. Would be nice if we could find the same for Mixtec and Nahuatl. — kwami (talk) 08:39, 4 November 2013 (UTC)

External Links[edit]

Hello, I really found the External Link section of the article to be very helpful in allowing me to become very familiar with the morphology of the Nahualt language. My instructor for my linguistics class gave us a variety of links to help us become familiar with different american indian languages. I came across a great page that is perfect for introductory students such as myself and I would like to know if anyone believes a link should be added to the External Link section that will redirect someone to the following page, http://www.native-languages.org/nahuatl.htm. I believe this page would be a great asset to this section because the site has wonderful example of vocabulary and literature. The website also has links to many dictionaries, audiotapes and language resources. Please let me know what you think. Lasotelo101 (talk) 04:38, 23 April 2014 (UTC)