|A catfish, a moustache, |
Courbet's L'Origine du Monde,
and a feline.
What do they have in common?
This blogpost explores the origin of the Nahua word(s) for "fish". It is well known that the general nahua word for "fish" is michin. The root mich- is for example found in the name of the state Michoacán, meaning "place of fish-owners", likely referring to the P'urhépecha fishing traditions in lakes Pátzcuaro and Cuitzeo.
*Tepo: A Southern Uto-Aztecan word for fish
But michin is not the only word for "fish" in Nahuan. Certain Nahuan varieties have a different root in that meaning - namely those spoken in southern Veracruz state: In Mecayapan the general word for fish is toopoh, in Zaragoza it is tupuh. This form has generally been explained as a loanword from the language called Sierra Popoluca, Zoque de Soteapan or Soteapanec, a language of the Mixe-Zoque family spoken i a town few kilometers from Mecayapan. In Soteapan Zoque the word for fish is tɨɨpɨ. People from Mecayapan are known to have close relations with the Zoque-speakers of Soteapan, and Mecayapan Nahuatl does have some significant signs of contact influence from Zoque (for example it has an inclusive/exclusive distinction in the first person plural, found in Soteapan Zoque, but not in any other Nahuan variety). The Nahua word also looks like a borrowing, in Nahuan languages the majority of nouns take the absolutive suffix -tl or -tli, but toopoh is part of a small class of nouns that do not take the absolutie suffix (this class is larger in Eastern Nahua than in Western Nahua). Some scholars have also argued that all Nahua words with *p are likely borrowings since UA *p tends to become lost in Nahuan (though this is not correct when you look at the details). So it would make complete sense if Nahua speakers of Mecayapan had borrowed the word for fish from their Zoque speaking neighbors.
But I don't think they have. I think the borrowing went the other direction from Nahua to Soteapan Zoque. The reason is this: There are no clear cognates of the Soteapanec word in other Mixe-Zoque languages, but there are cognates in other Uto-Aztecan languages.
Within the Mixe-Zoque family, the oldest word for fish is the one that has been reconstructed as *ʔaksa. But this seems to have primarily kept in the Mixean languages, whereas the Zoquean languages seem to have several different words for fish.
*musi - a Southern Uto-Aztecan word for ....what exactly?
|A whiskered house rodent - kimichin.|