Nahuatl question

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Nahuatl question

Postby apaguaji » 2014-03-12, 21:02

I have a question about a word that is supposed to be from Nahuatl: apaguaji

Apaguaji is a place name from northern Nicaragua: a hill (Cerro Apaguaji) and a cave (Cueva Apaguaji) with a year-round spring that feeds into a steep, rocky valley. (Apparently Precolumbian Nicaragua had a large influx of Nahuatl speakers a long time ago)

When I lived there I was taught to pronounce it (in Spanish) as apaguají , emphasis on the last syllable, but I've never seen it written that way.

I'm trying to figure out what the word might mean in English (or Spanish). I can't find the exact word anywhere. No one who lived in the very rural area could tell me what it meant. I found this: that indicates it means "in the valley of the guajes". Guajes being either gourds or a type of acacia tree. But they don't give any reasoning to back up that conclusion.

So I went to the University of Oregon site and poked around. It seems like the first part of the word apa relates strongly to water, like atl . So then I looked around for guaje references, and found this word: āhuahcalli. which is a "large gourd cut in half and used to scoop water." Guaje is a word used for a drinking gourd, as well.

Then I looked up valley: atlauhtli. The wonderful people at the UOrgeon site include a sound file but it doesn't sound like apaguají.

Of course, there's another similar word: atlacaqui. He who does not hear or understand, someone incorrigible. Guaje also can mean someone stupid or a fool.

I don't know much about linguistics or the way Nahuatl works - I'm grabbing at straws. Would anyone who knows more about Nahuatl weigh in on these speculations?

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Re: Nahuatl question

Postby Tlequiyahuitl » 2014-03-19, 21:58

I looked at the wiktionary page on "guaje" and it said it was from Nahuatl "uaxin", which is a misspelling of the word "huāxin", which according to (good French/Classical Nahuatl dictionary)
refers to a tree and its fruit (it specifically backs up that it refers to the guaje), of the species "Leucaena esculenta", perhaps this is common in Apaguaji?

I really don't know but in my opinion, neither "atlauhtli" nor "ahtlacaqui" sound like likely candidates just based on how they sound; it seems more likely that "huāxin"'s meaning drifted semantically, perhaps just like in English you can say "dumb as a post", it might have been something like "dumb as a guaje" for a while.

As for "apaguaji", the morpheme "ā-" does indeed mean "water", so by itself it's "ātl" but when it's attached to other words it just takes the form "ā". Perhaps, it could have intially been "āpan huāxin", which means "guaje on the water" (to me this seems like the best bet based on the sounds of the word, as "n"s often weren't fully pronounced, so if you take the "n"s away and fuse the two words you get "apahuaxi", which then would evolve like "huaxin" did, to become "apaguaje", which is very close to "apaguaji"), or maybe it's derived from "tlapalhuāxin", which is the "red guaje" apparently. Despite this, I don't know what would have happened to the "tl" at the beginning, it seems odd that it would disappear, as well as the "l" in the middle of the word. Furthermore, Nahuatl locatives (place names) usually have one of several distinct endings with meanings like "on", "in", or "at"; examples of this are "-cingo" (from -tzinco, meaning "at/on the revered ___") and -tepec (which means "on the mountain of the ___). Despite this, such an ending seems to be absent in "apaguaji".

From what I've understood from studying Classical Nahuatl, the combined form for "valley of the guajes" would be something like "huaxatlauhtli" which just doesn't sound right.

Take this all with a grain of salt; there are other indigenous languages in the area so there's a possibility that it's not even from Nahuatl, but I hope I've helped! Let me know if you need any more help translating it, or just bouncing ideas around.
Quin onihuallah. ZBB: LeCiagoPanda
Native: [flag]en[/flag] Intermediate: [flag]fr[/flag]
Learning: Classical Nahuatl [flag]it[/flag] [flag]ga[/flag]
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