Spatial Language and the Use of Body-Part Terms in Nahuatl and P’urhepecha


  • Martha Mendoza Florida Atlantic University


The present comparative paper explores the use of body-part terms in the grammars of Nahuatl and P’urhepecha, two Mesoamerican languages still spoken in Mexico today. The two lan-guages possess terms that designate parts of the human body, such as lip, head, face, nose, neck, foot, etc. However, their use of body-part terms extends beyond the nominal realm to their inclusion in verbal derivation and the grammatical expression of locative relations between objects. Although the marking of spatial relationships via body-part terms is not exclusive to these Amerindian lan-guages, it is certainly a prominent feature of their grammar and worthy of further research. Drawing from examples provided by native speakers, this paper focuses primarily on the use of body-part terms in verbal derivation and the expression of location in Nahuatl and P’urhepecha, all with the purpose of contributing to the growing body of work devoted to the relationship between language and space and advancing our current crosslinguistic understanding of how languages handle the expression of locative features and other spatial information in their grammars.