Alahuiztlan (Mdz37r)

Alahuiztlan (Mdz37r)
Compound Glyph

Glyph or Iconographic Image Description: 

This compound glyph for the place name Alahuiztlan has a few components, an arm with a hand, from which water (atl) or ātl) flows downward [a direction provided by the downward facing black footprint), and a pair of teeth (tlantli, providing the locative suffix -tlan). The arm is a left arm, with the left hand extending toward the viewer's right. The teeth involve two white, front, upper teeth with a red gum. The water is a typical turquoise blue with lines indicating current or flow and droplets/beads or turbinate shells at the tips or splashing off the flow.

Description, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Added Analysis: 

Frances Karttunen interprets the key graphic elements as water [ā-] and a downward direction [alāhua]. These graphics give phonetic clues to the relevant morpheme: alāhuiz- (slipperiness, from alāhua, "to slip, slide"). Matthew T. McDavitt (J.D.) suggests an unattested noun, alahuiztli, which would mean "landslide," and the place name would then be next to or "Below the Landslide." He sees the arm as pushing and the footprint as "temoc" (to descend) resulting in the arm ideographically pushing down (the land). [Personal communication, 12/28/2022.]

The beginning of the place name, "Ala," is also tempting to read as a Spanish loanword for "to the." This would combine well with "south" (despite the slight variation between huitztlan and huiztlan). We do have attestations of the incorporation of "ala" in loans that entered Nahuatl from Spanish, such as "alahuerta," for orchard or kitchen gardens, with the motion incorporated into the noun but only implied.

What is actually pictured for this glyph might suggest, alternatively, a reading of Amatlan ("a" from atl), water, "ma" from maitl), hand or arm, and "-tlan" the locative suffix, whose phonetic representation comes from tlantli), teeth. We do have other glyphs indicating Amatlan, however, and these much more efficiently use the glyph for paper, amatl). Finally, a reading of Amatlan would leave out the footprint element.

Footprint glyphs have a wide range of translations. In this collection, so far, we can attest to yauh, xo, pano, -pan, paina, temo, nemi, quetza, otli, iyaquic hualiloti, huallauh, tetepotztoca, totoco, -tihui, and the vowel "o." Other research (Herrera et al, 2005, 64) points to additional terms, including: choloa, tlaloa, totoyoa, eco, aci, quiza, maxalihui, centlacxitl, and xocpalli.

Added Analysis, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Gloss Image: 
Gloss Diplomatic Transcription: 

alahuiztlā puo

Gloss Normalization: 

Alahuiztlan, pueblo (or Allahuiztlan? Alahuitztlan?)

Gloss Analysis, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Source Manuscript: 
Date of Manuscript: 

c. 1541, or by 1553 at the latest

Creator's Location (and place coverage): 

Mexico City

Semantic Categories: 
Cultural Content, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Shapes and Perspectives: 
Reading Order (Compounds or Simplex + Notation): 

arms, elbows, hands, water, teeth, footprint, feet, shells, brazos, codos, manos, agua, dientes, huellas de pie, pies, caracoles

Glyph or Iconographic Image: 
Karttunen’s Interpretation: 

"Slippery Place" [Frances Karttunen, unpublished manuscript, used here with her permission.]

Glyph/Icon Name, Spanish Translation: 

"Cerca del Corrimiento o Desprendimiento de Tierras"

Spanish Translation, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood (drawing from the suggestion of Matthew T. McDavitt)

Image Source: 

Codex Mendoza, folio 37 recto,, image 84 of 188.

Image Source, Rights: 

The Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, hold the original manuscript, the MS. Arch. Selden. A. 1. This image is published here under the UK Creative Commons, “Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License” (CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0).