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Foreign Words in the Inscriptions of Copan

by Péter Bíró and Albert Davletshin

31 May 2011


The aim of this paper is to present new examples of foreign words in the inscriptions
of Copan and to suggest their possible linguistic origin in Nawa. We discuss the
implications of this hypothesis for the linguistic history of Nawa and the history of the
Copan region.
The study of foreign words and loanwords is a recent trend in Maya studies
beginning in the 1980s and continuing with important additions in the present
(Justeson et al. 1985; Whittaker 1986; Dakin and Wichmann 2000; Macri and Looper
2003; Lacadena 2005; Macri 2005; Meléndez and Pallan 2005; Kaufman and
Justeson 2007; Prager and Wagner 2008; Boot 2009).
As other authors before us (Justeson et al. 1985; Boot 2009) we make a distinction
between foreign words and loanwords. Foreign words or expressions are not native
to the language and are not fully integrated within that language. In contrary,
loanwords are non-native words fully integrated into the recipient language. Both
foreign and loanwords can undergo phonological and semantic changes.
The identification of foreign words is based on the phonological and morphological
analysis of the words in the recipient language. If the given word is morphologically
unanalysable from the language in which it occurs, then there is a chance that it
might have originated from another language. Apart from the morphological analysis
of a given expression, the most frequent method to recognise foreign words and
loanwords is their phonological structure. Mayan languages in general and
Epigraphic Mayan in particular are composed of CV(V/h/’)C roots (where C is
consonant, V is vowel and ’ is glottal stop) and CV or CVC shape affixes, and seldom
is a root or word is composed of more than two syllables. If polysyllabic roots occur
then there is a higher chance of those being loanwords or foreign words.
Another frequent indication of foreign words in Classic Maya writing is script internal
pattern. Maya hieroglyphs are composed of logograms and CV shape syllabic signs.
In case of non-Mayan words or expressions the scribe did not use logograms (or they

used non-Classic Maya script signs, see Boot 2009; Davletshin 2011), rather they
preferred to transcribe those expressions entirely with CV syllabic signs.
In his recent article Albert Davletshin (2011:3) succinctly summarised some useful
methodological guiding points about the identification of foreign words in Classic
Maya inscriptions. Linguistically, the identified word cannot be explained from Classic
Ch’olan, or in case if it is a non-Mayan foreign word then from Mayan languages.
Differences between the phonological shape of the gloss and its source should be
explained by the phonological differences of the two languages. Third, it is important
that comparisons should be systematic. Fourth, semantic differences should be
explained or at least indicated. Fifth, reconstructed forms are more valuable than
forms from Colonial or Modern dictionaries. Finally, one case does not carry in itself
strong evidence, therefore more cases count as more solid evidence. He also
indicated that toponyms and anthroponyms are less valuable for comparison
because of the uncontrolled context. Nevertheless, with this caveat in mind, we try to
analyse some foreign words in the inscriptions of Copan which are place names and
names of supernatural entities. Before presenting our case, we will examine some
previous propositions about foreign words in the inscriptions of Copan.
Taking into account such considerations we suggest first that some entirely syllabic
sequences not analysable from Mayan languages in the inscriptions of Copan
represent foreign words. Second, we propose that these words are analysable in
As we suggest a Nawa origin for the foreign words in the inscriptions of Copan, it is
necessary to deal with the history of Nawa language family and the previous
identifications of Nawa loanwords and foreign words attested in Classic Maya script.

Nawa in Mesoamerica

According to recent works of linguistics, Nawa languages (including Classical Nawatl)

first appeared in Mesoamerica around AD 500. The ancestors of Nawas settled into
the Basin of Mexico, and from AD 800 they began to spread toward the Tehuantepec
area and reached the current territory of El Salvador (the Pipil) around AD 1000
(Kaufman 2001). According to this reconstruction—based on linguistic analysis,
glottochronology, archaeology and ethnohistory—there were minimal interactions of

Nawa language groups with speakers of Epigraphic Mayan who dedicated
inscriptions between AD 300 and AD 900.
Such reconstruction also rules out the possibility that components of Teotihuacan
were Nawa speakers. Kaufman and Justeson (2007, 2008) argued that the elite of
Teotihuacan spoke a hypothetical northern Mije-Sokean language, and the
commoners spoke Totonakan. Any pre-500 attestation of Nawa in Classic Period
inscriptions would be contradictory to the above historical and linguistic assumptions,
just as post-500 attestation of Nawa words would indicate a greater influence of
Nawa than previously suggested.
The socio-cultural context of Classic Period text would also show that loanwords and
foreign words mentioned in them had great prestige for the Classic Period elite. Such
attestations, therefore, may indicate the prestige situation of a given language, just
as argued by Kaufmann and Justeson (2008) in case of the Mije-Sokean language
connected to the Epi-Olmec civilisation. Interaction of Central Mexico and the Classic
Previously, several authors suggested the existence of Nawa loanwords and foreign
words in Classic Period inscriptions and Postclassic Maya Codices. We present a list
of these expressions, first the proposed periods (and dates), the lexemes and the
authors who published them:

Postclassic Codices
14th-15th century
ka-ka-tu-na-la (Barthel 1952, Riese 1982, Whittaker 1986)
xi-wi-te-lu (Barthel 1952, Riese 1982, Whittaker 1986)
ta-wi-si-ka-la (Barthel 1952, Riese 1982, Whittaker 1986)

Classic Period inscriptions

9th century
e-je-ke (Lacadena, pers. comm.)

8th Century
AD 702 i-yu-wa-la (Macri and Looper 2003)

7th Century
AD 683 pa-ta-na (Macri and Looper 2003)
AD 667 ko-o-ha-wa (Macri and Looper 2003)
AD 642 o-la (Macri and Looper 2003)

AD 623 wa-ku-t’a? (Prager and Wagner 2008)
AD 623 ki-li-ku-mi (Prager and Wagner 2008)
AD 623 ma-pa-tz’i-ni (Prager and Wagner 2008)
AD 623 k’a-pa-lo-tz’i (Prager and Wagner 2008)

5th century
AD c480 ko-xo-ma (Macri 2005)
AD c480 wi-ti-ki (Macri 2005)
AD c480 mu-lu (Macri 2005)
ka-ya-wa-ka (Stuart in Houston and Nelson 2006)
AD 445 ko-sa-ka (Stuart in Houston and Nelson 2006)
ka-ka-wa (Dakin and Wichmann 2000).

While the Postclassic examples are widely accepted as Nawa foreign words, the
examples from the Classic Period are more ambiguous and some of them generated
intense scholarly debate and counterarguments (Kaufman and Justeson 2007), while
others are recent suggestions and have not yet entered into wider discussion. The
5th century examples are all connected to cacao production (ka-ka-wa, ko-xo-ma,
wi-ti-ki, mu-lu), and to precious objects (ka-ya-wa-ka, ko-sa-ka). The 7th century
examples are names (wa-ku-t’a?, ki-li-ku-mi, ma-pa-tz’i-ni, k’a-pa-lo-tz’i), or items
connected to tribute and warfare (pa-ta-na ko-o-ha-wa) and more esoteric subject
(o-la). Out of these expressions, many were suggested to have alternative analysis
(ka-ka-wa, ko-xo-ma, wi-ti-ki, mu-lu, pa-ta-na, o-la, ko-o-ha-wa) with Mije-Sokean
or Mayan origin (Kaufman and Justeson 2007, 2008; Meléndez and Pallan 2005).
Two of the proposed Nawa lexemes occur in a context where they refer to
iconographic elements ultimately derived from Teotihuacan art: ko-sa-ka is on the
side of Tikal Stela 31, in a text associated with the Teotihuacan clad warrior identified
as Nu’n Ya’x Ahiin I, while ko-o-ha-wa is the name of the domed mosaic headdress
deriving from Teotihuacan iconography (Taube 1992). The Postclassic examples are
names of Central Mexican gods (ka-ka-tu-na-la, xi-wi-te-lu, ta-wi-si-ka-la) well
attested in Nawa sources.
While these semantic domains may not be the only ones, it is expected that new
Nawa words can be found in similar contexts (therefore cacao production, precious
objects, warfare and supernatural entities). Also, apart from ko-o-ha-wa and o-la, the
attested lexemes were not written as logograms, therefore it is also expected that

new words will be written exclusively with syllabograms. With these possibilities in
mind, we would like to examine certain Copan inscriptions to present new non
Epigraphic Mayan words which can be analysed from Nawa and date to AD 613-652.

Foreign Words in Copan

In a recent re-evaluation of the inscriptions of CPN 3033, Christian Prager and

Elisabeth Wagner (2008) suggested that a portion of the text of Copan Stela P
records foreign words which can be interpreted from Nawa. The text is on the south
side of the monument and possibly records the dedication of shrines for certain
Copan deities (Figure 1):

u-PAT-na-ja a-??-ni 3-wi-ti-ki u1-CH’EN?-na-ja ??-pi-CHAN-CH’EN u-B’AH-ji-u-CH’AB’

YAX-K’UH YAX-AJAW-wa wa-ku-xa-ja/t’a ki-li-ku-mi ma-pa-tz’i-ni k’a2-lo-tz’i ma-la 3-a-
ja-la a-AJAW-wa u-TZ’AK-b’u-li 3-WINIKHAB’ ch’a-ho-ma K’INICH YAX-K’UK’-MO’
K’UH-??-pi a-AJAW-wa OCH-K’IN-ni KAL-ma-TE’

The text begins with a semantic couplet upatnaj ?? ux witik uch’e’naj ??-pi chan
ch’e’n or “got made the ?? at Ux Witik, got built at Copan sky-cave“. Although erosion
makes it impossible to read what exactly was formed in Copan, the next clause
begins with ub’aah uch’a[h]b’ which we translate as “this is the penitence of“ followed
by several collocations seemingly referring to various entities, or to the second ruler
of Copan (Prager and Wagner 2008:9-10).
The first two—ya’x k’uh and ya’x ajaw—are certainly in Classic Ch’olan, while the
following collocations record polysyllabic words not analysable from Mayan
languages. While Christian Prager and Elisabeth Wagner suggested that all these
collocation form part of the name of Copan Ruler 2, it is also possible that they are
the names of different gods. The sequence ya’x k’uh ya’x ajaw happened to be in the
text of Copan Stela J, west side, where they refer to the agents of an eroded event in
AD 453 (Schele and Looper 1996:104). In Stela J they stand as a composite glyph
YAX-K’UH-AJAW or ya’x ajaw [ya’x] k’uh (Figure 2).

Prager and Wagner (2008) transcribed this sign as UX “three”, however after checking available
photographs we think that this is simply an u sign similar to the one in u-PAT-na-ja.
Prager and Wagner (2008) transcribed this block as k’a-pa-lo-tz’i. After checking available
photographs we think that this is k’a-lo-tz’i.

The following 5 collocations contain polysyllabic words which were first interpreted as
Nawa origin by Christian Prager and Elisabeth Wagner (2008:9-10). Their
transliteration is the following:

wakut’ kilikum mapatz’in k’apalotz’i(n) mal(a?)

They offered possible interpretations for wakut’ as coming from the Nawatl huac-tli
(laughing falcon, Herpetotheres cachinnans), kilikum coming from Nawatl quil-
(green) and the only in Highland Mayan languages attested kumatz (snake), and
mapatz’in coming from Nawatl mapach-in (raccon) and –tzin (reverential suffix). They
have not interpreted k’apalotzi(n) and mal(a?), however they suggested that the first
contains the reverential suffix –tzin.
We transliterate the same 5 glyph blocks slightly different:

waku-? kilikum mapatz’in k’alotz’i[n) mala’

As we indicated above there are certain problems with their transcription and the
suggested etymologies. The first sign was transcribed by Prager and Wagner (2008)
as wa-ku-t’a, however the suggested t’a reading for the uncatalogued syllabic sign is
not accepted by several epigraphers, and indeed here it is possible to read the
sequence as wa-ku-xa-ja which would yield a transliteration wakuxaj. This
transliteration makes the proposed huac-tli etymology uncertain.
In the case of mapatz’in the same authors suggested mapach-in+-tzin, however it is
equally possible that this is the record of the Nawa word racoon as heard by 7th
century Mayas (mapach-in=mapatz’in).
We transcribe the next block as k’a-lo-tz’i. As first indicated by one of the authors
(Davletshin 2011:29), it was Karen Dakin (2001) who drew attention to the fact that in
Nawa borrowings Mayan languages reflect the lateral affricate /tl/ with a glottalised
velar occlusive /k’/ such as Tzotzil tuluk’ “turkey” from Nawatl tolo:-tl “bird”.3
Systematically applying such principle to k’a-lo-tz’i results in a transliteration as tlalo-

The Nawa lateral affricate was also borrowed into Spanish as/ tl/, /t/,/l/, and /kl/ (Davletshin 2011:29).
In the case of ta-wi-si-ka-la Classic Ch’olan reflected it as /t/.

tz’i[n] which might be the reflex of tla:loc-tz’in or the name of the well-known god of
Highland Mexico.4
Nevertheless to these minor points, at the present we do not see a better
interpretation of these words as other than Nawa in their origin (or at least some of
them). With this information in mind, we proceed to present new examples from the
inscriptions of the same ruler and his successor.

Copan Stela 13

In a recent manuscript, Nick Carter argued that the outlying stelae of K’ahk’ U Ti’
Witz’ K’awiil “…define the conceptual borders of the Copan urban area, name
specific locations within the Copanec landscape, and sacralize the landscape by
connecting those physical locations with mythological places.” (Carter 2008:2).
Copan Stela 13 was one of the outlying stelae commemorating the period
ending. With its altar it formed a set which was interpreted by various authors as a
food offering place (Schele and Looper 2005; Carter 2008) for the avian
manifestation of the Sun God, Huk Chapa’t Meen K’inich Ajaw.
The inscription begins with an Initial Series and records the wrapping of the stone (u-
K’AL-TUN-ni) by two gods (na-AKAB’ SAK-K’IN) and K’ahk’ U Ti’ Witz’ K’awiil
himself. Following the names of the ruler seven glyph blocks are completely eroded,
however it is possible that they contained the titles of the Copan king. The only
remaining glyph is a clear u-B’AH followed on the other side of the monument of two
known Copan tutelary deity names, that of 4-TE’-AJAW-wa and 9-K’AWIL.
The next 11 glyph block can be read fairly well (Figure 3), however thus far did not
receive scholarly attention, except by Nick Carter (2008:23-26). His reading is the

ma-la-a ??-ni ma-ko-pa-ni wa-la-cha-li yu-ku-je 5-pi-xi-NAL tu-WITZ-la ??-ku?-??-HIX-

WINIK ??-WINIK ma-ko-li-he ke-pa-ni

u b’aah kan-te’ ajaw b’olon-te’ k’awiil mala’ b’aan mako[m]paan walachil(?) pi-?-je or mu-ku-
je ho’ pixnal tu witzal?-?-HIIX WINIK ?-WINIK makoomil hek paan

The name of Tla:loc is not securelly analysed from Nawa. Karttunen (1992:276) suggested that this
theonym my ultimately derives from tla:l-li “earth, land, property” which goes back to Proto-Nawa *λa:l
“tierra” (Dakin 1982:173)

“the images of [or: it is his image as] the four lords, the nine K’awiils [?] thus(?) [at] the gourd
tree “place” [?] [?] [at] Ho’ Pixnal on the mountain of the [?] person, the [?] person [at] the
gourd tree-thing “place”

We would like to propose several corrections and additional interpretation to this

sequence of glyphs. While Nick Carter interpreted the given sequence from
Epigraphic Mayan, we suggest that some of these words are foreign language
expressions and can be interpreted from Nawa. Our transcription and transliteration
are the followings (underlined the suggested foreign words):

ma-la-a ??-ni ma-ko-pa-ni wa-la-cha-li yu-ku-K’AWIL-la 5-pi-xi-NAL tu-WITZ-la ??-ku?-

??-HIX-WINIK WAY?5-WINIK tzo?-ko?-he ke-pa-ni

u b’aah chante’ ajaw b’alu’nte’ k’awiil mala’ ??-Vn makopaan walachali yuk k’awiil ho’ pixnal
tu witziil ??-ku?-??-hix winik way?-winik tzok(o)?hek(e)paan

The securely interpretable portion of this text is the beginning and ending clauses
such as “these are the images of Chante’ Ajaw and B’alu’n K’awiil…Yuk K’awiil and
Ho’ Pix/Xipnal, at the mountains/highlands6 of the ? people, Way? people… ”.
We suggest that the 6 glyph blocks which contain only CV syllables are transcriptions
of non-Mayan foreign words:

1, ma-la-a
2, ??-ni
3, ma-ko-pa-ni
4, wa-la-cha-li
5, tzo?-ko?-he
6, ke-pa-ni

Syntactically, it is difficult to decide about the possible role of these expressions,

however as they follow at least two theonyms, they may be names of supernatural
This glyphy is the cross-hatched SAK which stands in the Sak Wayis title (Grube, Krempel, Pallán, Wagner-
28.09.2011. glyph seminar, Bonn, K8425).
The text has the unique expression tu-WITZ-la which we transcribe as tu witziil. Contrary to the
synharmonic WITZ-li which we transcribe as witzil, the lexeme witziil with the long vowel means
highland or mountains, thus in this context it refers to a group of hills and not just one single mountain
(see Ch’orti’ witzir as hill(s), mountain areas, highland, mountain range in Wisdom 1950).

entities. This hypothesis might be supported with another occurrence of the ma-la-a
sequence in the inscription of Stela P (Figure 4), directly following the list of non-
Maya names (in Stela P it is written as ma-la).
There may be another instance of the ma-ko-pa-ni sequence in the inscription of
Stela 7, again in a context suggesting that it refers to a supernatural being. Here,
after the known gods of [Ya’x] Ajaw, [Ya’x] K’uh, B’alu’n K’awiil, and the Paddlers
there is an eroded sequence of ma-??-pa-ni ending the list of deities (Figure 5).
Our reading of Yuk K’awiil is based on the examination of various photographs which
clearly show the eroded part of the fire element in the K’AWIL logogram just as the
frequent –la phonetic syllable (Figure 6). This supernatural entity thus follows the
otherwise phonetically spelled four glyph blocks, again showing that those might be
of supernatural nature.
The name Ho’ Xipnal might be the same as one Ho’ Pixnal in the inscriptions of Stela
7, dedicated by the predecessor of K’ahk’ U Ti’ Witz’ K’awiil (Figure 7). Although the
two names are spelled HO’-xi-pi-NAL and HO’-pi-xi-NAL, it is probable that these
are scribal variations, nevertheless we are unable to say the correct order on the
basis of only two examples. Although the –nal suffix usually indicates toponyms, we
suggest that this name refers to a supernatural entity just as seemingly other
toponymic construction do in Copan, such as Mo’ Witz, Tz’am Witz or Tukun Witz
which are shortened versions of Mo’ Witz Ajaw, Tukun Witz Ajaw etc.
If our identification is correct, then the remaining names should also refer to gods and
this part of the inscription is not dissimilar to other Copan texts with long list of
supernatural entities (the most famous one is the Temple 11 Bench text with no fewer
than 15 god names serving as seats to their name bearers).

“these are the images of Chante’ Ajaw [and] B’alu’n K’awiil [and] Mala’ [and] ??-Vn [and]
Makopaan [and] Walachali [and] Yuk K’awiil [and] Ho’ Pix/Xipnal at the mountains of the ?
people [and] ? people [and] Tzo?k(o)?hekpaan. ”

One of the many unique lexemes of the Copan inscriptions are those which end with
the suffix –paan consistently spelled –pa-ni.7 Thus far we have identified four

There is at least one other example of –pa-ni in Classic Maya inscriptions. In Naj Tunich Drawing 29
(Stone 1995:166, figure 7-8) the sequence mo-no-pa-na is written as mo-no-pa-ni. Monpaan or
monpan is seemingly a toponym where a Nawa –pan “on the top of, surface” is a plausible
interpretation. Also, the mo-no-pa-ni spelling indicates that –pa-na was a latter version where
disharmonic spellings were replaced by synharmonic spellings, especially in the Eastern Maya

examples coming from two monuments, Stela 7 and Stela 13, dedicated in 623 and
652, respectively:

1, ma-??-pa-ni
2, 3-a-ya-pa-ni
3, ma-ko-pa-ni
4, tzo?-ko?-he ke-pa-ni

The contexts of each of these lexemes are similar as they follow or precede the
names of supernatural entities well known from other Copan inscriptions. They are
always spelled in syllables and we are not aware of any substitutions of them with
logograms. They are also polysyllabic and we cannot interpret them from Classic
Ch’olan. These characteristics may indicate that they are foreign words restricted to
the Copan area.
Interestingly the only other possibly non-foreign words occur in the text of Stela P,
commissioned by K’ahk’ U Ti’ Chan Yopaat, the same king who dedicated Stela 7.
Stela 13 is commissioned in a wider program by K’ahk’ U Ti’ Witz’ K’awiil in 652.
Therefore, all of the monuments of the 11th ruler and the first program of the 12th
ruler contain words which are non-Classic Ch’olan by their syllabic structure and
internal etymology.
We suggest two alternative interpretations for the –pa-ni sequence in these
expressions. Hypothesis one is that -pa-ni is the transcription of the Nawa
postposition –pan with the general meaning of “on the surface of, for or at a particular
time” (Karttunen 1992:186). This is a frequent suffix in Classical Nawatl toponyms
such as Tlacopan (tlacō-tl+pan), Tepexpan (tepehxi-tl+pan) etc. This would indicate
that the enumerated names were originally toponyms, seemingly contradicting the
results of our previous analysis according to which these lexemes should refer to
supernatural entities. However, in Copan various locations with or without the ajaw
title do refer to supernatural entities such as Mo’ Witz, Tukun Witz or even Chan
Wi(n)tik itself, a quadripartite entity. Therefore it is not impossible that various
locations became toponymic referents for gods and other supernatural entities that
located there and embodied them.

Lowlands where Naj Tunich is located (Grube 2004). Mo-no-pa-ni/na is always written with CV
syllables which again points toward its foreign origin.

Indeed, the sequence tzo?-ko?-he ke-pa-ni follows two expressions which certainly
refer to single individuals or a group of people in the text of Stela 13 (??-ku?-??-HIX-
WINIK ??-WINIK). This again supports our initial identification of these non-Classic
Ch’olan words as names of gods. Just as the toponym wi(n)tik can be numbered (3-
wi-ti-ki, 4-wi-ti-ki) and become agent in certain rituals (for example Copan Altar G1),
3-a-ya-pa-ni would be a numbered toponym accompanying other god names in the
inscription of Stela 7.
Hypothesis 2 is that the spelling –pa-ni/paan correctly reflects the Nawatl pa:n-tli
“flag, banner/estandarte” that is contrasted with the locative –pan which is
consistently short (Karttunen 1992:186-187). As is well known in Nawatl studies, -
pa:n “estandarte/banner” forms part of personal names such as Ocelopan (Codex
Mendoza 2r) “Estandarte de Jaguar”. Therefore it is not unreasonable to find such
word in names of gods.
We propose that some of these foreign words can be analysed from Nawa and thus
they are indeed foreign words recorded in Classic Period inscriptions. In the following
we present each of these words and the proposed analysis of them.

1, 3-a-ya-pa-ni/ux ayapaan (Figure 8)

This lexeme is composed of the numeral 3, which could have been pronounced in
Epigraphic Mayan as ux. The suffix –paan is the Nawa postposition –pan with the
general meaning of ‘on, on the flat ground’. The first morpheme aya- can be the
Nawa āyā-tl (Proto Nawatl *a:ya:, from Dakin 1982:122) meaning ‘cotton or
henequen cloak, blanket’ (Karttunen 1992:16). Therefore the toponym was
composed of āyā-tl+ pan, which yields in Classical Nawatl āyāpan “on the cotton
cloaks, blankets”. Alternatively, -paan is “banner” and the translation is “banner of
cotton cloacks”.

2, ma-ko-pa-ni/makopaan

This lexeme is composed of two or may be three morphemes. The suffix –paan is the
Nawa postposition –pan with the general meaning of ‘on, on the flat ground’. The
transcription mako- can be a composite form of mā(i)-tl and the locative suffic –co,
however as is indicated in Karttunen (Karttunen 1992:126,129) this would yield in

Classical Nawatl a form -māc. Nevertheless, this last form is necessarily possessed;
therefore it is grammatically problematic in a compound of makopaan. Another
solution is a form attested only in the Nawa dialect of Zacapoaxtla, where māco is
‘fist, grasp’ (Karttunen 1992:129). If this interpretation is correct then the underlying
form of makopaan could have been māco+ pan with the meaning of ‘on the fist’.
Alternatively, it is “banner of fist”.

3, tzo?-ko?-he-ke-pa-ni/tzokohek(e)paan?

As the identification of the initial syllabograms are in question, our proposal is most
tentative. Again, the suffix –paan is the Nawa postposition –pan with the general
meaning of ‘on, on the flat ground’. The first morpheme can be connected to the
Classical Nawatl tzoco ‘something very small’ (Karttunen 1992:315). The next
sequence is difficult to interpret, however one possibility is the well known Classical
Nawatl morpheme ehēca-tl ‘breeze, wind’ (Karttunen 1992:76). This composite form
would yield the toponym tzoco+ ehēca-tl+pan with the possible meaning of “on the
small, weak wind, breeze”. Alternatively it is “the banner of small, weak wind,

4, ma-la-a/mala’

This lexeme occurs twice in the inscriptions of Copan, in the texts of Stelae P and 13,
respectively, spelled as ma-la or ma-la-a. In both contexts it precedes or follows
other non-Epigraphic Mayan words, however phonologically it does not present a
polysyllabic characteristic which would hint at its foreign origin. From its
morphological structure and syntactic position, we propose that most probably it was
another name referring to a god.
The analysis of this word is particularly difficult; however we think that after a careful
examination of the available dictionaries, there is no suitable Mayan language root to
explain its morphology.
We suggest that mala’ is a transcription of the Nawa māl-li ‘captive, prisoner’
(Karttunen 1992:134) and the locative compound element –tlah which conveys a
sense of abundance (Karttunen 1992:259). The resulting place name in Classical
Nawatl is malla’ “place of prisoners, captives”. The Epigraphic Mayan mala’ is

therefore a possible transcription of this place name, which again here might stand as
the name of a supernatural entity. Alternatively this is “banner of prisoner(s)”.


If our interpretation is correct, then there are several Nawa words in the inscriptions
of Copan between 613 and 652, lending credence to the possibility of a prestigious
position of Nawa at this period of time, which is close to the partial abandonment of
Teotihuacan in 650 AD. The date of these foreign words is well in accordance with
other proposed Nawa examples from Classic Maya inscriptions coming from the 7th
century. At present, it is difficult to decide how to interpret the presence of Nawa
groups in a position to be able to influence Classic Maya linguistic practices. We can
posit at least two possible scenarios (which do not rule out others).

1, This is a representation of Nawa presence in Teotihuacan and that it is in accord

with the presence of Nawa words in Classic Maya texts from the 5th century onwards;


2, this is a representation of a Nawa presence close to the Classic Maya area

(especially the areas close the Guatemalan Highlands) which might be the result of
an earlier movement of those Nawa groups who later formed part of the Pipils. It is
also possible that these Nawa groups were overtaking in an earlier period the
Mexican Highland and they were a growing and important elite component of the
sites of Xochicalco and Cacaxtla, the last one attesting important connections to the
Maya area between 650 and 750 AD.
If the ko-sa-ka example from Tikal Stela 31 (AD 445) is indeed an early form of the
Classical Nawa cōzca-tl (Karttunen 1992:43) and is similar to Proto Nawa *ko:s-ka
(Dakin 1982:144), then a Nawa presence in Teotihuacan (at least from the viewpoint
of the Maya artists and the elite of Tikal in the 5th century), is probable. Such events
would make it necessary to re-examine the history of the expansion of Nawa groups
in Mesoamerica.


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Figure 1, Inscription of Copan Stela P (Drawing by Barbara Fash)

Figure 2, Ya’x k’uh Ya’x Ajaw from Copan Stela J (Drawing by Barbara Fash)

Figure 3, Inscription of Copan Stela 13 (Drawing by Barbara Fash)

Figure 4, ma-la-a and ma-la from Copan Stela 13 and Stela 7 (Drawings by Barbara

Figure 5, B’alu’n K’awiil, the ‘Paddlers’ and ma-?-pa-ni from Copan Stela 7 (Drawing
by Barbara Fash)

Figure 6, yu-ku-K’AWIL-la from Copan Stela 13 (Photo by Berthold Riese)

Figure 7, HO-xi-pi-NAL from Copan Stela 7 (Drawing by Barbara Fash)

Figure 8, 3-a-ya-pa-ni from Copan Stela 7 (Drawing by Barbara Fash)