Tetelcingo Nahuatl

Tetelcingo Nahuatl, called Mösiehuali̱ by its speakers, is a Nahuatl variety of central Mexico. It is one of the core varieties closely related to Classical Nahuatl. It is spoken in the town of Tetelcingo, Morelos, and the adjacent Colonia Cuauhtémoc and Colonia Lázaro Cárdenas. These three population centers lie to the north of Cuautla, Morelos and have been largely absorbed into its urban area; as a result the Tetelcingo language and culture are under intense pressure.

Tetelcingo Nahuatl
Native toMexico
Native speakers
(3,500 cited 1990 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3nhg
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

In 1935 William Cameron Townsend published a study of Mösiehuali̱, and a number of other studies have been published since then.



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] (orthographically i̱ e a o) in Tetelcingo, while the long vowels /iː eː aː oː/ become [i ⁱe ɔᵃ u] (orthographically i, ie, ö, u).

“Short” Vowels
Front Central Back
Close ɪ ⟨i̱⟩
Mid e ⟨e⟩ o ⟨o⟩
Open a ⟨a⟩
“Long” Vowels
Front Central Back
Close i ⟨i⟩ u ⟨u⟩
Mid ⁱe ⟨ie⟩
Open ɔᵃ ⟨ö⟩


Labial Apical Palato-
Velar Glottal
Central Lateral Unrounded Rounded
Nasal m ⟨m⟩ n ~ ŋ ⟨n⟩
Plosive p ⟨p⟩ t ⟨t⟩ k ⟨c ~ qu⟩ ⟨cu⟩
Affricate ts ⟨tz⟩ ⟨tl⟩ ⟨ch⟩
Fricative w ~ ʋ ~ β ~ v ~
ɸ ~ ⟨hu/u/b/f⟩
s ⟨s⟩ ʃ ⟨x⟩ h ~ χ ⟨j⟩
Approximant ɾ ⟨r⟩ l ~ ɬ ⟨l⟩ j ⟨y⟩

Tetelcingo Nahuatl, like many dialects of Nahuatl, does not have voiced obstruent consonants (with one clear exception: the stem /maga/, meaning 'fight' is derived from /maka/ 'give, hit'). Voiced obstruents and other non-native consonants do occur in loanwords from Spanish, however, and there are many such words in the language.[2]


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 ti̱ya tomobica yabi̱ biloa, mobica
come ti̱bitz ti̱mobicatz, ti̱hualmobica i̱bitz biloatz, hualmobica
notice it, get it (a point) ti̱qui̱jti̱li̱a tomojti̱li̱li̱a qui̱jti̱li̱a qui̱jti̱lilo
say it ti̱qui̱jtoa tomojtalfi̱a qui̱jtoa qui̱jtulo


  1. ^ Tetelcingo Nahuatl at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)  
  2. ^ "Spanish loans in Mösiehuali". Archived from the original on 2004-06-23.

External linksEdit


  • 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.