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For several years now I've been wanting to create a version of my bio like a Pre-Columbian codex, but I've never gotten enough motivation and language skills to pull it off.  However, I've been sort of picking up a lot of Nahuatl (the language of ancient Central Mexico) from various papers, and with the new advances in deciphering Aztec writing, I think I can take a stab at it now. 

What I'm thinking is pretty simple.  Pictorial depiction of various events, such as birth, moving from one place to another, marriage, children, etc.  The hardest part is actually figure out how to translate proper names for people and places.  I'm thinking that if possible, names will be translated.  If translation proves impossible, then we'll go to phonetic rendition in Nahuatl.  I got two examples below:

On the left, we got a phonetic rendition of San Francisco in Nahuatl glyphs.  One spelling rule states that consonants other than the first consonant of a syllable is omitted.  Hence "san" becomes just "sa".  Also, since there is no "f" sound in Nahuatl, the closest sound would be "p".  Hence "fran" becomes "fa" becomes "pa". 

On the right, my home town Mountain View.  Fortunately, it has a meaning, which can be translated into Nahuatl as Tepetlachiayan.  To write this, I use a mixture of logograms (signs that represent words) and phonograms.  The first part of the name, "mountain", is represented by the green blob, which is the logogram TEPE (meaning "mountain").  Inside the mountain glyph there are two glyphs, a set of teeth and a stylized eyeball that together make up the second part of the world, "tlachia" ("to see").  Here, I employ another spelling rule called phonetic complementation.  The eyeball sign usually stands for the logogram IX, which means "eye".  However, in this case, I'm using it to mean "to see".  In order to not confuse the reader with this ambiguity, I add the phonetic sign "tla" on top of the eyeball sign to denote the starting syllable of "tlachia", thus elucidating the reading of the compound as TLACHIA rather than IX. 

You might also notice that TEPE-tla-TLACHIA doesn't spell the whole world, Tepetlachiayan.  Traditionally endings representing the place is not represented in writing.  It'd be like saying "City of Mountain View".  The "city of" part can be omitted without people misunderstanding what "Mountain View" means.  I think it's a similar idea here.

Anyway, this is just the beginning.  I already have translations for other place names.  Hong Kong is Copalacalquixoayan, Costa Rica is Necuiltonolanahuac.  I have no idea how to do California except phonetically.  I'm still debating on how to translate my name, and which name (English, Chinese, or both) to translate.  But it's a lot of fun to work on it.

And if any of you on my flist want me to do something similar for you, just let me know.  However, I can't spare to time to work on requests from people outside of my flist or from anonymous posters.  Sorry!


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 1st, 2008 09:27 pm (UTC)
This is so cool!!!!!
Jul. 2nd, 2008 02:18 am (UTC)
Excellent. I can't wait to see the rest.

You know, I saw that tepe element a couple of times when I was reading C of M. Also means "mound" or "top" in Turkish, I think... hmmm...
Jul. 3rd, 2008 07:43 pm (UTC)
And don't forget teepee, it's conical too...

It's just one of those incredible coincidences that linguists have seen throughout the years. You'd think it has to do with some deeper connection between languages, but 99% of the time they turn out to be purely superficial.

Jul. 4th, 2008 05:38 am (UTC)
Shipwrecked Turks on a balsa wood raft. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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