posted on Mar, 20 2009 @ 12:10 AM
Originally posted by kyred
The atlatl was a great invention for its time. I wonder where the name atlatl came from. Any information about that, OP? Just curious.
Concerning atlatl, it is only the spelling that makes it look like atl-atl. In fact, the Nahuatl stem is ahtla- with a saltillo in the first syllable.
When you add the absolutive suffix -tl, you get ahtla-tl.
Because Spanish speakers had a hard time hearing saltillo (glottal stop), they almost never wrote it. When they did, they used an "h" or a
diacritical mark over the preceding vowel. The Jesuit grammarian Horacio Carochi was very thorough about explaining and notating saltillo with
diacritics, but the practice never caught on. Nahuatl speakers generally didn't bother writing saltillos, because they KNEW where they were. The only
people really in the dark about it are those of us who try to learn Nahuatl from incomplete sources. So the Nahuatl word for a spear thrower has
nothing to do with water: (a:-tl, where the stem vowel is long, and the -tl is the absolutive suffix). In fact, the stem ahtla- just seems to mean
'spear thrower' and can't be analyzed into smaller constituent parts. Also, it's not pronounced atl-atl in Nahuatl, although it certainly is by
anthropologists and throwing enthusiasts.
the word for 'sling' is ma:tla-tl, so ahtla-tl doesn't appear to be the negation of 'sling.' (That would have to be *ahma:tla-tl).
Now one could make the argument that ma:tla-tl can be analyzed as 'hand-sling' from ma:- 'hand/arm' and tla-tl, but there would have to be some
sleight of hand to explain how, if the word is a compound, the stem-final vowel of ma:tla- drops off in the possssed form. ('My sling' is noma:tl,
If one is undaunted by this little problem, one could go on to analyze ma:xtla-tl 'breechclout' as meaning 'crotch sling' by compounding maxac-
'crotch' with -tla-tl. But here you run into a discrepancy of vowel length (ma:x- versus maxac-) as well as needing to get rid of a syllable.
While these are fun to play around with, neither 'hand-sling' nor 'crotch-sling' stands up to scrutiny.
Source: email@example.com (Frances Karttunen)