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Transcribing Nahuatl

To the extent possible with Microsoft Word, Burkhart’s transcriptions of the Nahuatl manuscripts exactly reproduce the spelling, punctuation, and general layout of the originals, except for the omission of some lines and dashes that separate speeches or fill empty space between the end of a turn at speech and the right-hand margin of the page. Diacritical marks sometimes must be approximated. Text added between the lines when a copyist corrected an omission is inserted as a superscript at the point where it was intended to be spoken. Variation in the size of letters, not easily conveyed by the simple choice of upper and lower case, is frequently ignored in favor of lower case unless the style or unusually large size of a character definitely makes a capital letter appropriate. 

Colonial Nahuatl writers did not write in units of individual words (as grammatical units) with spaces on either side. The principal liberty I take with the text is to separate run-together words and reunite words that are written with spaces within them. Figuring out where one word ends and another begins is, for handwritten Nahuatl, the first step in the translation process. Presenting the manuscript in this manner makes the text more accessible to readers, and also makes explicit how I am reading the text as a basis for my own translations. Where I am uncertain of my reading, whether of the Nahuatl itself or what it means in English, I provide an annotation. 

Letters in brackets [ ] are not corrections to the copyist’s Nahuatl; they indicate spots where one or more letters is lost due to a stain, wear at the margins of a page, or the like, but which can be reconstructed with confidence. Brackets with question marks indicate illegibility or missing text that I cannot reconstruct. I occasionally provide a note identifying words that are difficult to interpret in the manuscript. However, I do not annotate every scribal error or variant form, nor commonplace practices such as substituting e for i or u for o, or dropped or intrusive n. Readers may refer to the standardized transcription to see how I am reading the original text.

Louise Burkhart 3/23/21