|N?wat, N?wataketsalis (Náhuat)|
|Native to||El Salvador|
|Region||Sonsonate, Ahuachapán, La Libertad, San Salvador|
|Ethnicity||11,100 Pipils (2005 census)|
Nawat (academically Pipil, also known as Nicarao) is a Uto-Toltec or Uto-Nahuan language native to Central America. It is the southernmost extant member of the Uto-Aztecan family. It was spoken in several parts of present-day Central America before the Spanish conquest, but now is mostly confined to western El Salvador. It has been on the verge of extinction in El Salvador and has already gone extinct elsewhere in Central America, but as of 2012 new second-language speakers are starting to appear.
In El Salvador, Nawat was the language of several groups: Nonualcos, Cuscatlecos, Izalcos and is known to be the Náhua variety of migrating Toltec. The name Pipil for this language is used by the international scholarly community, chiefly to differentiate it more clearly from Nahuatl. In this article the name Nawat will be used whenever there is no risk of ambiguity.
Most authors refer to this language by the names Nawat or Pipil. However, Nawat (along with the synonymous Eastern Nahuatl) has also been used to refer to Nahuatl language varieties in southern Veracruz, Tabasco, and Chiapas, states in the south of Mexico, that like Pipil have reduced the earlier /t/ consonant (a lateral affricate) to a /t/. Those Mexican lects share more similarities with Nawat than do the other Nahuatl varieties.
Pipil specialists (Campbell, Fidias Jiménez, Geoffroy Rivas, King, Lemus, and Schultze, inter alia) generally treat Pipil/Nawat as a separate language, at least in practice. Lastra de Suárez (1986) and Canger (1988) classify Pipil among "Eastern Periphery" dialects of Nahuatl.
Uto-Aztecan is uncontroversially divided into eight branches, including Nahuan. Research continues into verifying higher level groupings. However, the grouping adopted by Campbell of the four southernmost branches is not yet universally accepted.
As of 2012, extensive online resources for learning Nawat are available at the website of linguist Alan R. King, including video lessons and a Facebook group. A video documentation project is also underway, in collaboration with the Living Tongues Institute, focusing on "Pipil culture, such as natural medicines, traditions, traditional games, agricultural practices, and childhood songs," which is intended for language learners.
The varieties of Nawat in Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama are now extinct. In El Salvador, Nawat is endangered: it is spoken mostly by a few elderly speakers in the Salvadoran departments of Sonsonate and Ahuachapán. The towns of Cuisnahuat and Santo Domingo de Guzmán have the highest concentration of speakers. Campbell's 1985 estimate (based on fieldwork conducted 1970-1976) was 200 speakers. Gordon (2005) reports only 20 speakers were left in 1987. Official Mexican reports have recorded as many as 2000 speakers.
The exact number of speakers has been difficult to determine because persecution of Nawat speakers throughout the 20th century (massacres after suppression of the 1932 Salvadoran peasant uprising, laws that made speaking Nawat illegal) made them conceal their use of the language. (About 30,000 people were killed during the uprising over the course of a few weeks, and those who spoke Nawat outside their homes against the new rules "provoked shame and fear." A young Nawat language activist, Carlos Cortez, explained in 2010 that this fear is worse for older speakers.)
A few small-scale projects to revitalize Nawat in El Salvador have been attempted since 1990. The Asociación Coordinadora de Comunidades Indígenas de El Salvador (ACCIES Archived 2 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine) and Universidad Don Bosco of San Salvador have both produced some teaching materials. Monica Ward has developed an on-line language course. The Nawat Language Recovery Initiative is a grassroots association currently engaged in several activities including an ongoing language documentation project, and has also produced a range of printed materials. Thus, as the number of native speakers continues to dwindle, there is growing interest in some quarters in keeping the language alive, but as of 2002, the national government had not joined these efforts (cf. Various, 2002).
As of 2010, the town of Santo Domingo de Guzman had a language nest, "Xuchikisa nawat" ("the house where Nawat blooms"), where children three to five years of age learned Nawat, run in cooperation with Don Bosco University.
In 2010, Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes awarded the National Culture Prize (Premio Nacional de Cultura 2010) to linguist Dr. Jorge Ernesto Lemus of Don Bosco University for his work with Nawat.
According to a 2009 report in El Diario de Hoy, Nawat had started to make a comeback as a result of the preservation and revitalization efforts of various non-profit organizations in conjunction with several universities, combined with a post-civil war resurgence of Pipil identity in El Salvador. In the 1980s, Nawat had about 200 speakers. By 2009, 3,000 people were participating in Nawat language learning programs, the vast majority being young people, giving rise to hopes that the language might be pulled back from the brink of extinction.
Localities where Nawat/Pipil was reported by Campbell as spoken in the 1970s include the following:
Gordon (2009) lists Dolores as a Pipil-speaking area. Kaufman (1970:66) lists Escuintla and Comapa as former Pipil-speaking areas of Guatemala, and San Agustín Acasaguastlán as a former "Mejicano"-speaking town. The genetic position of San Agustín Acasaguastlán Mejicano is still uncertain (see Alagüilac language). However, Nahuan languages are currently no longer spoken in Guatemala.
Two salient features of Nawat are found in several Mexican dialects: the change of [t] to [t] and [u] rather than [o] as the predominant allophone of a single basic rounded vowel phoneme. These features are thus characteristic but not diagnostic.
However, Nawat /t/ corresponds to not only the two Classical Nahuatl sounds /t/ and /t/ but also a word final saltillo or glottal stop /?/ in nominal plural suffixes (e.g. Nawat -met : Classical -meh) and verbal plural endings (Nawat -t present plural, -ket past plural, etc.). This fact has been claimed by Campbell to be diagnostic for the position of Nawat in a genetic classification, on the assumption that this /t/ is more archaic than the Classical Nahuatl reflex, where the direction change has been /t/ > /?/ saltillo.
One other characteristic phonological feature is the merger in Nawat of original geminate /ll/ with single /l/.
Nawat lacks some grammatical features present in Classical Nahuatl, such as the past prefix o- in verbs. It distributes others differently: for example, 'subtractive' past formation, which is very common in the classical language, exists in Nawat but is much rarer. On the other hand, reduplication to form plural nouns, of more limited distribution in the language of the Aztecs, is greatly generalised in Nawat. Still other grammatical features that were productive in Classical Nahuatl have left only fossilised traces in Nawat: for example, synchronically Nawat has no postpositions, although a few lexical forms derive etymologically from older postpositional forms, e.g. apan 'river' < *'in/on the water', kujtan 'uncultivated land, forest' < *'under the trees'; these are synchronically unanalyzable in modern Nawat.
|plural marking||limited in Classical||generalized||taj-tamal 'tortillas'
sej-selek 'tender, fresh (pl.)'
|plural formation||mostly suffixes||mostly redup.|
|absolute -tli (Nawat -ti)||generally kept||often absent||mistun 'cat (abs.)'|
|construct /C_||-wi or zero||always zero||nu-uj 'my path'|
|inalienability||nouns generally have absolutes||many inalienables||*mey-ti, *nan-ti...|
|possessive prefixes||lose o before vowel||retain vowel (u)||nu-ikaw 'my brother'|
|articles||no generalized articles in Classical||definite ne, indefinite se||ne/se takat 'the/a man'|
|post/prepositions||postpositions||no post-, only prepositions||tik ne apan 'in the river'|
Nawat has developed two widely used articles, definite ne and indefinite se. The demonstrative pronouns/determiners ini 'this, these' and uni 'that, those' are also distinctively Nawat in form. The obligatory marking of number extends in Nawat to almost all plural noun phrases (regardless of animacy), which will contain at least one plural form, most commonly marked by reduplication.
Many nouns are invariable for state, since -ti (cf. Classical -tli, the absolute suffix after consonants) is rarely added to polysyllabic noun stems, while the Classical postconsonantal construct suffix, -wi, is altogether unknown in Nawat: thus sin-ti 'maize' : nu-sin 'my maize', uj-ti 'way' : nu-uj 'my way', mistun 'cat' : nu-mistun 'my cat'.
An important number of nouns lack absolute forms and occur only inalienably possessed, e.g. nu-mey 'my hand' (but not *mey or *mey-ti), nu-nan 'my mother' (but not *nan or *nan-ti), thus further reducing the number of absolute-construct oppositions and the incidence of absolute -ti in comparison to Classical Nahuatl.
|inflection||more complex||less complex; analytic substitutes||kuchi nemi katka 'used to stay and sleep'|
|past prefix o-||found in Classical + some dialects||no||ki-neki-k 'he wanted it'
ni-kuch-ki 'I slept'
|subtractive past formation||common in Classical + some dialects||limited|
|past in -ki||no||yes|
|perfect in -tuk||no||yes||ni-kuch-tuk 'I have slept'|
|imperfect||-ya||-tuya (stative)||ni-weli-tuya 'I could'|
|-skia, -tuskia conditionals||no||yes||ni-takwika-(tu)-skia 'I would sing/I would have sung'|
|initial prefixes /_V||lose i||mostly retain i||niajsi 'I arrive',
kielkawa 'he forgets it'
To form the past tense, most Nawat verbs add -k (after vowels) or -ki (after consonants, following loss of the final vowel of the present stem), e.g. ki-neki 'he wants it' : ki-neki-k 'he wanted it', ki-mati 'he knows it' : ki-mat-ki 'he knew it'. The mechanism of simply removing the present stem vowel to form past stems, so common in Classical Nahuatl, is limited in Nawat to polysyllabic verb stems such as ki-talia 'he puts it' -> ki-tali(j) 'he put it', mu-talua 'he runs' -> mu-talu(j) 'he ran', and a handful of other verbs, e.g. ki-tajtani 'he asks him' -> ki-tajtan 'he asked him'.
Nawat has a perfect in -tuk (synchronically unanalyzable), plural -tiwit. Another tense suffix, -tuya, functions both as a pluperfect (k-itz-tuya ne takat 'he had seen the man') and as an imperfect of stative verbs (inte weli-tuya 'he couldn't'), in the latter case having supplanted the -ya imperfect found in Mexican dialects.
Nawat has two conditional tenses, one in -skia expressing possible conditions and possible results, and one in -tuskia for impossible ones, although the distinction is sometimes blurred in practice. A future tense in -s (plural -sket) is attested but rarely used, a periphrastic future being preferred, e.g. yawi witz (or yu-witz) 'he will come'.
In serial constructions, the present tense (really the unmarked tense) is generally found except in the first verb, regardless of the tense of the latter, e.g. kineki / kinekik / kinekiskia kikwa 'he wants / wanted / would like to eat it'.
There are also some differences regarding how prefixes are attached to verb-initial stems; principally, that in Nawat the prefixes ni-, ti-, shi- and ki- when word-initial retain their i in most cases, e.g. ni-ajsi 'I arrive', ki-elkawa 'he forgets it'.