James Lockhart, an eminent historian of early Latin America, is also perhaps the leading interpreter of this large body of work. He has translated and edited a wide range of texts, analyzed their cultural and linguistic implications, and over the years trained a large number of students, several of whom have gone on to become well known scholars of Nahuatl and other indigenous languages.
Lockhart's main tools of instruction were: (1) a gradually growing set of lessons consisting primarily of examples culled from many sources of the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries (or concocted in the spirit of that time), and (2) the grammar or Arte of Nahuatl published in Spanish by the Florentine Jesuit Horacio de Carochi in 1645. In small groups of students, with a maximum of personal instruction and discussion, these materials accomplished their purpose, but the lessons were only in skeletal form, and the Carochi grammar, too, in the Spanish editions available, needed extensive explanation.
Now, Lockhart has organized and expanded these materials into volumes that can be understood by students working alone or used in organized Nahuatl classes. The two books together will allow any seriously interested person to master Nahuatl sufficiently to begin reading the texts, and they will provide essential reference works as one progresses. They are geared primarily to the older form of the language and its written texts, but they can also be extremely useful to those studying the spoken Nahuatl of later times.
Nahuatl as Written presumes no previous knowledge of the language. Treating all essential features of Nahuatl, it is organized on purely pedagogical principles, using techniques developed over many years of practical teaching experience. The book is in large format, almost like a workbook, with a great abundance of examples that serve as exercises; the examples are also available separately for the student's convenience. The orthography and vocabulary are those found in texts of the time, and the last several of the twenty lessons give the student training in working with texts as they were actually written. Some of the lessons deal with syntax in a way not found elsewhere and develop notions of anticipation and crossreference that are basic to Nahuatl grammar. In line with Lockhart's wish to bring more people into the Nahuatl documentary world, an Epilogue surveys many of the published Nahuatl texts and an Appendix presents substantial selections from ten different texts.
Carochi's 1645 Grammar is the most influential work ever published on Nahuatl grammar and remains an essential work of reference. The best recent grammars of Nahuatl are based on it, but they have not exhausted it. It includes an extensive discussion of adverbial expressions and particles that is found nowhere else, as well as an irreplaceable fund of authentic examples from the time, translated by a contemporary. Though a facsimile edition is available, the original is very difficult to read, and only a few experts can fully understand the seventeenth-century Spanish and Latinate grammatical terms. This new edition presents the original Spanish and an English translation on facing pages. Helpful footnotes provide explanatory comment
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