Skip to main content
Unpublished Paper
Náhuatl y Español: Un Caso de Convergencia Sintáctica
Master's Thesis. The University of Western Ontario. (2005)
  • Alma P Ramirez-Trujillo, The University of Western Ontario
Recent research suggests that, when the two languages spoken by bilinguals share certain features, but one of the languages favors the use of a particular structure, possibly due to pragmatic reasons, the two languages may converge in the relevant domain (Hulk and Müller 2000; Müller and Hulk 2001; Sánchez 2003; Sánchez, 2004; Toribio 2001). This in turn may lead to convergence between the two languages in a society where most of the speakers are bilingual, assuming bilinguals and second language learners are often the agents of language change (Winford, 2003). Classical Nahuatl is a polysynthetic language (Baker, 2001) with variable word order (Bruhn de Garavito et al., 2005). We find both postpositions and prepositions (García Escamilla, 1993), although it seems the use of postpositions was more frequent (Kartunnen y Lockhart, 1976; Siméon, 1885; Sullivan, 1992; Lockhart, 1992, Tuggy, 1991). Spanish, on the other hand, is a head initial language with prepositions. After 500 years of contact, modern Nahuatl speakers are almost all bilingual. According to the recent suggestions summarized above, this would predict a preference in modern speakers for prepositions in Nahuatl. Although in recent years several modern grammars of Nahuatl have been produced (Tuggy; 1991; Sullivan, 1992), all continue to emphasize the existence of postpositions, possibly because it is convenient to focus on the classical language and thus to avoid the problems of dialect variation. It seems necessary therefore, to establish the status of adpositions in current Nahuatl in order to determine up to what point convergence with Spanish is taking place. This study was carried out in the town of San Andrés Azumiatla, in the state of Puebla. Most of the informants were illiterate, so it was appropriate to try different methodologies. The first one was to illicit the relevant structures from informants using translation and grammaticality judgments. The second one involved the use of a short story in Spanish. This story was told to the participants with the help of pictures. After hearing the story, they were asked questions about it. Those questions were posed in Nahuatl and did not involve the prepositions they were meant to elicit. Participants produced sentences using exclusively prepositions in Nahuatl. The judgments of the informants were also that postpositions were not possible. These results support the predictions regarding convergence under these conditions.
  • adposiciones,
  • español,
  • náhuatl,
  • convergencia.
Publication Date
Citation Information
Alma P Ramirez-Trujillo. "Náhuatl y Español: Un Caso de Convergencia Sintáctica" Master's Thesis. The University of Western Ontario. (2005)
Available at: