Flower & Song: Exploring Literacy in Postclassic Mesoamerica

Author(s): Caitlin Davis

Year: 2017


The Postclassic codices of the Maya, Mixtec, and Nahua peoples have often been separated based on preconceived notions of literacy and language, with the Maya codices receiving an epigraphic approach while the Nahua and Mixtec receive an art historical approach. This division is largely arbitrary and based on Western assumptions of the nature of writing and its form, privileging scripts which lean towards the alphabetic as more advanced. Within these codices, the linguistic practice of difrasismo serves as a fundamental organizing principle. Difrasismo is a form of metaphorical speech which manipulates opposing elements in order to convey more abstract concepts. The codices feature extensive use of similar difrasismo represented in overlapping pictorial and phonetic means, demonstrating a continuity in the underlying principles governing metaphorical language and writing itself. This study challenges the division between pictorial and phonetic scripts which underscores much epigraphic research, and promotes a more holistic and cross-cultural view of Mesoamerican literacy.

Cite this Record

Flower & Song: Exploring Literacy in Postclassic Mesoamerica. Caitlin Davis. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430665)

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Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15350