“The Spanish prevails more today than 500 years ago”

In what way is the Spanish language named from different indigenous languages ​​in our country? It is a simple question whose answer, however, provokes a finding capable of subverting the verticality with which the history of interaction or subjugation of native peoples and their languages ​​has been assimilated.

The linguist and PhD in Anthropology Fernando Nava López, a full member of the Academia Mexicana de la Lengua (AML), agrees on this. that it is the product of an investigation whose examples are the core of the task.

Broadly speaking, the academic explained that while there are peoples that use linguistic loans, such as the southern Tepehuanos, who call Spanish as ‘kastill’ (Castilian), there are others who, with their own voice, reveal the processes of assimilation and classification of that foreign language and its speakers. For example, the Tarahumara use the term ‘chabochi’ to refer to a white, bearded or mestizo person and their language; or the Huichols, who use the word ‘teiwariki’ to enunciate the “language of the mestizo.” The Mixtecos of Santa Catarina Mechoacán, Oaxaca, say ‘dja’an toon’ or “language of foreigners”, while the Huaves, on the isthmus of Tehuantepec, say ‘ombeay moel naw titiük’, which is the same as “language of others natives”.

A curious case among the examples given by the researcher, which was widely discussed in the session, is that of the Nahuas from Pajapan, Veracruz, who use the word ’tiltiktahtol’, which is translated as “black language”, since, It was suggested, that blackness could refer to the foreign, that which is not the language itself that illuminates by a sense of belonging.

The above cases are just a preview of the rich text that Fernando Nava will shortly publish in the Anthropos magazine of the Siglo XXI publishing house. This is what he advances in a conversation with El Economista regarding the statutory reading.

Leave verticality behind

“Spanish is more prevalent today than 500 years ago,” laments the linguist. For this reason, the text in question, he adds, “is a return to the mirror, because generally there is a unidirectional axis, a verticality in the way of studying Spanish towards indigenous languages ​​and almost never the other way around.”

Few dictionaries of native languages ​​contain entries on what Spanish is called, hence the beginning of the curiosity of the researcher who based a large part of his search on consultations with speakers and scholars of the languages ​​of our country.

The depth of the work allows reflection and should serve as part of a collective summary through which the way in which we assimilate the existence of others is studied, because otherness between human beings implies the notion of species kinship and, at the same time, a process of classifying others through exchanges or frictions between belief systems, expressions and even appearance, among others.

“There are the words, giving us doors for history, for the investigation of relationships that are nothing other than the behavior of humans before other humans,” says the researcher. “The fact of asking ourselves if it is possible to change, tells us that we are recognizing that we do not have that fair relationship, which is still one of subordination. And today it is an itch that we have better elements of a historical order, of current information, to improve our relations ”.

Calling indigenous languages ​​dialects, he believes, for example, “is possibly the strongest linguistic prejudice that we have to overcome, because by using it we are assimilating that the world has first-rate and second-rate citizens.”

Rethinking education, justice and health

Regarding the beginning in January of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages, promoted by UNESCO and to which Mexico subscribes, the researcher believes: “of course I welcome all kinds of governmental initiative in this regard, because it presents possibilities of improving the social situation in which indigenous languages ​​are found, right now in social marginalization ”.

However, it considers three basic, urgent and inter-institutional axes, without which the guarantee of language protection will not be able to proliferate. One of them is the “correct assignment” of teachers who speak the languages ​​and variants according to the region. “The SEP must advance on the issue of assigning teachers with linguistic relevance,” he stresses.

Second, it points out that for the level of justice “we must promote the training of interpreters and translators so that the accused have adequate support. This is urgent, because it is just as serious to have an innocent incarcerated as it is to have a criminal at liberty ”.

Finally, he indicates, in health it is also necessary to increase the training of medical and administrative personnel so that the hospital service is not limited by the lack of knowledge of the patient’s language.

“Hopefully the decade will mean more budget for INALI”, he indicates, “and for other fields that work with the indigenous population, because the institutions must advance in this recomposition. We must win horizontally ”, he concludes.

Who is Fernando Nava López?

He is a linguist from the National School of Anthropology and History (ENAH), with a master’s degree in Linguistics from UNAM and El Colegio de México, as well as a doctorate in Anthropology from the highest house of studies. In addition, he studied music at the National Conservatory of Music and the National School of Music (UNAM). From 2004 to 2010 he was the founding general director of the National Institute of Indigenous Languages ​​(INALI). He is currently a tenured researcher at the Institute of Anthropological Research and since 2017 has held the XXIII chair of the Mexican Academy of Language.

Some ways to call Spanish:

South Tepehuano: kastill (Spanish)

Zoque: kasylyan ote (language of Castile)

Tarahumara: chabochi (language of a white, bearded, mestizo person)

Huichol: teiwariki (mestizo language)

Nahua (Pajapan, Veracruz): tiltiktahtol (black tongue)

Mixtec (in areas of Oaxaca): dja’an toon (foreign language)

Purépechas: turhisi (language of a mestizo person)

Huaves: ombeay moel naw titiük (language of other indigenous people).

Mixe (Ayutla mixe): amaxän (sacred language)

Check the statutory reading of the academic:


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