The Usage of Nahuatl Kinship Terms in Polite Speech


  • Julia Madajczak University of Warsaw



Nahuatl, kin terms, colonial period, metaphors, honorific speech


Nahuatl kin terms are known to be employed in a vast array of metaphoric meanings, whose cultural point of reference is different than the basis of European metaphors. However, since colonial texts were often written by bilingual natives or Spanish friars, they include both Nahua and Spanish ways of associating meanings. This paper examines the use of several Nahuatl terms for children and grandchildren in speeches and dialogues recorded in colonial written sources. Taking into account both their morphology and contextual occurrences, it suggests that they formed a system, in which particular terms and grammatical forms marked the tone of speech, the amount of reverence and the social distance. It also attempts at separating pre‑Hispanic terminology from Nahuatl honorifics used by preachers, illustrating the difference between the two metaphorical systems.


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Author Biography

Julia Madajczak, University of Warsaw

Is an assistant professor in the Faculty of “Artes Liberales” at the University of Warsaw. She works in an international project “Europe and America in Contact,” funded by the European Research Council and focusing on the cross-cultural transfer in Spanish America. She is the author of several articles on Nahuatl kinship terminology and dynastic succession, as well as of an unpublished PhD dissertation on Nahuatl kinship terminology as a system of classification.


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How to Cite

Madajczak, Julia. 2015. “The Usage of Nahuatl Kinship Terms in Polite Speech”. Politeja 12 (6 (38):69-85.

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