Language Evidence of Mesoamerican Trade Contact in Southeastern U.S.

Linguist David Kaufman at the University of Kansas has found compelling linguistic evidence of trade contact between Mexico and the Southeastern U.S. In a lecture given on November 2, 2012 Kaufman presented evidence of this linguistic connection between the  Totonacs and Maya and various tribes in the Southeastern United States.

For instance, the Totonac word for “maize (corn)” was kuxi. (The ‘x’ represents a sound similar to ‘sh’ in English.) This was similar to the word for maize in several Southeastern U.S. languages. In Caddo the word for “maize” was kisi and among the Catawba it was kus. The Totonac word for “corn sprout” was chaxa. In Alabama/Koasati the word for “corn sprout” was chassi and in Alabama chasha-lokba referred to an “old type of corn.” In the Mobilian Trade Language the word was chashe and in Chitimacha it was chasa. In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, the word for “corn” was xilo. In Cheroke it was selu. In Mayan the word for “corn tassle” was tz’utuj. In Atakapa tso’ ots meant “corn seed.”

Words related to corn were not the only borrowings. In Mayan, chompati meant to “buy to resell.” In both the Mobilian Trade Language and Choctaw chompa meant to “buy.” In Mayan b’ul meant “bean.” Bala meant “bean” in the Mobilian Trade Language and Choctaw. In Mayan t’e meant “wood/tree” and in Atakapa te meant “bow.”

In Totonac, tamaw(an) meant “place to buy/plaza.” In the Mobilian Trade Language and Choctaw tamaha meant “town.” In Totonac chiki meant “house” and chiki also meant “house” in Creek and “sit-settled” in Alabama. (I discussed this very connection in my article, “Mayan Words Among Georgia’s Indians.“)

Kaufman goes on to make comparisons between the Totonac site of El Tajin in Veracruz, Mexico and the Bottle Creek Mounds site in Alabama. Learn more here: “Possible Language Evidence of Gulf  Maritime Trade Between Mesoamerica and Eastern North America. (A preliminary study.)

Gary C. Daniels

Gary C. Daniels is an award-winning, Emmy-nominated television, video and multimedia writer and producer. He has a M.A. degree in Communications from Georgia State University in Atlanta, a B.F.A. degree in TV Production from the Savannah College of Art and Design and an A.A. degree in Art from the College of Coastal Georgia. He has appeared on the Travel Channel, Discovery Channel, Science Channel and History Channel. His History Channel appearance became the highest-rated episode in the network's history. He has a passion for Native American history and art. He is the founder and publisher of

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