SIL Mexico

Orizaba Nawatl

(Zongolica Nahuatl)

(ISO code nlv)

Listen to a greeting.
Pico de Orizaba from Atlehuaya



Orizaba Nawatl (Nawatl de Orizaba) is the Nahuatl language which is spoken in a large mountainous area south of the city of Orizaba, Veracruz. This region is known as the Sierra de Zongolica, and Zongolica is the largest town centrally located in the dialect area. For this reason this language is also known by such names as Zongolica Nahuatl (or Aztec), or Nahuatl of the Sierra de Zongolica.


Language distribution map for Orizaba


The phoneme w is pronounced [v] in some towns in the region, and [w] in others, and for this reason, in the most widely-used orthography in the region, the symbol w was chosen instead of the traditional hu. Thus, following that orthography, we are giving the name of the language as Nawatl instead of Nahuatl. (Under either spelling, it is pronounced in two syllables, with the accent on the first: NAH-watl.)

Orizaba Nawatl is spoken in many towns and rural areas, and there are well over 100,000 speakers. Although the speech of each town is a little different from that of the next, all the inhabitants of the Sierra understand each other quite well. Orizaba Nawatl is linguistically very close to the neighboring Nahuatl of the Tehuacán valley in the state of Puebla (South-Eastern Puebla Nahuatl), and there is really no clear line of demarcation between the two dialects. Speakers from a town like Tehuipango can communicate quite well with speakers from neighboring towns on the Tehuacán side, such as Zoquitlán or Coyomeapan. (See Hasler 1996 for a discussion of this dialectal situation.)

--David Tuggy

Pico de Orizaba
The 18,400-foot Pico de Orizaba is visible from much of the Sierra de Zongolica.
Nawatl speakers call it Istaktepetl, which means White Mountain.
View of Tequila, Veracruz and surrounding mountains
This view of the town of Tequila illustrates how mountainous the Sierra de Zongolica is.

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Lecciones para un curso del náhuatl moderno. (A set of lessons, in Spanish, describing word-formation and grammatical patterns of a sub-dialect of Orizaba Nawatl. A vocabulary is included.)