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Harrington, John Peabody 1884-1961  Search this
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Nahuas  Search this
Indians of Mexico  Search this
Field notes
Microfilm and digital surrogates of microfilm are available. See Volume 7, reels 2-7. Only original documents created by Harrington, his coworkers and field assistants, or field notes given to him by others were microfilmed.
Harrington conducted fieldwork on Nahuatl--also referred to as Aztec--during a six-month period in 1951. In March he left Washington, D.C., arriving at the Hotel Fornos in Mexico City on March 25. He remained there until early September. Most of his informants were found locally, although he did make a number of side trips into the surrounding regions.
During the course of his study he worked with speakers of a number of dialects. He distinguished between the various forms he recorded by the use of abbreviations: "Az." or "Cl. Az." referred to Classical Aztec and "Naw." to Nahuatl. "Fed. Dist." was used for Federal District, "Xoch." for Xochimilco, "MA" for Milpa Alta, "V.C." for Vera Cruz, and "Mat(l)." for Matlapa. Terms from the Valley of Mexico were noted variously by the markers "Valle de Mex.," "V de M.," or "V of M." Some comparisons were occasionally made with Cahuilla (Cah.) words.
Harrington made use of a number of secondary sources throughout his study. The primary works which he consulted included the Dictionnaire de La langue nahuatl ou mexicaine by Remi Simeon, Arte de La lengua mexicana by Horacio Carochi, and a source referred to as "Gar."--possibly by Angel Maria Garibay Kintana or Jose I. Davila Garibi. He evidently had plans to prepare an annotated version of Simeon's Nahuatl-French dictionary. An assistant aided him in photostatting and pasting each entry on a separate card. Preliminary steps were taken to provide English glosses but no new Nahuatl data were appended to them.
The first informant whom Harrington contacted was Miguel Romero. They worked together on March 26 and 27 and April 1. He spoke with Salome Perez on March 27 and interviewed Tomas Perez Escobar on an almost daily basis from March 28 through April 28. The latter, referred to variously as "Professor Perez," "Perez," and "Tomas," was from the Valley of Mexico. Sessions were conducted intermittently with Frederico Hernandez Mota and Professor Jose Farias Galindo in April and May. Farias (Far.) was a Nahuatl speaker teaching elementary school in Mexico City and Xochimilco. Harrington also noted that he was the translator of the Mexican national anthem into Nahuatl and that he published poetry. In several sessions he was accompanied by Santos Acevedo Lopez, a captain in the Mexican army, who also typed a number of sheets for Harrington.
Harrington's financial records for May 22 mention receipts for payment signed by Tiburcio Jaimez and Arcadio Sagahon, indicating that he probably worked with them at least during the latter part of May. Jaimez, usually referred to by the abbreviation "Tib.," was born and raised in the pueblo of San Francisco Calixtlahuacan.
The field notes indicate that Harrington worked with another major informant, Professor Alfonso Hernandez Catarina, beginning in July. Born at Coxcatlan, "Alf." had been living for some nine years at Ciudad Santos, San Luis Potosi.
Among secondary informants with whom Harrington consulted were Professor Gregorio Cruz (Cruz, Ruz), of the Colegio Administrativo at Toluco, who was teaching school in Tenango;Jose Fortino, a resident of Teskitote Ranch; and Professor Camarena of Toluca. Others mentioned were Francisco Pinera Martinez (middle name alternately spelled Pireda), E[fraim] Sanchez, Pablo Yadieis, and Juan Baloria.
Electronic inventory available. Consult with archivist. For a comprehensive description of these materials, see "The papers of John Peabody Harrington in the Smithsonian Institution, 1907-1957, Volume 7: A guide to the field notes: Native American history, language, and culture of Mexico/Central America/South America," edited by Elaine L. Mills (1988).
This subseries of the Mexico/Central America/South America series contains Harrington's Nahuatl research. The materials consist of linguistic notes, grammar, texts, and miscellaneous notes.
His linguistic notes form the largest section of this subseries. A semantically arranged vocabulary was elicited from Alfonso Hernandez Catarina. The categories of lexical items include phenomena, directions, seasons, astronomy, time, plant parts, plants, animal parts, animals, age-sex, rank, relationship, material culture, religion, tribenames, and placenames. A "Flood Story" in English is also included. In addition, there are some phrases, information on phonetics and grammar, and a little ethnographic data. There are references to secondary sources such as Simeon, Carochi ("Car."), and "Gar."
Arcadio Sagahon was also a major contributor. Harrington recorded eighteen pages of basic vocabulary with him. There is also a section of randomly arranged vocabulary based on an examination of rock and plant specimens, with occasional references to "Arc's book" (not further identified). Some equivalent terms were provided by Tiburcio Jaimez.
A compilation of several sets of word lists on numbered pages resulted from a number of linguistic sessions with Tiburcio Jaimez. These include commentary on a book by Cardenas (abbreviated "Card.") which is not further identified. Harrington also elicited Jaimez's aid in rehearing the source referred to as "Gar." They developed fairly extensive annotations to pages 40 to 51 of that work, and the section on verbs. In addition, Jaimez provided commentary on the book Raices etimologicas del idioma nahuatl by Pedro Barra y Valenzuela.
Additional linguistic data were furnished by Tomas Perez Escobar and Jose Farias Galindo. A general, unsorted vocabulary which Harrington recorded from Escobar, with a few comments from Arcadio Sagahon, is supplemented by a sizable section of notes in his own hand. Sentences in Nahuatl are each followed by a Spanish translation. Farias provided vocabulary during a number of sessions in which he was accompanied by Captain Santos Acevedo Lopez. There is also a small file of miscellaneous vocabulary given together by Farias and Arcadio Sagahon.
Many of the data from the preceding groups of field notes were brought together in a comprehensive semantic arrangement. In addition, Harrington compiled lists of words in English and Spanish as a questionnaire for eliciting Maya words. (In fact, this section is headed by a sheet with the label "Questionnaire for Az[tec].")
A final section of linguistic notes includes miscellaneous shorter vocabularies, a four-page word list, and Harrington's questionnaire. A "Coyotepec Vocabulary" of nineteen pages was recorded from Francisco Pinera Martinez. It includes Xochimilco equivalences, commentary by Jose Farias Galindo, and a reference to Mr. Sanchez. Notes from a "Cuautla Trip" include a short vocabulary (seven pages) from an unidentified informant and miscellaneous notes on people and places. A twenty-three page basic vocabulary and a few phrases were recorded from Jose Fortino. Harrington later obtained a few Xochimilco glosses and a little commentary by Arcadio Sagahon. The sixteen pages of notes, resulting from a trip Harrington took to Tepotzotlan with Farias and "Arc," contain miscellaneous data and references to an unnamed informant. A basic vocabulary and some short sentences were elicited from Jose Barreraon May 2, 1951, under the heading "Tete. Voc." It is unclear whether the language referred to is Tetelcingo or Tetela but it was presumably related to the language of Tezcoco. The seventy pages of data, which include some Xochimilco terms and information on the country, are supplemented by two pages obtained from "Juan while waiting for the bus." The material was reheard with Farias, Perez, and Sagahon at a later date. There are nine pages of data from an interview with Albino (Alvino) Cortes. There is a mention of Frederico Hernandez, and Miguel Romero was also present during the recording of the "Aztec vocabulary." Lexical items were recorded from Munoz (alternate spelling Munos), Romero, and Juan Ramos of Puebla, near Vera Cruz City. There are also four pages of notes in an unidentified hand and a questionnaire used by Harrington in his linguistic work. It includes a little data from "Alf." and "Arc."
Notes on Nahuatl grammar include excerpts from a number of published sources, primarily Whorf, Simeon, and Carochi. The topics covered include phonetics (one section is labeled "Phonetics Tibd"), syntax, verb, noun, pronoun, numeral, adjective, adverb, postposition, conjunction, and interjection. The principal informants cited are Arcadio Sagahon and Tomas Perez Escobar. Additional information was provided by Alfonso Hernandez Catarina, Tiburcio Jaimez, Tomas Perez Escobar, Jose Farias Galindo, and Captain Acevedo. One page of the grammar is in Farias' handwriting. Several pages are marked "Tete."
The major sets of Nahuatl texts which Harrington recorded were assigned by him to one of two categories: "Finished" or "Not yet gone over." The first designation indicates that the Nahuatl phonetic transcription of a given text was refined with the original speaker--and sometimes reheard by others--and that it was accompanied by a complete Spanish translation and possibly notes. There are references to Matlapa and Jalpilla forms. The predominant contributor was Arcadio Sagahon. Alternate versions of each text were also given by Tiburcio Jaimez and Alfonso Hernandez. All of the stories have to do with animals and many appear to be translations of fables rather than native texts: "The Sky Is Falling" (Chicken Little), "La Zorra y el Queso" (The Fox and the Cheese). The texts labeled "Not gone over" appear to have been recorded from Hernandez and Jaimez but not reviewed with Sagahon. The stories include "The Girl and the Head of the Birds," "The Queen Bee and the Drone," and the lengthy "La Vida de un Indigena." A miscellaneous set of texts at the end of the series represents an attempt at a translation of the Lord's Prayer by Hernandez and Sagahon and a poem evidently written by the latter.
Harrington also compiled several miscellaneous files of data on Nahuatl. The first, consisting of notes from the period 1922 to 1927, includes bibliographic references, a list of "Aztek" words from Ben Elson in Vera Cruz, and a partial English translation of Carochi's grammar by Paul Vogenitz. Other files -which contain some typed and handwritten notes prepared by others-include background notes on the geography, history, and language of the Nahuatl; bibliographic references; maps; and a list of "persons and addresses." The latter contains some biographical data on Harrington's informants. There are also reports from Carlos Morales and copies of letters which reflect Harrington's efforts to contact Nahuatl speakers.
Cite as:
Mexico/Central America/South America: Nahuatl, John Peabody Harrington papers, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution
Repository Loc.:
National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Museum Support Center, Suitland, Maryland
Nahuatl language  Search this
Language and languages--Documentation  Search this
Linguistics  Search this
Names, Geographical  Search this
Names, Ethnological  Search this
Zoology  Search this
Ethnobotany  Search this
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Accession #1976-95
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John Peabody Harrington papers: Mexico/Central America/South America, circa 1907-1960
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National Anthropological Archives