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Tetelcingo Nahuatl
Pronunciation [mɔasieˈwalɪ]
Spoken in Tetelcingo, Morelos, Mexico
Total speakers 3,500 (1990)
Language family Uto-Aztecan
Writing system Latin alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2 nah
ISO 639-3 nhg

Tetelcingo Nahuatl, or Mösiehuali, is a Nahuatl variety spoken by 3,500 people (as of 1990) in the town of Tetelcingo and its colonias, Colonia Cuauhtémoc and Colonia Lázaro Cárdenas, in Morelos, Mexico. Tetelcingo and its colonias are (as of 2008) practically absorbed into the urban area of the city of Cuautla, Morelos, and the Mösiehuali language and culture are under intense pressure.

The work of SIL International began with William Cameron Townsend's 1935 study of Tetelcingo Nahuatl.





Tetelcingo Nahuatl has converted the distinction of vowel quantity found in more conservative varieties into one of vowel quality. The short vowels /i e a o/ are reflected as /ɪ e a o/ in Tetelcingo, while the long vowels /iː eː aː oː/ become /i ie ɔa u/.


Bilabial Apical Palato-alveolar Velar Glottal
Central Lateral Unrounded Rounded
Stops p t k
Affricates ts
Fricatives s ʃ h
Nasals m n
Approximants (w) l j w

Additional consonants may occur in loanwords from Spanish.


Another striking characteristic of Tetelcingo Nahuatl is the pervasiveness and complexity of its honorifics. Generally every 2nd or 3rd person verb, pronoun, postposition or possessed noun must be marked honorifically if its subject or object, designatum, object or possessor (respectively) is a living adult (the speaker's wife or adult children being exceptions). Extra-honorific forms of several kinds exist, especially for addressing or referring to godparental relations, high officials or God. Many third person honorifics use morphemes that in Classical Nahuatl were used to mark non-active (passive) verbs or unspecified or plural participants. Not infrequently a different (suppletive) stem is used for honorifics, or the honorific form is in some other way irregular.

A few examples are given below, using the orthography of Brewer and Brewer 1962. Where more than one form is listed, the second is more highly honorific.

Stem Meaning 2nd person sg 2nd person sg honorific 3rd person sg 3rd person sg honorific
pronoun taja tejuatzi yaja yejuatzi
one's house mocal mocaltzi ical tiecal, tiecaltzi
before mixpa mixpantzinco ixpa tieixpa, tieixpantzinco
go tiya tomobica yabi biloa, mobica
come tibitz timobicatz, tihualmobica ibitz biloatz, hualmobica
notice it, get it (a point) tiquijtilia tomojtililia quijtilia quijtililo
say it tiquijtoa tomojtalfia quijtoa quijtulo

External links


  • Brewer, Forrest, y Jean G. Brewer. 1962. Vocabulario mexicano de Tetelcingo. Vocabularios indígenas “Mariano Silva y Aceves” 8. México: Instituto Lingüístico de Verano.
  • Pittman, Richard S. 1948. “Nahuatl honorifics”. International Journal of American Linguistics 14:236-39.
  • Pittman, Richard S. 1954. A grammar of Tetelcingo (Morelos) Nahuatl. Language Dissertation 50 (supplement to Language 30).
  • Tuggy, David. 1979. “Tetelcingo Nahuatl”. Modern Aztec Grammatical Sketches, 1-140, Ronald W. Langacker, ed. Studies in Uto-Aztecan Grammar, vol. 2. Arlington, TX: Summer Institute of Linguistics and University of Texas at Arlington.
  • Tuggy, David. 1981. Electronic version 2008. The transitivity-related verbal morphology of Tetelcingo Nahuatl: an exploration in Space [Cognitive] grammar. UC San Diego doctoral dissertation.


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