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Classical Nahuatl


Admission requirements

Propadeuse Taalwetenschap and/or Archaeologie


Classical Nahuatl was spoken in Central Mexico at the time of the Spanish conquest in 1521, and continued to function as a lingua franca for around two centuries thereafter. Today there are around 1,5 million speakers of different varieties of Nahuatl. The language had its own unique writing system, working on principles that have not been understood until very recently. The language has a complex morphology with rich mechanisms for valency-affecting mechanisms such as causative, applicative, passive, and incorporation. It shares several features with other Mesoamerican languages, such as numeral classifiers.
The course will provide an overview of Classical Nahuatl grammar, writing, and basic vocabulary, as well as some background on the histocal-cultural situation and the situation of modern dialects. We will mainly use the grammatical introduction by Michel Launey, the dictionary by Frances Karttunen, and texts from the 16th century written by native speakers.

Course objectives

  1. The student will gain grammatical insights sufficient to analyze and gloss any text with the help of a dictionary.
  2. The student will gain a clear overview of the typological profile of the language.
  3. The student will learn to understand the principles of the writing system.
  4. The student will learn how Classical Nahuatl relates genealogically to other Uto-Aztecan languages and areally to other languages in Mesoamerica.


Linguistics bachelor

Mode of instruction


Course Load

Total course load 5 EC x 28 hours= 140 hours

  • Lectures: 2 × 14 = 28

  • Study of compulsory literature: 3.5 × 14 = 49

  • Assignment(s): 3.5 * 14 = 49

  • Preparation exam: 12

  • Exam(s): 2

Assessment method

  • Written mid-term examination with short open questions

  • Written final examination with short open questions

  • Oral presentation during class


the final mark for the course is established by determining the average of the three assessment methods.


Resit of the mid-term and the final examns are are possible individually. New questions, but of a similar kind, will be prepared.

Exam review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


Blackboard will not be used, materials will be distributed by email.

Reading list

Launey, Michel. 2011. An Introduction to Classical Nahuatl. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Karttunen, Frances. 1992. An Analytical Dictionary of Nahuatl. 2nd edition. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

These two books should be acquired. Other materials, including texts in Nahuatl and an electronic dictionary, will be distributed in class.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch


For questions about the content of the course, please contact the teacher:
Dr. S.K. Wichmann

Søren Wichmann:

Education Administration Office van Wijkplaats:

Coordinator of Studies: Else van Dijk