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Voces del Dzaha Dzavui (mixteco clásico)

Análisis y Conversión del Vocabulario de fray Francisco de Alvarado (1593)

Jansen, Maarten & Gabina Aurora Pérez Jiménez
01 January 2009

Oaxaca: Gobierno del Estado de Oaxaca & Colegio Superior para la Educación Integral Intercultural de Oaxaca &Yuu Núú A.C.

Düring the colonial period several documents were written down in Mexican indigenous languages with the alphabet that had been introduced by the Spaniards. Not only in Nahuatl (the Aztec language) and Maya, but also in Mixtec, the language of an important corpus of precolonial pictorial manuscripts. The key to translate those colonial Mixtec texts is a dictionary compiled by the Dominican Friar Francisco de Alvarado, the Vocabulario en Lengua Mixteca, published in 1593. This is a rare but crucial work, which is not only the base for all linguistic, philological and etymological studies of Mixtec (a language still spoken by half a million people), but also the fundament for archaeological, historical and anthropological investigations, as it includes a wide range of culturally relevant terms (on ancient religion, social organization, material culture, technology etc.). Unfortunately it contains only the  Spanish-Mixtec section. Use is further handicapped by the presence of many inconsistencies (and occasional errors) in the orthography and in segmentation of the Mixtec words.

Students of Aurora Pérez’ classes on modern Mixtec language and culture at Leiden University helped to transcribe the more than 30.000 entries of Alvarado’s magnum opus in a data-base, which then was analyzed, corrected and converted to a  Mixtec-Spanishdictionary by Maarten Jansen and Aurora Pérez over a period of more than ten years.  The research was part of the long-term research project on Mixtec culture, history and language, carried out at the Faculty of Archaeology ( Leiden University) with the financial support of the Netherlands Foundation for Scientific Research (NWO).

The result is this monumental dictionary, which for the first time presents Alvarado’s comprehensive Mixtec vocabulary with a translation into a European language (Spanish). It was published in Mexico thanks to a major subvention by the Oaxaca State Government.

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