Pronouncing Nahuatl

Some tips for pronouncing Nahuatl (Aztec) words:

  • X is pronounced like “Sh” as in “She”.
  • Z is pronounced like “S” as in “So”.
  • I is pronounced like “E” as in “We”.
  • A is pronounced like “Ah” as in “Hot”.
  • Ci and Ce are pronounced like “See” and “Seh” respectively. Otherwise “C” is pronounced like a “K” as in “Can”.
  • Qu is pronounced like a “K” as in “Kill”.
  • Chu is pronounced like a “ckw” as in “Backward”.
  • Cu is pronounced like “Qu” as in “Quack”.
  • Hu is pronounced like a “W” as in “Welcome”.
  • Uh is pronounced like a “Wh” as in “Wheel”.
  • Tz is pronounced like “Ts” as in “Hats”.
  • Finally, “Tl” doesn’t really have an English equivalent, but it’s similar to how you would pronounce “Atlas” or “Settler”, but only the “Tl”. Try putting the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth (further forward, towards your teeth) and pronouncing a word that starts with “T”.

Emphasis is usually placed on the second to last syllable of the word.  Some examples:

  • Tlatoani = Tlah-toh-AH-nee
  • Huitzilopochtli = Weet-see-loh-POTCH-tlee
  • Macuahuitl = Mah-kwah-WEE-tl
  • Cihuacoatl = See-wah-coh-AH-tl
  • Altepetl = All-teh-PEH-tl

Many thanks to anthropologist Ross Hassig for providing this information in the beginning section of several of his books.

 

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