Polysynthesis in Hueyapan Nahuatl: The Status of Noun Phrases, Basic Word Order, and Other Concerns


This article presents data showing that the syntax of the Nahuatl dialect spoken in Hueyapan, Morelos, Mexico has traits of nonconfigurationality: free word order and free pro-drop, with predicate-initial word order being pragmatically neutral. It permits discontinuous noun phrases and has no naturally occurring true quantifiers, suggesting that noun phrases in Hueyapan Nahuatl are adjuncts rather than actual arguments. These findings are contrasted with those of an earlier study by Jeffrey MacSwan, who concludes that Nahuatl syntax has relatively fixed subject-verb-object word order. It is suggested that the differences observed between the two Nahuatl varieties may be a result of methodological problems in MacSwan's collection of data, skewing it in the direction of a more rigid syntax.